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A quarter century of literary adventures

A monthly column by Wairarapa Library Service where people in our community are interviewed about their love of books. This week, Madeleine Slavick, assistant librarian, adult programmes, talks with Nancy Blackman.

I visit Nancy Blackman on a Thursday morning. Out her window, green and birdsong.

We have a cup of tea and talk for an hour – about knitting [“I am making a white matinee coat for a great grandchild”], about books [“I like a good story”] and about her connection with the Carterton Library which celebrates its 150th birthday next month [“I worked there for 23-and-a-half years”].

Nancy started in the children’s section in 1969. At the time, the library was an independent building: The kids’ books were located to the left of the main entrance.

“Children were issued pink library cards, and adults had white ones. My card number was 1236.

“After working in the children’s section, I graduated to mending and covering books, and then to issuing adult books and helping with other library tasks.

“The librarian, Miss Valerie Foss, lived at the back – her sister lived there, too. A reading room was at the side, where we had four newspapers available – The Evening Post, The Dominion, The Press and Otago Daily Times. It was very popular.”

Nancy was born in 1931 and has always loved books. “I started out liking to read westerns, then crime, and now novels. I prefer British authors to American ones, and I don’t read biographies.”

As a child in Ponatahi, Nancy and her five siblings would receive a book as a Christmas gift every year. As a teen, she’d often visit the library. When it came time to find her first job, she worked for the Wairarapa Electric Power Board, riding her bicycle into town and back. When she married, Nancy and her family lived on High St North, near the dairy – it would be her home for 68 years, and within walking distance of her job at the library.

These days, library books are delivered to Nancy every three weeks. The Wairarapa Library Service programme Homelink provides about 25 people with this free amenity.

“Satisfying.” When I ask Nancy to describe her years at the library, she replies, “Very satisfying.”

February 12-19 was Love Your Library Week. When I ask the four current branch librarians – Andrea Darbyshire, Penny Griffin, Kathy Lenihan, and Ali Te Pohe – for a few words that speak of their love of libraries, they reply: “Community, discovery, friendliness, free, literary adventures, community enjoyment and support, literacy, lifelong learning, a welcoming space!”

‘What a Character’ is Wairarapa Library Service’s monthly column in the Midweek. Nancy Blackman was in conversation with Madeleine Slavick, Assistant Librarian, Adult Programmes. Email madeleine@madeleine@madeleine@wls.org.nz

Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall is the editor of the Wairarapa Midweek. She has been a journalist for the past 10 years, and has a keen interest in arts, culture, social issues, and community justice.

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