Clearing piles of paper and books: Douglass comes full family circle

SURROUNDED BY BOOKS: Peter Douglass holding one of the library's copies of the Return of the King. Photo: MAX STAINKAMPH 0810MSdouglass1
SURROUNDED BY BOOKS: Peter Douglass holding one of the library's copies of the Return of the King. Photo: MAX STAINKAMPH 0810MSdouglass1

On his last day of 36 years of work at Orange City Library, Peter Douglass can hear children taking part in storytime. 

Listening to storytime is the most poignant thing for Mr Douglass to be doing on his last day before retirement – he’s gone “full circle” in his years at the library. 

“I still have people today come in who I read stories to and they’re now adults and with children of their own, some of them are bringing their kids back to story time.” 

“The whole thing’s emotional, it really is. The library’s family.”

Mr Douglass, by his own admission, is a “piler, not a filer”. 

His last day before retirement at the Orange City Library is the cleanest his desk has been in a very, very long time – possibly decades.

Cleaning his desk up after 36 years in the library was a “trip down memory lane” for the librarian, who found notes and photos and microfiche from decades ago. 

In the curated clutter – between pens and books – were documents detailing some of Mr Douglass’ proudest achievements in the library.

“One I was really proud of was developing a bus service for elderly folk in conjunction with the Apex Club,” he said.

The whole thing’s emotional, it really is. The library’s family.

Peter Douglass

“It was to give people who couldn’t get down to the library under their own steam – mainly elderly folk – the chance to get to the library.”

The program, called the access service, ran for over 10 years before the Apex Club’s bus broke down and no-one had the money to replace it.  

Mr Douglass started as a bookmobile driver for his first two years, taking a truck of books to small towns and tiny schools as far west as Ootha, 30 kilometres this side of Condobolin. 

“You’d go out to them every day and they’d come out and climb onto your truck and look for books,” he said. 

After the bookmobile job became economically unviable, he moved into other areas of the library, clocking up years in elderly services, children’s services and local history, all the while surviving the moving of the library and the switch to digital

He loved learning about the history of Orange, of having the chance to indulge his nature as a “stickybeak”.

“Some of the properties around like Campdale, Duntryleague, Strathroy – the people who made them created Orange.”

As for the books – Mr Douglass rates Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings, Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet and his first-ever books the Biggles series as his top three favourite reads.