On The Job

Rose Lee is not your stereotypical librarian.

For the past 45 years she has worked at the HB Williams Memorial Library in Gisborne.

But during that time she’s also been a fierce competitor in the sporting world, representing Poverty Bay in basketball, working as an aerobics instructor into her 60s, and now competing in IronMāori.

Rose started out as a tea girl in the library before obtaining a job in the children’s department, which included creating programmes and activities.

She later attained her librarian qualification and became an “allrounder”, working in virtually every library department over the last four decades.

 While she was initially attracted to working with children, Rose is now happy in Collections Services, where she is excited to see the new books coming in.


Rose is of Ngāti Porou, Te Aitanga a Mahaki and Te Whanau a Kai descent.

She enjoys being part of a team of Māori and Pākeha library staff, and is proud of the library’s valuable Māori collection, which is well-used by the people of Te Tairawhiti.

Rose feels emotional when she thinks about the changes she’s seen over the years, including moving from the old library card catalogue system to new digital systems, and the opening of a new library extension in 2018.


The library has been a huge part of her life, but sport has been another lifelong passion.

In 2010 her gym, Taha Fitness won a National Club Championship up against big town Les Mills gyms from all over New Zealand.

Now she’s turned her competitive spirit to winning a team tile in IronMāori, after missing out on a title by five seconds a few years ago.

“If you keep healthy and fit you are able to cope with other challenges,” the 62 year-old says.


One recent challenge for Rose came when she volunteered to be redeployed to the phone lines during the lockdown.

She was one of 70 council staff involved in Operation Manaaki, ringing 7000 elderly residents to check on their welfare.

“Every call I made, people were grateful. They are glad someone cares. It’s been fulfilling.”

Rose has been a PSA delegate for almost two decades and is on the Gisborne District Council delegate committee.

She says its been a great experience that’s included giving presentations about the protections unions can provide, representing members at the negotiating table and supporting them in employment disputes.

 Photo courtesy of the Gisborne Herald




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