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Libby closes book on librarian career

Libby Woodhouse has retired after 33 years at Goulburn Valley Regional Library, including the past 18 at Shepparton Library.

JOHN LEWIS February 20, 2014 5:21am

Moving on: Libby Woodhouse is retiring after 33 years at Goulburn Valley Regional Library.


For someone who says she is shy and timid, Libby Woodhouse does love a good chat.

If the chat is about books and libraries, then be prepared to sit and listen for a while.

‘‘Books only come alive when you share them with people. That’s what I like — sharing stories,’’ Libby said.

After 33 years at Goulburn Valley Regional Library — and the past 18 years at Shepparton Library — Libby has gathered as many stories as she has friends.

‘‘Libraries are places to talk and meet. People use the internet a lot now, but here you meet face-to-face. You can engage with a smile and a nod,’’ she said.

Her popularity was evident at her farewell morning tea at Shepparton Library yesterday.

The quietly spoken, dedicated librarian found herself surrounded by friends, colleagues and fellow book lovers who all wanted to chat and say thanks for her years of gentle conversation and advice.

She has made deep connections with Shepparton’s Aboriginal community, through the establishment of projects such as Koori Library Pathways that has had a special section of the library dedicated to Indigenous literature; the Rainbow Snake knitters group; the Dungala Kaiela Writing Awards; and exhibits of Aboriginal culture.

She still travels from her Euroa home for monthly meetings of the Shepparton Region Reconciliation Group.

New migrants have also found a home at Shepparton Library, as have backpackers.

‘‘They pull books out — they’re interested in the heritage of the area,’’ she said.

Libby was brought up in Melbourne by parents who loved books borrowed from Sandringham Library.

‘‘Dad and mum always read. I was a bit shy and timid and loved books too,’’ she said.

‘‘One of my favourites was Pride and Prejudice. I used to study for exams and just keep on reading the books.’’

An arts degree at Monash University was followed by work at a stockbroking firm compiling a financial library.

She then took a part-time library course at RMIT.

As a young woman, Libby followed the Australian rite of passage and spent 14 months travelling with friends across Europe.

‘‘We hitch-hiked. People were so kind to us. One man took us around the sites of Rome because we didn’t have a car,’’ she said.

In 1980 she took a job as a part-time assistant at Euroa Library.

‘‘It was very pokey. It was very dark with varnished shelves. In winter we had one gas heater and I wore a lambswool jacket and a hat,’’ she said.

Fifteen years later she took a full-time job as branch manager at Shepparton Library.

She retired on December 31 and will have more time to spend with her three children and five grandchildren.

After helping steer GV Regional Library through more than three decades of change from stamped cards to digital records, Libby said the basic things were still the same.

‘‘Libraries are still people places — for community engagement,’’ she said.

Libby's Favourite Five

  • A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth: "A lovely family story about India with a real feeling of place.’’
  • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens: ‘‘I re-read all the Dickens books for the language — so inventive.’’
  • The Pattern Language bfby Christopher Alexander: ‘‘It’s about the good design of everything — from buildings to houses and gardens. Fascinating.’’
  • The collected poems of Judith Wright and John Shaw Nielson: ‘‘Nielson’s descriptions of the bush are so simple and beautiful and clear.’’
  • The Bringing Them Home Report: ‘‘That changed my life. One story led to my mother’s family who had an Aboriginal nursemaid. Her story is in the report.’’
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