Port Macquarie-Hastings OAMs:
VIRGINIA Cox's life can be written in chapters and together they deliver a story of what can be achieved when you believe anything is possible.
Virginia has been awarded an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in this year's Queen's Birthday honours list.
She was awarded the OAM for her services to librarianship.
Virginia was the children's librarian at Port Macquarie-Hastings Library for 18 years and she treasured every day.
Life, she says, is about learning and giving it a go.
"Anything is possible," she said.
For children who have been a part of her storytime program and library-based youth activities, those three little words can have a lasting impact.
Humbled by the recognition, Virginia does not accept the honour in isolation. There have been many people in her life who have left her with something to learn from.
Her achievements have been a team effort every step of the way, she said.
I have been doing something I really loved. It was the best job in the whole world.Virginia Cox
Virginia joined the library team in 2001 and for the next 18 years alongside her colleagues, ensured the space remained relevant and at the heart of the Port Macquarie-Hastings community.
"I have been doing something I really loved. It was the best job in the whole world. You're promoting something you totally believe in. You're meeting fabulous people every day, you'll never know what the day will hold - plus it's free," Virginia said.
Virginia grew up in Sydney and trained as a primary school teacher at Macquarie University before being posted to Moree.
She stayed with the Department of Education for several years before leaving for an overseas stint as a nanny.
On return to Australia, she worked at Macquarie shopping centre and later at Newington College in Sydney before venturing into children's publishing with Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
"It was a wonderful time for whole language and there was a new maths curriculum and everything was practical. Our job was to make teachers comfortable about using the resources and to support them," she said.
But the call to have a more hands-on approach with young people sent her on a pathway in student recruitment, training and apprenticeships, helping school leavers find meaningful work.
"I've always had jobs with young people and in education. So when I came here (to Port Macquarie) I worked with Jobs Pathway, a school to work transition program. It was a great scheme because it job matched, but then you had to stick with the young person and make sure it worked out. I enjoyed getting them out there and encouraging them."
But it was 18 years at the library where her learning and experience has left an enduring legacy, made possible Virginia says, through the leadership of manager Jim Maguire.
In our community the library has increased its importance especially with drought, fires and floods because it is a springboard for information and activities. People just want that feeling of connection.Virginia Cox
"I've been lucky I've always had jobs I felt really passionate about. In every single job, I've had the opportunity to meet different people and people who take you out of your own world. You learn so much," Virginia said.
"The library is just an amazing place to work because that journey continued. It's a welcoming space and you don't know who you are going to meet from day to day.
"It's a privilege because when you work there, you put on your uniform and it gives you carte blanche to have wonderful conversations with people and engage with people in different ways. And to work with 0-18 year olds gives you great freedom.
"The library gave me confidence to try different things. There's so many memories because there's such a fun element to what we did."
Among those favourite moments is the Festival of Stories which brought together creative leaders from across the region to tell the stories that define where we live.
"Those wonderful partnerships in the community are really important. You can't be the fount of all information but you can make connections and bring people together to achieve something."
In this sense, the library has never been more important.
"I always encouraged people to use the library space. The connections are so genuine and you can facilitate such magical things, especially when staff, your boss and council support it," she said.
"In our community the library has increased its importance especially with drought, fires and floods because it is a springboard for information and activities. People just want that feeling of connection.
"Joining the library is one of the first things people should do when they move to an area."
Virginia still loves all the things the library represents and since leaving, has turned her focus to the Local Drug Action Team Program which will run an information and networking forum on June 24 to start conversations about accessing services.
"Family drug support is a very gentle approach to supporting families and it is good we are able to make those connections through this program," she said.
Virginia has also volunteered her time with the Wauchope Show Society, soup kitchen and assisted with story-telling art exhibitions at the Macleay Valley Community Art Gallery. She also hosted a high tea to raise money for drought-stricken families in the north-west.
"I still love all the things the library represents and I'm enthusiastic. Since leaving I've been able to cherry pick things to do that relate to library land. But any accolades should really be going to total library land because you just can't do it by yourself."
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