The story of Story Store

By Joanna Baynes

After 35 years in her dream job as a librarian at King's, Joanna Baynes found her next passion project and embraced it whole-heartedly.

Joanna Bayndes - Story Store

Joanna Baynes - Story Store

Joanna Baynes began her library career while still a student at school, then moved on to public libraries, before finding her dream job at King’s School, working with and for boys aged between 4 and 13 years.

I loved my 35 years at King’s. Life was always busy and challenging, but in the back of my mind I knew what was looming … retirement. What would I do then?

Mid-November 2022, the library staff and others from our COVID ‘bubble’ were having morning tea. The topic of conversation turned to what to do with the latest boxes of book donations. Someone made a random comment: ‘Wouldn’t it be good if there was somewhere you could take all your excellent condition – but no longer needed – children’s books?’ 

This comment was closely followed by: ‘OMG, Joanna, I can see your brain ticking over!’ And there you have it: the idea of ‘Story Store’ was born – over a cup of tea.

The concept of collecting appropriate books and then making them available to school libraries that were under-resourced was, on the surface, a simple one. I knew I could do it – I had lots of contacts. Of course I could do it…

But then reality hit when, after some brainstorming, the enormity of all the background work to be done truly registered. I needed books – lots of them and on an ongoing basis – as well as funding, premises, shelving, computer software, cataloguing support, a name, a website, an email address. The list grew. 

I was given a new computer as my leaving gift from King’s. Sumware Consulting provided the required software. Education Services Australia donated a complimentary SCIS subscription. After much brainstorming, ‘Story Store’ was settled on as our name and various friends helped with logo design, email and online services. These were all fabulous, but it still left the ‘big three’: funding, premises and an ongoing book supply. 

This is where serendipity came to the fore. A chance encounter with a friend from the past led me to discover EPIT (Education Partnership & Innovation Trust), an organisation whose main goal is to improve access to excellence in education for all children in New Zealand. EPIT approved seed funding of $5,000 to allow me to test my idea and, as our goals aligned so well, they also provided premises, charging only for ongoing operational costs.

With both funding and premises sorted, I soon organised the installation of some secondhand Lundia shelving and began stocking the shelves with the contents of 17 boxes of books that had already been donated. Since then, I’ve had to expand and was lucky to be donated a couple of 2-bay mobile shelving units from Rutherford College and bookends from Baradene College.

But what about the books! Let’s face it – they were the key to the whole enterprise. This is where networking, word of mouth and social media came to the fore. We organised for donations to Story Store to be delivered, by appointment, to our premises in Onehunga or to any of our reps (just email us to find someone in your area!). We even had a suitcase of books brought over from Tasmania as hand luggage! Schools more affluent than others ran ‘book drives’ where they asked their student to donate any appropriate books. These drives proved very worthwhile – though some people’s perception of ‘excellent condition’ and mine might have been widely divergent! 

Since our inception, a team of National Library Capability Advisors has visited and now recommend us to schools that could benefit from an injection of books. There are three basic criteria in  order to qualify for donations:

  1. the school library is under-resourced
  2. school management should be be intrinsically pro-library
  3. that there be appointed to the library a staff member who is passionate about libraries and the difference they can make in children’s lives.

Auckland-based schools can visit and select up to 50 excellent-condition books, plus up to an additional 50 that are second-grade, where there is something wrong with the books (for example, they might have inscriptions). They decide whether they’re happy with the condition. Schools that are unable to visit in person have the option of looking at our website and selecting up to 50 top-grade books. Only the ‘excellent condition’ books are loaded onto the computer (thank you SCIS!), so an in-person visit can potentially result in more books. 

So far, Story Store has had four schools visit, resulting in the donation of 231 books in ‘excellent condition’ and a further 105 second-grade books making their way into school libraries.

‘…students get excited about what we have on our shelves and realise that there is a place to get books out even though the library is gone. Our school and our students already face a lot of hardships. It is nice to have been helped with this one so quickly.’ Kelston Girls’ College 

At the time of writing, we are busy applying to turn Story Store into a Charitable Trust, with the aim of ensuring a reliable income to allow us to continue our work.

I no longer worry about what to do in my retirement! I’m busy and happy.

Joanna Baynes


Story Store

You can reach out to Joanna and discuss donations to Story Store though her website: