This term, we bid a fond farewell to a TSH stalwart, our wonderfully eccentric librarian Julie Cox, who has retired after 14-and-a-half years in the role. A role, she confesses, that she’s probably underqualified for.
“I wonder if I’m allowed to tell you this,” she starts to explain with a mischievous glint in her eyes, “but I’m not a librarian. Even though I have worked in libraries all my life, I’m actually a library technician.”
So how exactly did she get the job?
“Back in 2008, I went for the interview for the role of school librarian,” she says. “I felt like this job was meant to be for me because for the first time in my life, aged 48, I was able to tell them I was deaf. Up until then, I’d never told anyone in an interview that I was deaf – I’d just work at 1,000% until they eventually found out.”
After two weeks of silence, Julie rang up former CEO Paul Higgenbotham, who broke the news to her that she hadn’t got the job.
“I have to admit I was heartbroken,” she says. “It was just so disappointing, and I fell into a massive slump.”
Two weeks after that, Julie received a call from Paul’s assistant, checking if she was still interested in the job.
“I was at my other job at the time, which I hated,” she recalls, “so I quickly retreated to the ladies’ bathroom and said, ‘Yes, yes, yes!’”
Still, not having her official librarian qualification gnawed at her.
“From the beginning it was a matter of proving myself again,” she says with a smile. “I’ve always felt an underlying pressure to prove myself because I’m not officially qualified as a librarian. But I just kept working at it and I eventually made the job my own.”
Examples of this include the in-library classes, where Julie’s wild expressions and funny voices captivate the children.
“I started to introduce library classes to the library, before that it was just a place where people came to borrow books,” Julie says.
“When I read to them, I read with a lot of passion. That’s because I know that these kids won’t remember me, so I can be as silly and as stupid as I like. But hopefully I can get through to them and make a difference.
“The library experience is huge for me because I know that for most of the children, it is the first time that they have ever been into a library. Others will have been into other libraries, but may have experienced that scared feeling because they weren’t allowed to make a noise or have fun.
“They can do anything in my library. They can run around and get excited. It’s supposed to be fun.”
While the kids will undoubtedly miss Julie’s quirky personality and library sessions, she has been planning the best way to spend her retirement. Will this include curling up with some non-children’s books? Forget it.
“I don’t read at all,” Julie the librarian says with a laugh. “Unless it’s a book about gardening!”
We will miss you Julie, and from all of us at TSH, we wish you the very best in retirement.
In Julie’s words…
What has been the best thing about working for TSH?
My past and present mentors, the sharing of knowledge and being a small part of the big picture! I’ve loved watching the children’s successes during the years.
What would you say is the strength of the organisation?
One thing that I’ve always loved about this place is how we all just change up when something isn’t working. We don’t stick to the same things. We do like to work together – yes, we might have a few disagreements but it’s never personal, it’s about wanting us to be the best.
Why is the library such an import part of the kids’ learning?
I think reading to children is the most important gift. Libraries like ours hold wonderful collections and can provide unique ways to engage the children and support their families.
What will you miss the most?
I’ll miss the tearoom/staffroom/kitchen…the laughter and the ideas that have been generated during our half-hour break. Also, learning new tricks from a talented and caring bunch of people!
What are your immediate plans for retirement?
I’ll be travelling to Melbourne, Broome and Kangaroo Island! Who knows after that – maybe I’ll write a book?