The Hewitson Library

Why use the Hewitson Library?

Jane Thomsen

One of the biggest treasures of the Presbyterian Research Centre is the Hewitson Library.

The Hewitson Library is a wonderful resource with several significant collections, but we often hear the comment “I don’t use the Library – if I want to read a book I just buy it”. While I am fully supportive of buying books – especially from independent booksellers – there are many good reasons to use the library instead.

1. To tread more lightly on the earth

Many resources go into making a book and these are maximized when that book is circulated among many readers rather than just one. As well as trees for making paper and the associated manufacturing costs, there are also transport costs – from printer to warehouse, from warehouse to bookshop (or direct to customer if bought online), storage costs associated with warehouses and of course packaging. Shipping books to libraries also creates these costs of course, but when you factor in cost per use, libraries are more cost-effective, and therefore easier on the environment.

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash
Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

2. To become informed

When discussing important and at time confronting issues, it is recognized that the more participating individuals know about both (or more) sides of the issue, the more likely it is that they will be able to have a level-headed conversation about it and find elements in common.

Photo by Chris Liverani on Unsplash
Photo by Chris Liverani on Unsplash

Books are relatively costly in New Zealand, so people are, understandably, more likely to purchase books that confirm their own opinion. Having access to a library means that people have the opportunity to read widely around all sides if they choose and are therefore less likely to fall victim to confirmation bias.

3. Try-before-you-buy

How many books have you purchased based on a review or publisher description, only to find that it isn’t particularly useful or of interest? If you see a reference to a book that looks interesting check whether it is available in the Hewitson Library (or another library of your choice).If it is you can borrow and read it for free and then decide if you want to buy your own copy, without wasting money or cluttering up your bookshelf or having to find another home for it.

Could you have saved that?
Could you have saved that?

If the book isn’t in the library you can also recommend that we buy it (if it fits into our collection) and then borrow it. If you borrow a book that you find really useful or inspirational you can then recommend it to others through the Living Library website.

4. Other reference help

This article has just been about the traditional book collections the library holds. We can also help if you are researching a topic – perhaps during study leave or other professional development opportunity. We can advise on how to cite in a particular referencing style, on the places to look for credible information on a topic, how to access and search specific databases and how to actually formulate a search question so that you find the information you need. These are just some of the services we offer, and you don’t have to be in Dunedin – we can do all of this remotely.

Photo by J. Kelly Brito on Unsplash
Photo by J. Kelly Brito on Unsplash

How to borrow

If you find a book you want to borrow in the Hewitson Library catalogue you can either sign in and request it online, or just email us and request it directly if you prefer.

To request a book online:

Log in – you will be given a username and password when you sign up for Library membership (email us if you already have one but have forgotten it):

Find your book and place a reserve:

This information will be automatically emailed to the Library and we will then mail the book to you as soon as it is available for free and include return postage.

Useful hint

Both the Google Chrome and Firefox browsers offer a download called Library Extension. This lets you see whether a book is available from selected libraries when you are searching through websites like Amazon, including books held in the Hewitson Library.

How Library Extension looks in Amazon
How Library Extension looks in Amazon

If you click on “Borrow” it will take you directly to the book entry in the Hewitson Library catalogue.


By signing up for membership to the Hewitson Library (and using its resources) you will be helping the environment by resource sharing, informing yourself, stepping out of your comfort zone, broadening your horizons and saving money by only purchasing books you really want to keep in your personal library. We are proud of our collections and get great satisfaction sharing them with you.

If you are not a member email us at and we can sign you up and help you with your information needs.


Chan, David. Learning to see things from another’s perspective. The Straits Times, 16 April, 2016.

Goodstein, J. (2000). Moral Compromise and Personal Integrity: Exploring the Ethical Issues of Deciding Together in Organizations. Business Ethics Quarterly, 10(4), 805-819. doi:10.2307/3857834