Librarian moving on after changing times

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Clutha District Council library-service centre manager Vicki Darling winds down at Balclutha Library before assuming a new role as Alexandra Library team leader later this month. PHOTO: FRANKY MALONE/SUPPLIED

She may be checking out from her role in South Otago, but a long-standing librarian has no intention of gathering dust.

Clutha District Council library-service centre manager Vicki Darling took up her position in the South 14 years ago, during which time she has witnessed a period of significant change in the ways people use libraries and read books.

Born in Roxburgh and educated in Alexandra, she will now return to Central Otago to live and work, taking up the role of Alexandra Library team leader after Easter.

Although the new role would be a shift down in responsibility from managing five libraries and service centres across Clutha, Ms Darling said she hoped to bring some of what she had learnt with her.

When she arrived from Dunedin in 2006, Clutha’s libraries were still embracing the digital revolution.

“At that time, our facilities had six terminals for internet usage, which was limited and charged for. Now we have more than 20 available, and the addition of free Wi-Fi, usage of which has been one of our biggest areas of growth during recent years.”

The provision of free internet access had been “transformational” for many people, she said.

“We’ve been able to help people study, work and maintain contact from all over the world. For those who can’t access internet easily for reasons of finance or geography, it’s been a huge change.”

A year after her arrival in Clutha, Amazon introduced its Kindle e-reader, and a gradual encroachment of the ebook into the territory of traditional print publishing began.

Although ebooks had both their supporters and detractors, the libraries had moved with the times, she said.

“We’ve expanded accessibility for and availability of our ebook collection, but we still have many borrowers who have a very strong affiliation with a physical book.

“I think for those of us who spend a lot of working hours in front of a screen, print on paper can sometimes be a relief at the end of the day.”

She said although the mode of delivery might continue to change in future, the essence of a library’s function would remain the same — to provide wide-reaching access to diverse material.

“The internet has had an impact on some areas, such as non-fiction use, and that has influenced the balance of what we buy.

“But one of our major roles has always been and will remain encouraging literacy in children. Reading should be fun, enriching and open to all.”

Ms Darling praised her colleagues for their “openness to change” during her tenure, and said she looked forward to seeing the next phase of development under her successor, who was yet to be appointed.

Otago Daily Times