CATALOGUE OF MEMORIES: Maryborough librarian Robyn Dowling will retire on September 6 after 40 years of service.
CATALOGUE OF MEMORIES: Maryborough librarian Robyn Dowling will retire on September 6 after 40 years of service. Contributed

Long-serving librarian looks back on 40 years

BEFORE the internet put endless information at our fingertips, there was Robyn Dowling.

Any high school student, parent looking for some holiday distraction or keen bookworm knows Ms Dowling.

For 40 years, the hard-working librarian has diligently catalogued, sorted and found books for Maryborough's eager readers and researchers.

While some predict libraries risk going the way of the dinosaurs, Ms Dowling says the future looks bright for the grand old institutions.

"Libraries today are as much about community connections and community spaces as they are about literacy and recreational reading,” she said.

"They provide a range of early literacy programs to our families, digital learning and information literacy opportunities and services, book clubs, author talks, preserve our local stories and history and form partnerships with community organisations.

"Our programs and our spaces are fully subscribed by our communities. I can only see these needs growing in the future and the library filling an integral role in developing and maintaining community connections.

"They provide a place for people to just be, to connect with others and they are free. How wonderful is that?”

Now, as she prepares for retirement, Ms Dowling has taken the opportunity to reflect on the ever-changing world of libraries.

"When I started in libraries, it was in the days of the card catalogue, nothing was automated,” Ms Dowling said.

"Every customer had a member pocket in which we filed the book card for the books they had borrowed and manually filed the books borrowed in a box each day.”

She said some of the old ways of doing things had just about been lost to the past.

"To answer a customer enquiry for information, we would consult our reference books or send off to State Library if we couldn't answer the enquiry,” she said.

"Now we hardly have any reference books, nor do we consult State Library as much for enquiries.”

Ms Dowling will retire at the end of this week, on September 6.

As Fraser Coast Libraries Regional Librarian Tara Webb points out, while Ms Dowling's career will come to an end, her legacy will not soon be forgotten.

Ms Webb said during Ms Dowling's 29-year tenure as Maryborough City Librarian, she oversaw the introduction of music cassette, video and DVD collections.

She was also in charge during the library's second-floor expansion, as well as the establishment of the Moonaboola Unit which celebrates local indigenous culture.

"Robyn took all of these changes and more in her stride and had an open-door policy so staff could always turn to her for help and guidance,” Ms Webb said.

"She has also led by example, always putting customers first and making them the priority in all that she does.”

Fraser Coast Regional Council chief executive officer, Ken Diehm, was full of praise for Ms Dowling's management.

He said while overseeing some major changes, she helped ensure libraries stayed a vital part of the community.

"It's rare for someone to dedicate their entire career to the council and community and we thank Robyn for her wonderful service,” Mr Diehm said.

Having spend the past 11 years working as Technical Services Librarian, responsible for collections, Ms Dowling counted developing the libraries' physical and digital catalogues as a career highlight.

She also pointed out the close connection between the library and several community groups.

For her personally, the partnership with the Proud Marys was a special one.

"I was a foundation member of The Proud Marys, even though my name has no Mary in it, and we had a great partnership between us,” Ms Dowling said.

"We applied for, and received, grants to stage shadow puppet shows for children, umbrella making workshops, build a Mary Poppins puppet theatre, had a lovely painted backdrop to stage some of these events and held the launch and presentation of the literary competition, still being held today.

"This year marks the 20th anniversary of The Proud Marys and the partnership is still alive and well.”