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Retiring librarian reflects on 40 years of service

3 September 2019

When Robyn Dowling started work at the library in Maryborough 40 years ago, Google didn’t exist.
“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.”
Robyn, who will retire on September 6, has been reminiscing about her long career as a librarian.
“When I started in libraries, it was in the days of the card catalogue, nothing was automated,” she 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.”
Fraser Coast Libraries Regional Librarian Tara Webb said while Robyn was The Maryborough City Librarian for 29 years, she oversaw the introduction of music cassette, video and DVD collections; the second-floor expansion of the library and 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,” she said.
“She has also led by example, always putting customers first and making them the priority in all that she does.”
Fraser Coast CEO Ken Diehm congratulated Robyn, saying she has managed some major changes during her time at the libraries and done a remarkable job of ensuring they remain 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,” he said.
Developing the libraries’ collections – both physical and digital – has been a career highlight for Robyn, who has been Technical Services Librarian, responsible for collections, for the past 11 years at Fraser Coast Regional Libraries.
She also counted the connection between the library and The Proud Marys, who have championed Maryborough as the birthplace of Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers; getting to know customers and forming friendships with staff among her fondest memories.
“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,” Robyn 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.”
Robyn said despite predictions of the demise of libraries, she believed they had a bright future.
“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?”
Ms Webb wished Robyn well in her retirement and enjoying all that life had to offer.
“I believe she’ll be spending time with her grandchildren, friends and family, travelling, reading, gardening and enjoying the library from the other side of the service desk!” she said.