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Norma Balzer proud school librarian

HOME SWEET HOME: The Balzer property at Dunoon
HOME SWEET HOME: The Balzer property at Dunoon

MOST of us are soon forgotten, even perhaps by close members of our own family. Few of us find a place in the pages of history books.

However, there are some who should be remembered, as they played a major role in helping others to a better life. One of these people was Norma Ker Balzer, who died recently at Maranoa in Alstonville at the age of 89.

Norma Balzer was an amazing person.

Born Norma Robinson on September 13, 1923 she was full of energy and had a true fighting spirit.

Trained as a teacher she soon found herself at a small local school.

She boarded with the Seccombe family and became a popular addition to the community.

In 1943 at the age of 20, she married Keith Edward Balzer who had been one of the first to enlist in the Australian Army but had transferred to the Air Force in 1942.

He was not discharged until 1946.

She continued teaching throughout the war and when Keith returned home they took up residence on a farming property at Dunoon.

As the children came along Norma grew to love this property with all its big trees and wildlife and she loved the old home in which they lived.

Eventually she became a teacher at Richmond River High School and then school librarian there.

She was very interested in library work and could see the importance of the library in a school.

This was in the late 1960s and for many years most teachers (and headmasters), especially in country schools, had considered the library unimportant.

Quite often the job of school librarian was given to a teacher who was thought to be an under-achiever. This gave the role a bad name.

Many of the school librarians were really dedicated people who had little support from the rest of the academic staff. Norma Balzer was different - she knew the worth of a library and she decided to fight for the role of the school librarian.

A move had already been made through the public library system to bring all librarians together in a local association.

Professional library training was at that time limited to the courses provided by the Library Association of Australia.

Classes were available in the cities but country candidates had to fend for themselves.

There were a few library texts at public libraries but there was only one qualified librarian working in the area.

She agreed to act as tutor and Norma Balzer organised for school librarians to attend weekly lectures. Most of the people who attended these sessions went on to obtain professional qualifications. There was also closer liaison between library institutions. Much of the credit for this should go to Norma.

Later, with more funding being made available to school libraries, and better training being provided for country library students, the situation improved. It could be said that Norma was at the forefront of this change.

Norma Balzer was a rather special person. She was not only a wife and mother, teacher and librarian, but she was also a very fine poet. She published several volumes, a recent one being "Once upon a farm". The poems are delightful.

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