Literary load

By: David McKenzie


No truck driver ever wants to be booked, but the drivers of the Yarra Plenty Regional Library don’t mind booking other people, transporting roughly 10,500 of them in a travelling library.

 

The Yarra Plenty Regional Library (YPRL) is a mobile library service that covers three council areas in Victoria – Banyule, Whittlesea and Nillumbik – with stops at 14 different locations within those council boundaries.

The library service was started in 1954 by the then City of Heidelberg and was referred to as the "travelling free library"; the first of its type in Victoria. Their first vehicle was an Ansair Transett bus.

In 1976, the Shire of Whittlesea and the Heidelberg Library Service joined their services together. This meant there were now two buses servicing a wider area. In October 1985 the name was changed to the Yarra Plenty Regional Library Service, reflecting the wide area the library now serviced.

In 1987, the buses were retired and the switch was made to a prime mover and trailer. Their first rig was an International cab over a dual axle with a single axle trailer.

The current prime mover is a 2018 Mercedes-Benz Actros 2646. It has a Euro 6 engine with 460hp (343kW), 6 x 4 drive line, a 12-speed automated transmission and a dual axle trailer. The entire rig is 19 metres long.

The trailer is probably the most impressive part of the rig and was specially made for the library. It extends sideways front and rear to nearly double the floor space inside. There are two internet connected computers for customers to use, DVDs to borrow as well as books and a dedicated children’s section.

The first mobile library in Victoria, an Ansair bus owned by the City of Heidelberg

NEW BLOOD

The library had two very long serving drivers retire 18 months ago, Alan Hatty and Paul Ross. Alan spent 40 years with the service and Paul put in 35 years. This required the library to employ two new drivers in February 2018.

As it happened, Alan’s daughter Mel was sitting on a semi licence.

"I got my HR licence at 23-years-old because you never know when you might need a truck licence," Mel says.

"12 months later I got my semi licence, because you never know when you might need a semi licence."

Mel applied for her dad’s position at the library and was well qualified for the position, having spent a lot of time in there as a child. Alan would take his daughter with him on the road during school holidays. "I loved every minute of it," she says.

Alan got to train his daughter on the workings of the library. "This was the best part," Mel confirms, "because I got to work with my dad and he’s awesome."

Driving a truck was a long way from Mel’s thoughts when she was growing up in Macleod, Victoria. Her first thoughts were of being a carpenter, so she undertook a carpentry pre-apprenticeship when she left school. Unfortunately it wasn’t quite what she expected, saying that "it didn’t feel very female friendly".

"The Bundoora Homestead café was looking for a manager," she says, "and that’s where I worked for the next seven or eight years."

That was long enough at the café, so she decided to try her hand at working in childcare for about six years.

Doreen is where Mel now calls home with husband Brendan. They are expecting their first child in November.

"I plan to have a few months off on maternity leave, but I love my job and have no plans to retire," Mel says.

In 1987 the library bus was now a semi with a purpose-built trailer and a new name, Yarra Plenty Regional Library

TAKES TWO

Kaje Aragona is the second driver and started a few days after Mel. Kaje, unlike Mel, had used his semi licence, and in several different countries.

Born in Hastings on the north island of New Zealand to a travelling family, Kaje led what some would call an idyllic lifestyle. When he was five years old the family boarded their yacht and sailed the South Pacific for two years, eventually settling in Papua New Guinea. Kaje attended primary school in Rabual there for three years and in a remarkable coincidence Paul Ross, the other retiring driver, was there at the same time.

Kaje’s family then moved to British Columbia in Canada. At 17 he moved to Alberta to live with relatives and started his work life at a sawmill as a forklift driver and machinery operator. As soon as he turned 18, he did a two-week course and was issued with a semi licence, which meant he could do some short distance driving of the logging trucks.

Kaje says that there are two things he remembers well, one is that if the temperature fell to  ‒30˚C the mill would close, but that might have been only twice a year. "The rest of the time during winter it hovered around the ‒28˚C mark," he explains.

The other happened one morning during winter when he was making his way to work one day.

Kaje Aragona and Mel Hatty looking very happy to be at work

"I was jogging through the snow when I felt that something was watching me. I kept going, not thinking much of it, when all of a sudden a moose rushed out from the side of the road past me!

"I had to wait on the side of the road for five minutes to compose myself."

Travelling was on Kaje’s mind again, so this time, now in his early 20s, he set off to Europe.

"I worked in Europe for three or four years, driving tour buses, and worked my way up to the biggest of the coaches," he says.

Next stop: sunny Australia. Kaje again paid his way around a country driving touring coaches, this time for a small company in Western Australia. His regular work was touring the outback. His most memorable trip was taking a school group.

"The school had some government funding, so they included a visit to Canberra," he says.

 The trip ended up being three weeks long: "I got to see the Royal Australian Mint and Parliament House."

Kaje is now married to Clelia and they have three children, Lily who is 13 and has just started high school, Flynn (10) and Marlo (6). Flynn and Marlo just happen also to go to a primary school on the library’s route.

Mel and Kaje are the public face of the YPRL and provide a valuable service to the community, offering both internet access to some underprivileged areas and books for school kids whose school may not be big enough to have a library.

Hopefully now there will be a couple of copies of Owner//Driver magazine for the public to read in the library!

The latest rig, a Mercedes Benz Actros 2646

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