From Screwdrivers To Scanners

By Jenny Gow,  a fifty something public librarian in Whangarei who finds time to go to work between horse rides.

As a teenager in the seventies I knew I didn’t want to follow the usual career paths of women. Not for me nursing, teaching or office work. I had to do something different. That’s how I ended up as a telephone technician for the NZ Post Office, later Telecom. My job involved installation and  fault finding in business telephone systems. I enjoyed the work, the pay was great, but it was a constant battle to do way better than the boys – that’s what you had to do to be accepted. I got a little tired of comments like “When are you going to go home and have babies, Jenny?” My working role started to erode my femininity and I struggled to maintain a positive self image – especially as I was battling infertility at the time.

When the offer of redundancy came up while I was on parental leave with my second adopted child, I grabbed it with both hands.

Being a librarian simmered away in the back of my mind while my children were small but I couldn’t see how I could leave them for weeks at a time to go to Wellington to study, which is what you had to do then. After my son started school I took my toddler daughter along and volunteered in the school library. I found that I enjoyed the work. This gave me enough experience to get a part time job at the small Whangarei branch library of the Auckland College of Education, which later amalgamated with the University of Auckland. I worked part time there for four years or so, all the time studying for my diplomas and then my degree. It was hard going balancing young children with study and work but my husband was a great support. Then the manager of this small library retired and I got her job. I worked as manager for a year while studying but felt that the job isolated me from other librarians so I applied to the public library in Whangarei and started work there nearly six years ago. I completed my degree in the first year there. I was 50 years old and finally knew what I wanted to do for a career! Working in the library with mainly women is very different from working in a male dominated telecommuications technical field. Here I am no oddity or threat. I have found my niche.

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