Friday, July 27, 2012

Librarians pay tribute to Margaret Mahy

July 27 2012

Margaret Mahy’s rainbow-coloured wig features in many libraries’ tributes to author Margaret Mahy, who died on Monday.
 Christchurch librarian Donna Robertson (left) wore a fuzzy wig all day Tuesday.
“It was her thing to wear the fro, or a costume – and I wanted to do a wee tribute. No-one on the bus batted an eye. Librarians (many who had worked with Margaret) enjoyed my getup and shared their Mahy memories, ” she said in her blog entitled Walking in Margaret Mahy’s wig.

Christchurch City Libraries decorated their Facebook logo with a rainbow-coloured wig, and many librarians added a wig to their Twitter avatars.
Margaret Mahy was Children's Librarian of Canterbury Public Library from 1976 to 1980, when she retired to write full-time. She kept close ties to the Library - as fellow Christchurch librarian Moata Tamaira said in her blog What I learned from Margaret Mahy “the thing about being a librarian is that you never really stop being one - it's that sort of affliction.”

Heather Lamond, President of the Library and Information Association of New Zealand (LIANZA), said as a public librarian, Mahy’s books were guaranteed to please young customers.
“As a young (and somewhat nervous) storytime co-ordinator, I knew I could count on finding a read aloud with humour, rhythm and rhyme that would be engaging for my audience (Beaten by a Balloon was a favourite, along with The Great White Man Eating Shark).  Then, as we moved on to Summer Reading Programmes and trying to find books for young boys to keep them reading over the summer, again Mahy was a go to author for me – the humour just kept on coming.”

Bill Macnaught, the National Librarian, called her a national taonga, “simply our best loved children’s author”.  The obituary on the National Library’s Services to Schools website said “What better Pied Piper could we ever ask for?” and illustrated with a photo of Mahy from the Alexander Turnbull Library collection in true Pied Piper mode. It showed Mahy wearing her infamous rainbow wig, hand in hand with a young girl in a bright red wig, leading  a trail of children down a path.

Public libraries across the country are setting up displays and holding special storytimes to celebrate Mahy’s stories.

Christchurch’s Central Library Tuam, which opened the day Mahy died, has a displayed all her books under a portrait of her by Glenda Randerson, purchased to honour Mahy’s contribution to Christchurch City Libraries.
Carolyn Robertson, manager of Christchurch City Libraries, said there had been record numbers of visitors to their Margaret Mahy website this week.

Birkenhead library has changed their monthly Children’s Book Chat to a Margaret Mahy tribute evening where children’s book enthusiasts are invited to bring along their favourite Margaret Mahy book, story or poem and share their memories of Margaret.

Kylee Bellamy, Central Hawkes Bay District Librarian, said she was looking forward to wearing her rainbow wig for her weekly Rhyme Time on Friday.
“Once you dress up it makes it fun, and Margaret always looked like she was having fun.”
Bellamy said Mahy’s stories provided lots of opportunities for questions. At Waipukurau and Waipawa libraries, her books were flying out the door.

School librarians ran a straw poll of their favourite Mahy stories on their email discussion list. Many recorded messages of tribute.

“May she Rest in Peace - hopefully in a well stocked Library. And while we respect she is not only a national and international treasure for us Cantabrians she was very much 'ours' Always available for conferences, book gatherings, or to open a Library  - ours included! Margaret will be sorely missed,” said Adrianne Shapland, Medbury School Librarian.

Robert Baigent, service manager of the The National Library’s Any Questions website , said queries about Margaret Mahy had been flooding in since Tuesday afternoon. The ‘Many Answers’ page they prepared about Mahy in anticipation of interest has become the most popular page on the website.
“We’ve been blown away by the number of visits to the page. In the two days it has been up it has been viewed over 160 times, more than double our next most popular entry in that time period.”

Mahy was awarded the Esther Glen Award for a distinguished contribution to children’s literature seven times. The Esther Glen Award, managed by LIANZA and judged by librarians, is New Zealand’s oldest book award.
Margaret Mahy in wig leading children - National Library photo

Further information:
Christchurch City Libraries Facebook page:
National Library Services to Schools:
Christchurch City Council Margaret Mahy website:

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