Ron shelves 25-year library stint

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FINAL DUTIES: Ron Hallett returning books to the shelves at Kaitaia's library one last time. PICTURE/PETRINA HODGSON
FINAL DUTIES: Ron Hallett returning books to the shelves at Kaitaia's library one last time. PICTURE/PETRINA HODGSON

A quarter of a century is a long time in anybody's book - and that's how long Ron Hallett has been restocking the shelves at Kaitaia's public library.

He began volunteering at the library, then in Melba Street, in 1989, within months of arriving (with his late wife Joyce) in Kaitaia, when he was a sprightly 63 years old, and became a founding member of the Friends of Kaitaia Library.

"I said I'd volunteer, like a sucker, and I've been around ever since," he said last week.

Since then he had clambered up ladders, painted, shifted shelves and fixed anything and everything, assistant librarian John Haines said.

"There's nobody who can shelve like Ron. I don't know what we're going to do when he's gone. We will truly miss him," he added.

It wasn't only the library that benefited from his community spirit though. He has served on the Kaitaia and Districts A&P Association committee, Age Concern Kaitaia and Kawakawa's Bay of Islands Vintage Railway. That contribution was recognised in 2012 when he received a Trust Power Far North Community award.

He volunteered because he enjoyed it.

"I like meeting people, and it passes the time away. It's a pleasant way of spending the day," he said.

He had noticed a few changes at the library over the years, most notable being the move from Melba Street to Te Ahu.

"That has been a huge change. We have access to more books now with the larger premises, which is a great thing," he said. There had also been an audible change.

"I was used to quiet libraries, you know the ones, with the sign up saying 'Quiet this is a library.' Let's just say it's a bit more dynamic here at Te Ahu," he added.

Ron, who rates mystery/detective books as his favourite genre, doesn't own a computer or a mobile phone, and had no plans to do so, lamenting the time young people especially seemed to spend on electronic devices instead of reading.


Books are important, as they improve one's knowledge, no matter what the book is. And libraries are important, as they allow those who can't afford to buy books an opportunity to read them
," he said.

Now he was leaving the Far North to live with his son and his family in Masterton. And he was preparing to miss volunteering at the Kaitaia Library.

"Where I'm moving to is a little out of town; the library will be a good five-kilometre country road drive away," he said. But that would not make him a target for a seller of tablets.

"I'd rather read books. You can sit down and relax with a book. I'm old-fashioned, and I'm glad of it," he said.


Librarian Helen Yuretich said Ron had worked at the library almost every Friday since he joined the team in 1989. She estimated he had shelved 320,000 books during the last 25 years, the equivalent of shelving every book in stock seven times.

His toolbox had also made him a useful fix-it man; in Melba Street he had repaired everything from the stapler to the toilets.

"The marvellous thing about Ron is his toolbox. Whatever you want, it's in it," Helen said.

He had painted the roof and walls of the porch at Melba Street, helped moved books out of the library and back in again when new carpets were laid, and helped with the move to Te Ahu.

Mayor John Carter said Ron's remarkable service to the community exemplified the attributes that made New Zealand a great country.

"What a wonderful community we would have if we could all live up to his example," he said.

- Northland Age

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