IT started as a temporary job while she waited to start a career in nursing, but 45 years later, Jan Richards is still passionate about public libraries.
The Central West Libraries manager made the Australia Day honours list and will become a Member of the Order of Australia (AM).
The award is limited to 340 Australians a year, who have served in a particular locality, field of activity or group.
Mrs Richards said she was “totally humbled” by the award.
“The library community hasn’t always been well represented in the honours list so while it’s a great personal honour, it’s recognition of the work so many people do,” she said.
“Anything I’ve done wouldn’t have been possible without the people I work with and without the support of [Orange City] Council.”
She started at Orange’s library in 1972 after she left school and has also worked at libraries in Armidale, Wollongong and NSW Agriculture in the time since.
“It was a matter of serendipity because I was going to go into nursing and my parents weren’t keen,” she said.
A job became available at the library and she took it, intending for it to be an interim job.
“By the third day, I said I wasn’t going to be a nurse,” she said.
Mrs Richards went on to serve as part of the Country Public Libraries Association where she is a life member, the Library Council of NSW, the Australian Library and Information Association where she is a past president and chairs the Australian Public Library Alliance, and the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions.
The organisations are a mix of project forums and advocates for library funding.
“My managers in the early years were active in doing things in the association so I was involved in projects and gradually became more involved to take on different roles,” she said.
She said she enjoyed the diversity of public libraries.
“You’re not handing books across a shelf, it’s a community and every target group needs a different service,” she said.
“Now, we always describe it as a community living room – for new arrivals in the community, it’s one of the first places they come because it’s open to everybody and young mums, they come to storytime and meet other young mums.
“We get a group of gentlemen who read the paper, it’s just a safe place to be.”
Mrs Richards looked forward to Orange City Library’s refurbishment starting this week, which she said would adopt a bookshop atmosphere, and the library, gallery and museum hosting the 2017 NSW Family History Conference in September.