Save the Whitianga Toy Library

23 Nov 2021

Save the Whitianga Toy Library

In Mercury Bay, we are fortunate to have an impressive network of community organisations who endlessly support us in both the good times and when the going gets tough. But who has their back? The reality is community members must look after community organisations so they can continue to keep their doors open, otherwise we run the risk of losing what they have to offer. This could be a very likely possibility for the Whitianga Toy Library. 

The Toy Library Foundation of New Zealand is a nationwide non-profit organisation that purely relies on voluntary committees and donations to keep them afloat. The organisation’s main activity is the renting out of a range of quality toys, games, puzzles and learning activities generally catered for children up to five years old, although they also supply games, and sports and musical items that can be suitable for the whole family. 

Toy Libraries bring affordable fun to their communities. They help to avoid children from being bored and encourage play between parents or caregivers and children. Parents and caregivers can rent from the Whitianga Toy Library for just $35 annually, while grandparents are charged $20, or $1 to $5 per toy for a fortnight. 

The charges do not only make good economic sense. Renting instead of buying toys is far more environmentally friendly as it reduces landfill waste from discarded toys and packaging. 

You would think with the rise in environmental awareness that organisations like the Whitianga Toy Library would be well in use, however this is not the case. “We used to have a lot of interest and have really only started to lose customers this year,” says Jenny Harkin, chair of the library. “I suspect that it is due to our relocation back to our original spot at 7 Isabella Street earlier this year and that maybe people just don’t know about us.” 

It does not help that the library is in desperate need of volunteers to join the committee either. “We are searching for anybody with a bit of spare time up their sleeve just to at least be able to open our doors,” says Jenny. “At the moment we’re only able to open Wednesday and Friday from 9:00am to midday, but this could change if we had more people. Really important roles that need to be filled are treasurer, someone to take charge of our finances, and grants officer, someone in charge of applying for grants. Without these, the Whitianga Toy Library simply cannot survive.

“It would be an absolute shame if we have to shut down. The library has been in Whitianga for 10 years and has helped out so many families over this time. I have become very attached to the library and would hate to see it go. I have been in Whitianga for three years and I want it to be here much longer. The Whitianga Toy Library is just an amazing organisation that is dedicated to helping people, but we need help now.” 

If the Whitianga Toy Library can make a turnaround, Jenny plans to relocate the library to a bigger space with better conditions as she believes more people would use what it has to offer if it were not so crammed and hidden. Ultimately, she hopes this would persuade more community members to rent and reuse instead of spending on new toys and unnecessarily contributing to landfill.

In addition to community members willing to support the organisation as volunteers and customers, Jenny would also like to hear from people who have unwanted toys in good condition. Just pop by during the library’s opening hours or contact the Whitianga Toy Library on their Facebook page.

“I mainly just want to remind everyone that we’re here and the more the merrier, so come along and support us so we can support you,” says Jenny.

Pictured: Jenny Harkin, chair of the Whitianga Toy Library.