From customer to colleague, mentor to friend - How one librarian inspires me

Warren Cheetham
Friday, 16 June, 2017
Your Story

My life as a librarian has been influenced and made immeasurably better by a man who started as a customer, became a colleague, then a mentor, and is now a friend. I owe a significant debt of gratitude to Ron Store for setting the benchmark of what librarians can achieve, when they choose to serve their community and colleagues with heart and dedication. 

Ron started as a customer in my library. I was a library assistant in small public library in Ayr, a rural town in North Queensland. Ron would sit and work while his daughter competed at Eisteddfods in the theatre next door. I then became a customer of Ron’s library. As an undergraduate library student studying by distance education, I often drove an hour to Townsville, to use the resources of the James Cook University Library, where Ron was the Deputy Director. He helped me with a research question one day, and when Ron found out I was studying librarianship, he took a keen interest in my study and provided valuable advice.

My first permanent role as a qualified librarian saw me supervising Ron. He had retired from JCU Library, and was enjoying casual work as a reference librarian at Thuringowa Library Services, a public library. The role was reversed within a year, when Ron was appointed manager of the library in a job-share arrangement. For the next seven years Ron was a source of inspiration, guidance, counsel and innovation as I found my feet as a librarian. His leadership style shaped my own. His constant encouragement to reflect, write and share work experiences led me to undertake practitioner research, write for local and professional publications, present at library conferences, and undertake an international travel scholarship. His deep knowledge and respect of local heritage collections, and his desire to have them visible, used and valued, has also shaped my professional practice. It seemed that Ron had thought deeply, studied and possibly written about most library topics, big or small. Digital services, children’s literature, library signage, furniture, scholarly publishing, services to distance students, customer service, governance, library building design and more, were all areas of expertise. Above all, Ron’s focus on the community we serve will resonate with me for the rest of my life.

With Ron retired (again), we keep in touch with regular conversations over lunch. Work and libraries dominate, and as our relationship has evolved from colleague to mentor to friend, Ron continues to inspire me with his insight, wit and generosity.

Ron’s work as a librarian was recognised with a Medal of the Order of Australia in 2011, and he is listed on the ALIA Honours Board. His extensive written contribution to the profession is indexed in databases and archived in publications, and if our librarian colleagues continue to do their jobs well, his written words will live forever. Those words won’t be a match for the living example of librarianship and service that Ron has demonstrated to me and many others, and is the reason why I pay tribute to Ron Store in ALIA’s 80th year. 



Ron and his wife Carmel, also a librarian, have indeed been unselfish role models and mentors to many North Queensland librarians. Their contributions to ALIA and SLAQ are now largely unsung but thanks to their counsel and encouragement over many years, some brilliant library careers have been built.
I'd like to agree with Warren's words about Ron, from my own experience. I was a colleague of Ron's at JCU in Townsville when JCU and the Townsville College of Advanced Education were amalgamated.Ron wasn't a showy librarian, and he wa quite old-fashioned in many ways. But he was forceful when the issue required, measured, supportive, thoughtful and I recognise all the great qualities that Warren has written of. He supported me too when I had doubts about myself or library issues that we thought mattered. He taught me all I know about newsletter design and how to write for the intended audience. His experience of almost every part of librarianship is, I suspect, unparalleled and his willingness to share it without peer.  I wouldn't have thought of Ron as one of my mentors - but having read what Warren has written I realise that he was, and a highly significant and treasured one too. Thanks Ron!