Elma Turner Library is currently closed but you can collect your books from the Library Kiosk at Civic House

9 Jun 2022

Elma Turner Library temporarily closed

Nelson City Council has decided to temporarily close Elma Turner Library from today (Thursday 9 June) after an inspection of the ceiling tiles undertaken last week discovered some tiles are much heavier than expected, weighing between 8kg and 11kg.


Ceiling tiles weighing more than 7.5kg are deemed ‘heavy tiles’ and are considered to pose an earthquake risk if not properly restrained. The inspection also found that the ceiling tiles are in a two-way grid, fixed at its perimeter to partitions and walls, but with no visible diagonal bracing.

This latest inspection has built on Council's knowledge about the ceiling tiles and as our knowledge increases, our response changes. Council had already identified a risk with the ceiling tiles and set aside funding of $200,000 in this financial year (2021/22) for remediation work. This work has not been completed yet due to staff shortages, and an issue identified with the tiles being used for heating purposes, but will now take place with urgency.

The next step is for engineers to produce a report detailing the expected relative risks of the ceiling tiles and the NBS (New Building Standards) ratings for the ceilings, including whether the ceiling is considered to be a significant life safety hazard.

Council will also prioritise investigating whether it is possible for an interim securing of areas to address the hazard. This work has already been undertaken in parts of Civic House, where galvanised aluminium channels have been attached to brace the tiles, but it is unclear at this stage whether this will be appropriate for Elma Turner Library.

Chief Executive Pat Dougherty says even though legislative obligations did not require closure, the new information about the weight of the tiles was very concerning, particularly when combined with the vulnerability of library users – such as older adults and children – and a lack of furniture that can offer protection in the event of a major earthquake

“Closing a much-loved community facility, even temporarily, is not an easy decision, but on the basis of what we know so far, we are not prepared to accept the level of risk the ceiling tiles at Elma Turner Library present to our community. Unfortunately, the Library needs to be closed as a precaution while we learn more about the risk and what we can do to mitigate it.”

In terms of library services, Council staff are looking at options that could include expanding online library services and increasing hours at other branches (Stoke and Nightingale libraries) as well as considering the potential of opening a pop-up library in the Central City.

Library Manager Sarina Barron says as well as being difficult for customers, the closure will also be hard on staff.

“Library staff thrive on the interaction they have with the public, but at least the COVID-19 lockdowns have provided us with some valuable experience in how to operate differently and provide many of our services remotely. We ask that our community bear with us as we once again change the way we operate.”

Community and Recreation Committee Chair Tim Skinner says he recognises the inconvenience caused to the public, but the decision to close Elma Turner Library was the right call in terms of safety.

“We cannot in good conscience allow this building to continue to be occupied knowing what we know about the weight of the tiles. We hope the community understand why we need to close as a precaution and hope we can get the Library back up and running soon.”

A list of FAQS can be found here and you can contact the library by emailing library@ncc.govt.nz, or phoning (03) 546 8100

How long will Elma Turner Library stay closed?

We don’t know at this stage but estimate between two to three months. The length of closure will depend on whether interim work can be carried out to reduce the risk.

Why were the ceiling tiles at Elma Turner Library inspected now?

Following the application of an Earthquake Prone Building (EPB) Notice to Civic House because of that building’s ceiling tiles, a decision was made to inspect other Council-owned buildings.

What is the current % NBS for Elma Turner Library?

Elma Turner Library is considered structurally sound with a NBS rating of 42%, which means it is not currently considered an earthquake-prone building. This assessment was carried out in 2013 and did not consider the ceiling tiles.  

Why close Elma Turner Library when you don’t yet know if the ceiling tiles will mean the building will be considered earthquake prone?

We are closing the Library on the basis of the initial inspection as a precaution while we learn more about the nature of the risk and whether steps can be taken to mitigate it. This cautious approach is due to the fact that this is a community facility that serves everyone in our community, including our most vulnerable, and we were not prepared to accept this level of risk while we work through this process as it may take some weeks.

What are some of the challenges of completing interim work to secure the ceiling tiles at Elma Turner Library?

The size of the building (2,403m2) means there are challenges with the span of the ceilings. The ceilings are also used for heating purposes which means some solutions may not be appropriate.

Is it safe to walk on the footpath outside of Elma Turner Library or use the pop-up park next door?

Yes. The identified issue is with the ceiling tiles that are inside the Library. The building itself is considered structurally sound.