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Many changes in 23 years at disability library

May 22nd, 2012 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

THE LIBRARIAN at CCS Disability Action, an advocacy and information service, is leaving after nearly a quarter of a century.

Michelle Hill, pictured right, has been the sole librarian of CCS Disability Action in Wellington since 1989.

In that time, she has seen many changes, both to the library, and to her job.

“When I started, it was all about ‘the disability’, it was really important for people to know about their disability and what it might mean for them, and the medical side of things.

“Now, it’s more about ‘how will my disability affect me doing whatever I want to do?’ It’s much more about just getting on and doing your own thing really.”

She says when she started, there was no library, so she had to build it up from scratch, and since then the role of CCS as an organisation has changed.

“It’s changed from being an organisation that looks after people, to working with people so they can be informed, and give them the tools they need to make the decisions about what’s important to them and their lives.”

The disability sector has also changed a lot.

“Twenty-three years ago, rights weren’t a hot issue for people. Now they are.”

She says it’s been a lot of fun setting something up from scratch, and listening and talking to people about what they want out of the service.

However, the job has not been without its challenges.

“We don’t cover all disabilities. It’s knowing what’s really important to your organisation, that’s always a challenge. You can’t be everything to everybody, so you have to know what your boundaries are.

As far as funding is concerned, in an article in the Dominion Post, she once described the library as being ‘run on the smell of an oily rag’.

“We don’t have a lot of money, we’re a not-for-profit, so the library is run very economically, but the money we do have is very well used,” she says.

She has some clients she has helped for years that she has never met, only helped by phone and email.

“Learning to communicate really well is always a challenge.”

“There’s a wide variety of customers who use the library, so it’s a challenge to be able to give all of those different types of customers what they need.”

She is leaving the library to become an information adviser at the Department of Labour, where she says disability and accessibility issues will certainly come up.

If she could change anything about the library, there would be more money and more space, but she still thinks it is a great library.

“I think it’s a library that the organisation can be very proud of.”

CAPTION: END OF AN ERA: Some of the many books at the library.

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