Manager Community Library, Auckland Council/Auckland Libraries
Fans of the hit TV series bro’Town will remember the character Vale Pepelo, considered the intelligent one of the group, who was always seen carrying a literary classic.
Richy Misilei says he can definitely relate to Vale. He kept his collection of favourite books hidden in his closet at home. Being seen to be a reader wasn’t exactly cool, but it didn’t stop him indulging his curiosity about the world, including learning about dinosaurs and the Bermuda Triangle as well reading plenty of comics; something he still loves to do in his spare time.
It also offered a clue as to where his future career would take him; not that he knew it at the time.
A proud Samoan, he describes his upbringing in Mangere as “carefree” and there was always plenty to do when all the neighbouring kids got together.
“We lived in one of those dead-end streets so there were always lots of mates around to play games and hang out with.”
When it came to school, Richy freely admits he worked hard but wasn’t the smartest kid in the class, though it didn’t stop him deciding to go to university.
“I was the first in my family to go to university. It wasn’t as though I had always wanted to go to uni. I just wanted to make my parents proud and I guess I bought into that whole line that going to university gave you the chance to become a lawyer or an accountant.”
Initially enrolling in a law degree, though without the necessary marks to get in, he switched to a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in Education thinking he would go into teaching. After completing his BA he decided to enrol in a Bachelor of Business and Information Management degree (BBIM) double majoring in information management and human resources.
“Initially I did the BBIM with the intention of ‘teaching’ business, but then found I quite enjoyed HR so thought that could be another interesting career option to consider.”
However, it was a casual lunch with a friend shortly after graduating in 2007 that completely changed his career direction and his future pathway. The friend suggested Richy should apply for a ‘Young Adult’ role with Manukau Libraries (as it was at the time).
Securing what was then an entry level role, eleven years later he is still employed by Auckland Libraries and still loving his job.
Having risen through the ranks, as Community Libraries manager - specifically Tupu Youth Library based in Otara -he leads a talented and passionate team who are dedicated to sharing their love of books and reading.
“I have been given so many opportunities to do things I would never have expected including speaking at conferences, writing a Pacific strategy and convening this year’s national conference for information professionals.”
But what of the future for libraries and engaging young people in reading? Richy believes digital technology has allowed libraries to reinvent themselves and their future is assured.
“Digital libraries have become massive around the world. There are even vox books with speakers that will read the book to children increasing their engagement. We also use a few tricks such as turning on the subtitles when showing videos to children as they read the words without even realising they’re doing so.” Clever!
So, the next time a friend gives you career advice over lunch consider it closely. You might just find they have already figured out your true calling.