Two Wellington Shire Council librarians were celebrated this month for achieving major service milestones.
Margaret Payne, who works at both Yarram and Sale libraries, was recognised for 45 years of service, while Michelle Selzer was acknowledged for 35 years of service, almost 30 of those years spent as Yarram’s Library Officer in Charge.
“It’s an amazing job,” Margaret says. “You meet wonderful people and you help people out. I love everything about it.”
“All of my friends have had multiple jobs and they say ‘How can you stay in the same job for so many years?’,” Michelle says. “But things have changed so much in my 35 years. We didn’t even have computers back when I started. We’re all learning new things, new skills and moving forward.”
Wellington Shire Council’s start-of-the-art libraries at Yarram Hub (which opened in 2014) and Port of Sale (2018), are both bright community spaces that serve as far more than just a place to borrow a book.
But when Margaret Kay, as she was then known, reported to Yarram Library on Commercial Road for her first day of work on Monday morning, 23 February 1976, she entered a drafty and uninviting 1950s brick building.
“The old Yarram Library was really bad,” says Margaret. “It was two-storey with open windows – and it was very, very cold.”
She recalls that in winter, library staff would wear fingerless woolen gloves to do cataloguing duties. “And if someone dropped a catalogue card drawer – and people did – it would take us hours to put them back in.”
Margaret had worked her way up to the role of Branch Officer in Charge when the library hired Michelle Rogers, now Michelle Selzer, to start, straight from school, in 1986.
“I did work experience at the library with Margaret when I was in Year 10,” Michelle says. “And I was lucky enough when I finished Year 12 to then get the job there.”
Michelle recalls that the children’s area was sited at the top of the former building’s steep stairs, so the quiet of the library would occasionally be disturbed by the clatter of a toddler tumbling down the steps.
More than a decade later, Marg had children herself and she decided to give up her full-time role at the library and become a casual employee, which she has continued to do since.
“While having children prompted me to go part-time, I think sometimes you get to an age where it’s good to have new blood come in. And that was Michelle.”
This has meant that since the early 1990s, Margaret has worked for Michelle, the Library Officer in Charge.
Technology and the internet have transformed the way words are consumed and the way libraries operate, so Michelle and Margaret now work at dynamic spaces that connect locals to the world via vast databases and online connections to other libraries.
Their roles are now often about helping people to use online tools, audio books and digital resources.
“I even get the occasional person who says ‘Do people read books?’,” Margaret says. “It really happens.”
But there is one group of library visitors who still crave words on paper.
“Little kids still love books,” says Michelle, who helps run the Rock, Rhythm & Rhyme program for kids aged three and under.
Michelle keeps a treasure trove of children’s books for her programming and shares them by sitting on the floor and interacting with little people.
It is a program that fosters a love of books, reading and libraries, and might even inspire a few pint-sized Wellington Shire locals to develop a passion to become a librarian.