Our Wellington

News | 7 April 2021

20 Twenty One: Bernice Dickie

She was a key player in the aftermath of the Central Library closure and has had a rugby season ticket since the stadium opened. Get to know our loyal librarian who’s been serving the city for almost 60 years.

A portrait of Bernice Dickie, a librarian of 60 years, framed in a polaroid with the 20 Twenty One logo, as part of a Wellington City Council profile series that celebrates staff who have been with the organisation for 20 or more years.

The year was 1963, and Bernice Dickie entered Wellington City Council as an eager teen looking for work experience after Government career guidance told her she had great typing skills.

Fifty-seven (ish) years later, she now “keeps things running” across our busy Central cluster libraries that include Arapaki Manners Library and Service Centre, and Te Awe Brandon Library.

Bernice’s first role at the Council was a punch card operator.

“We’d punch codes for wages and store records into a big machine that spat out results.”

Over the years the small team grew and the work changed, and as a result of a restructure, Bernice ended up in the Libraries team.

“I hated the smell of books so I didn’t have any interest in working in libraries," she says.

A wide yellow graphic with the words 20 twenty one, celebrating our people, in black.

“I started working in the circulation area, so I was responsible for books coming in and out. It was really customer-focussed which I liked.”

Bernice completed her Library Certificate a few years later. She has seen enormous change over decades of working in Wellington libraries. One of the most significant and difficult was when the Central Library closed in March 2019.

“I remember being called into a meeting at 10am. Then I had to call everyone who was on holiday to let them know they wouldn’t be coming back to the Central Library. That day was the busiest day I can remember, we issued 7,000 books in five hours.”

Two years and several new central library networks later, Bernice has enjoyed being part of our changing libraries and how they now operate.

Day to day, she’s busy managing the libraries’ systems, looking after staff, recruitment and dealing with customer issues.

While reflecting on the earlier days of her career, Bernice remembers the time their first computer caught fire on a ship coming to New Zealand.  

“We had a big box of cards that needed to be processed to print pay slips for the next week, so we decided to take the box to another organisation and use their computer.

“While crossing the road in front of Central Library, we dropped the whole box and all the cards were scattered across the road, at peak-hour traffic!”

Bernice also remembers when there was a road through Civic Square, and the Queen and President Lyndon B Johnson paraded down it.

When asked what has kept her at Council for over 50 years, Bernice replied:

“The job has never stayed the same. Technology has enabled us to do new things and that’s been exciting to be part of. I remember when emails and internet first came in, I had to work on my spelling!

“I’ve made good friends over the years. This organisation has been really supportive over years of change and many people I still keep in touch with.”

It’s 2021, so we’re sharing stories about 21 of our people who have worked at Wellington City Council for 20 years or more. Find out more about the series in this story.