The Oamaru Library is filled with thousands of stories. Reporter Tyson Young catches up with community services librarian and deputy manager Jean Rivett, who has a fascinating story of her own.
Q Where are you from originally, Jean?
I come from northwest Kent in the UK, which is not far from London.
Q How did you come to work as a librarian?
When I left school in 1970, I was a library assistant for a couple of years in the London Borough of Bexley. I then went to Loughborough University where I eventually got my “charter”. I’m a chartered librarian by trade.
Q How did you end up in New Zealand?
Ha, ha – that’s a story. My late husband, Barry Rivett, was a communications engineer and he worked for worked for a subsidiary of Eveready that manufactured things like ship-shore radios and hand portables that just about every police force in the world carried. After we married, he was commissioned to go out to the Middle East, installing, commissioning and training police officers in Qatar. I spent three years there working for a local trading and contracting company, then as a librarian at the civil aviation department. There were just two women in the whole Qatari government. After spending a few years in Qatar, we moved to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. Barry was working for the British Council at the King Abdulaziz University Hospital. I didn’t work while I was there, as women didn’t work in Saudi. By that time, I had already had a little boy, and my second child was born soon after, so I was busy with them. We were in the Middle East from 1975 until 1981. I came to New Zealand in 1981 and moved to Whanganui. Barry was already in working for a company there that shipped SAR radio rescue beacons. I picked up jobs wherever I could, including a bit of part-time work for National Children’s Library Service, which was great. I also did some work for a couple of big firms in Whanganui and worked at the community college there that became Whanganui Polytechnic. While we were there, my husband also went from communications into social work.
Q How did you come to work at the Oamaru Public Library?
After spending six years in Whanganui, we spent a lovely eight years over in the West Coast, living just out of Westport at Carters Beach, before we washed up in Waimate. While living there, Barry worked as an independent social worker, he stretched from Ashburton down to Oamaru. Soon after, I started at the Oamaru Library as an assistant librarian – that was 22 years ago. I now live out at Morven and travel in to Oamaru every day for work.
Q What’s the best part of the job?
For me, it’s the people. The library has always had a warm feeling and the community are just really, really special people.
Q If you could catch up with anyone dead or alive who would it be and why?
I would catch up with Dorothy Macland – I knew her as Miss Macland. She was my form teacher at high school for about two or three years. I would love to meet her again. There were many teachers like that, but she stood out the most. The interest and the encouragement that she gave me at that age was absolutely amazing – I can’t praise her enough. She really was a warm, inspiring person and she encouraged my interests. She left the school at the time I did and I think she went to Zambia to teach. I don’t know what happened to her after that.