When Alyson Gates applied for a librarian job at a Whangarei school it was only meant to be temporary.

She had studied teaching and saw the job at Kamo High School as "a bit of money" until she found a teaching position.

That was in 1986.

She has just finished training her successor this week after retiring from the job at Kamo at the end of last year.


"After I'd been here for a while I realised that this was actually what I wanted to do.

"I realised that I really did like books and I liked being able to help students ... Even though I'd given up teaching I still got the interaction with kids."

Things have changed since Mrs Gates first started.

The library is still in the same building but it was "very old fashioned", there were no computers, and the Dewey Decimal System was used.

"When students came to get a book out there would be a card in the back of the book. You'd pull it out, write on it and date stamp it, keep the card and they'd go off with the book."

The library system was put on computers in 2000 - it was something Mrs Gates had requested the school do.

Mrs Gates, a library assistant and two others had to manually enter details of about 6000 books into the system.

"When we were three-quarters of the way through it crashed and we had to start again. That was traumatic.

"It was an 'I don't believe this' moment. We'd probably been going for a couple of weeks. It was an experience I wanted to forget really."

Mrs Gates has always been a bookworm and was going to miss getting books out of the Kamo High School library.

"Being a librarian I did read a lot of teenage fiction and I think more adults should read teenage fiction," she said.

Generations have come through the school since Mrs Gates has been there. Her own children went there and now she has a grandson at the school.

She enjoyed building relationships with kids without having to go home and do marking or reports like teachers do.

"Some kids would come reluctantly and get a book out because their English teacher had told them to so together we would find a book and they'd go away and come back and say 'I like that' - that was very satisfying."

Mrs Gates said it was a tough decision retiring and she has no real plans yet but travelling will be on the cards.