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Vale – Adele Hewlett

On 29 April 2023, Adele Hewlett , one of New Zealand’s most respected and inspirational library managers passed away at her home in Timaru.

Adele trained at the Dunedin Teachers College in the early 1980’s and worked as a Library assistant at the Gore and Invercargill libraries before being appointed as Children’s Librarian at Invercargill where she completed her Library Certificate in 1988.

Following in the footsteps of renown librarian and storyteller Elizabeth Miller in this role, Adele transformed the collections, space, and programmes in the Children’s Library, with her staff basking in her enthusiasm, creativity and sense of humour.  This role also provided Adele with opportunities to extend her creativity for new craft ideas which Adele collated and published “This’ll do” her catch cry as to what to make with a group or class. This resource with master templates to photocopy, was sold to libraries throughout New Zealand.

After moves to the West Coast and Christchurch, Adele relocated to Arrowtown in the late 1990’s was instrumental in forming the combined Central Otago & Queenstown Lakes Libraries shared service in 2001 when she was appointed Joint Libraries Manager.

In this role, Adele worked to develop partnerships with schools in Ōmakau, the Maniototo, Millers Flat and Makarora to provide school and community libraries in smaller rural settings, which continue today. Adele was also a key partner in the collaboration across the Otago Southland region through the rotation of shared collections, the shared Symphony system with the SouthLib Consortium and free reciprocal membership across the region.

The shared Central Otago & Queenstown Lakes role was disestablished in around 2014 and Adele resumed working in Queenstown Lakes Libraries before moving to Timaru where Adele worked in the Temuka branch library before being appointed as Libraries Manager in 2018.

Soon after her appointment in this role, Adele oversaw the completion of the RFID project across the Timaru District Libraries, as well as steering innovative projects to upgrade the Timaru Library, established Stepping Up and Skinny Jump programmes, sourced funding to acquire a range of assistive technology which were collectively recognised in 2019 by the Innovation and Technology award in the Alpine Energy Business Excellence Awards.

Adele was intuitively community minded and always looking for ways to increase access and remove barriers. Under her leadership, overdue charges and hold fees were removed.

Other exciting initiatives from Adele included Born to Read, a free library bag, book and bib are given to caregivers when they join their baby up for library membership and the Timaru Libraries attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest knitted fort, needing around 70,000 knitted peggy squares within six months! The Timaru District embraced this project and not only was the target exceeded, but additional squares were sewn the squares into blankets by the community and for the community, which became one of Adele’s taglines.

While Adele’s achievements speak volumes, the following comments from her colleagues pay tribute to the special person she was and her enduring contribution:

Adele was a great listener, her door was always open..

Adele was a generous, kind and dedicated librarian, she got things done, she supported her staff 100%

A favourite expression of Adele’s was ‘Why re-invent the wheel?’  She applied it universally and that is why so many projects were completed quickly under her direction, policies and processes shared across libraries and events carried out without complication.

Adele had a wicked sense of humour and a wonderful fashion style. She always lookedimmaculate in her amazing dresses from ‘Farry’s!

Such a professional …

Adele was a very real person, humble and sometimes self-depreciating, kind, sharing, sharp and innovative, and fun.

Adele just made every workplace better, she came in with fresh eyes and could see the possibilities for the library and her team

Adele always listened and said “Let me have a think about that”, she always gave me helpful, insightful feedback, she had a wonderful knack of seeing things in a completely different light

Adele saw the potential in people and supported them to grow …

She was so proud of her team and their achievements. She loved innovative ideas and was a boundary-pusher, looking for new ways to engage the public, take literacy to the community, provide the best possible for residents of and visitors to her district.

A wonderful leader, mentor and friend.

Adele is truly a super star library manager …

Adele’s drive and ambition was evident, refusing to let setbacks get in the way of what she wanted to achieve – she just found a different way around any roadblocks.

I always admired Adele for her innovative thinking – she always seemed to turn problems into opportunities and always had the communities she served in her different roles at the forefront of her decision making and service delivery. Her skill of thinking “outside the square” led to delivering opportunities for her libraries that were often an inspiration to others.

~ Bernie Hawke, PLNZ Executive Director.

Adele Hewlett Centre with her Timaru District Libraries colleagues.

The Association of Public Library Managers Incorporated
P.O. Box 11-038 Manners Street,  Wellington, 6142 NZ
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