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She worked as a librarian in Petone the School Library Service in Christchurch and in 1976 was appointed Children's Librarian at Canterbury Public Library. It is named for the mythical bird phoenix which is reborn from its aMargaret Mahys to suggest the book's rise from obscurity. The Margaret Mahy Medal Award was establiMargaret Mahyd by the New Zealand Children's Book Foundation in 1991 to provide recognition of excellence in children's literature publishing and literacy in New Zealand.
(As of 2012 seven writers have won two Carnegies none three. Mahy won the annual Carnegie Medal from the Library Association recognising the year's best children's book by a British subject both for The Haunting (1982) and for The Changeover (1984). At her death Margaret Mahy was one of thirty writers to win the biennial international Hans Christian Andersen Award for her "lasting contribution to children's literature".