Jenny Hitchings


Jenny Hitchings, Nelson Children's Librarian, 1965-1986

Jenny Hitchings was born in Kent, England, and moved to Nelson, New Zealand, in 1965 with a background as a primary school teacher. Her passion for reading, previous teaching experience and belief in the value of reading to children, attracted her to the children's librarian role in Nelson. Working as the children's librarian gave her a sense of belonging in the community, and her job involved giving advice, enthusing children about various authors, processing new books, and organising displays.1

Jenny's main goals for the children's library while she was working there was to make the library attractive, accessible and enjoyable for children. The dreary, cold and crammed children's library in the back part of the Hardy Street building made for difficult working conditions, but Jenny strove to turn the children's library into ‘a magical, wonderful place.'2 Her main initiative to accomplish this goal was the introduction of a holiday programme, which included regular story-times for children every holiday, to introduce children to books they would enjoy. Jenny remembers: ‘Children just came in huge crowds - we could hardly fit them into the library, it was just amazing actually.'3

Jenny Hitchings, 6 March 1986. The Nelson Provincial Museum, The Nelson Mail Collection: 2312A
Click image to enlarge

 Jenny's story-times later included puppets, and she tried to involve the children as much as possible. She also started up a regular pre-school story-time. Colleague Marian Gunn recalls: ‘She was known for her story telling and reading, and really encouraged so many of Nelson's children.'4

Jenny Hitchings reading a story to children. Photo by Geoffrey C. Wood.
Click image to enlarge

An extension of the library holiday programme was the ‘Story Bus' - starting out as a van which visited swimming pools, playgrounds and Tahuna Beach to read stories to children. The library later had the use of an old school bus. Jenny was also involved in ‘Larks in Parks', which included story telling in the Botanic Gardens.5

Jenny also remembers seeing a lot of school groups, and emphasising to children that it was their right to use the library, supporting free access to the library, particularly for children.6

As well as working with children, Jenny was also involved in adult literacy, and left the Nelson Public Library in 1986 to work in adult literacy at the Nelson Polytechnic (now NMIT). The new children's librarian, Mary Gavin, managed the change-over into the new Elma Turner Library, and Jenny Hitchings was invited to present story sessions at the library several times after she retired.7


Sources used in this story

  1. Interview with Jenny Hitchings, 7 October 2011.
  2. Interview with Jenny Hitchings, 7 October 2011.
  3. Interview with Jenny Hitchings, 7 October 2011.
  4. Interview with Marian Gunn, 14 September 2011.
  5. Interview with Jenny Hitchings, 7 October 2011.
  6. Interview with Jenny Hitchings, 7 October 2011.
  7. Interview with Jenny Hitchings, 7 October 2011.


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