Geoffrey Alley, Librarian: His Life & Work
Chapter 15 — National Library of New Zealand
National Library of New Zealand
During 1964 and 1965, when the National Library Bill was drafted, refined, discussed, and argued over, and finally passed into law, Alley's role, as National Librarian without a National Library, was critically important for the future of the national library idea, but necessarily lowprofile. The power and the inclination to make decisions on the national library proposal were in the hands of the politicians, upon whom the various protagonists focused their irrefutable arguments and who had their own agendas which were not necessarily related to the immediate question. Alley's role, in short, was to advise in private, to suggest ways in which objections could be countered or accommodated, to encourage, and to help the ministers involved by providing usable information, clearly formulated. One of his outstanding characteristics as the head of a government service was his ability to support his political masters by clarifying their problems and helping them to see ways around them, and they learned to trust his judgement. But, especially at this stage, he could not publicly encroach on the role that was properly theirs. In these circumstances, when the proposals which led to the passing of the act were somewhat controversial, the leading role in promoting them publicly was taken by the New Zealand Library Association, and it was fortunate, from Alley's point of view, that the association was then at the height of its strength and influence and was led by a group of able and experienced librarians who made up the majority of the senior members of a cohesive library profession, and who regarded Alley as one of their own leaders.
Once the act had been passed, Alley had the more public role of administering a new organisation which had been put in place and a set of principles and services which had been embodied in legislation, together with the more normal role of discussing policy issues with interested parties and obtaining decisions, where necessary, from his minister, while the politicians moved on to other interesting topics. So, in a way, normality returned, but it was a normality which included some serious problems, and he had only two years to go before retiring.page 371
The most obvious problem was, of course, that the passing of the act made no difference to the fact that the three component parts of the National Library were still housed separately, and that, with a background of two years of sometimes bitter controversy, the staffs of the three institutions all felt some apprehension about the future. That there were hurt feelings could not be overlooked, and Alley, who could gain the confidence of ministers and of colleagues with whom he worked closely, did not have the kind of common touch that easily calms more junior troubled breasts. Indeed, for many younger librarians he had become a somewhat distant figure who did not always appreciate new ideas that they were beginning to put forward. There was also, among many in the profession, a natural sense of deflation following the dramatic events of the previous two years, and a depressed feeling that, after all that effort, so much still had to be done.
Nevertheless, many of those who had worked together for three decades to transform the library landscape in New Zealand, and who had formed strong friendships even when they argued and disputed, were still actively involved and ready to help with the implementation of the act which they felt they had helped to bring into being. For Alley's part, he would have been aware of the fact that rallying the troops at a critical time can often be more effectively achieved by a few well-chosen strategic moves than by a display of general, diffuse bonhomie. Denis Glover's offer to back him up 'with gusto and goodwill' was an important indication from the Turnbull angle that wounds could be healed and minds focused on the future.
One of Alley's first moves was to establish a small Committee of Officers, consisting of the heads of the major parts of the National Library Service and of the General Assembly and the Alexander Turnbull libraries. Of these, Jim Wilson had got a bit carried away in 1965 by his fundamentally sound concerns for the rights and interests of members of Parliament, to the extent that Alley considered whether he could find 'someone of stature who could shake Jim and pull him together',1 but Wilson accepted the final decision and, in his last report as independent chief librarian of the General Assembly Library, in March 1966, said, 'It would be true to say from a purely library point of view that the National Library is a proper solution'; and he added that the National Library deserved well of all concerned.2 He was able, in the new environment, to maintain the relationship between MPs and the General Assembly Library staff which he had described as being based on mutual respect and trust. At this point, therefore, the situation regarding the General Assembly Library was stable, but it still depended, to a large extent, on the shifting sands of political egotism in the shape of members of Parliament, Speakers, ministers, and others who could see opportunities to use the library for purposes which had little to do with libraries. Alister McIntosh had warned, in the 1930s, page 372of the potential for trouble if any of the various parties concerned with the General Assembly Library decided that their 'constitutional' rights and privileges were threatened. No such threats were evident in 1966, though; things had quietened down, at least for the present.
The case of the Alexander Turnbull Library was stranger. The smoke of battle which covered the streets of central Wellington during the controversy over the bill obscured the fact that all the warring parties wanted the same thing, a secure future for the library which had grown from the kernel of Alexander Turnbull's bequest. There was no reason for the true believers of all kinds to continue to regard others as dangerous heretics, though in some cases a decision to be conciliatory might have needed a serious effort of will. But as it happened, John Cole, who had not been able to act effectively as chief librarian since he had suffered his serious injuries in 1963, resigned at the end of 1965. To replace him Alley chose Graham Bagnall, who had 'never left [the Turnbull] in spirit'3 since moving to other work in 1941. As New Zealand's leading bibliographer, as a local historian of note, and as a book collector and amateur printer, Bagnall was pre-eminently suited for the position. Described by J.E. Traue as 'one of the small band of scholar librarians that New Zealand has produced',4 by temperament he was also able to remain unruffled – indeed, rather amused – by assaults made upon him by argumentative opponents. He had been one of the strongest advocates for the inclusion of the Turnbull in the National Library, but a better defender of the interests of the Turnbull Library within that institution could not have been found.
The March 1966 annual report of the Department of Internal Affairs, under the heading 'The Alexander Turnbull Library: the End of an Era', said: 'The Department takes pride in handing over the Alexander Turnbull Library as a thriving and respected institution, and in the knowledge that it will form a vital and important part of the National Library the Department also takes the opportunity of wishing success to the National Library project.'5 Alley, after outlining the preparations for administrative changes which had been completed by March 1966, said in his annual report: 'I wish to record my appreciation of the courtesy and the help extended to officers of the National Library Service by officers of the Department of Internal Affairs and the Legislative Department at that time.'6
These were civilised gestures, but the National Library Act covered much more than the machinery for the amalgamation of three state libraries. Its passing was the first occasion on which an attempt had been made, not only to provide a legislative structure for the state's library activities, but also to define the reasons for the state's involvement in the wider library scene. At this point, therefore, it is meet that we should look briefly at the page 373main provisions of the act and at some of Alley's statements which illustrate the way in which it was meant to work.
The title of the Act was 'An Act to establish the National Library of New Zealand and to make provision for, and when desirable to develop and extend the services provided by or associated with, the General Assembly Library, the Alexander Turnbull Library, and the National Library Service'. Sections 5 and 6 spelled out what was meant by the continuation of existing services in terms of the wording of the title. The safeguards agreed to with respect to the integrity of the General Assembly and Turnbull libraries were incorporated here and elsewhere in the act, and the integrity of the Country Library Service (which had tended to be overlooked during the previous years' discussions) was enhanced by the creation of a new position of Director of the Extension Division of the National Library. With regard to the National Library's place in the wider library scene, two specific provisions may be noted here. Under the first of these – s.6(1)(d) – one of the functions of the national librarian was 'to provide means whereby co-operation in library matters shall be brought about with authorities and persons, whether in New Zealand or elsewhere'; and the second – s.6(2)(e) – provided for 'the promoting, and carrying out or causing to be carried out, of training of persons in the profession of librarianship'.
A body to be known as the Trustees of the National Library was established by sections 8ff to provide independent policy comment and advice to the minister of education, to review and report on the implementation of policy (both by the National Library and by libraries and information services countrywide), and to promote and encourage the co-ordination of the development of library and information services.7 Its membership was to include high-ranking officials from the three contributing departments, two members of the library committee of the House of Representatives, and six trustees to be appointed by the minister of education after consultation with non-governmental bodies concerned with the provision of library facilities for scholarship and research, one of whom was to be chairman. The national librarian was to attend, and could speak but not vote, at all meetings of the Trustees.
The Trustees were not to be a management board, but it was clearly intended that they should have enough prestige to influence the government and the National Library administration in making policy decisions and to influence and represent the views of outside people and institutions. They had the power to appoint committees which would have resources to further the objectives of the National Library in the wider library context, and one of these, it was suggested, should be concerned with the Turnbull Library. The formal relationship between the national librarian and the page 374Trustees was indicated by s.30 of the act, which directed that they should report separately to the minister, but that the national librarian's report should be furnished to the Trustees 10 days before their report was due (though it must be remembered that the national librarian, as a head of department, would be in more regular contact with the minister than the chairman of the Trustees would be).
A major thrust of the act was the creation of an institution within which its separate parts, each with its own special objectives, would together support each other without losing their separate individuality. It could, of course, be said that this approach had been dictated by the controversies which surrounded the development of the bill and by the initial physical separation of the library's component parts, but the idea of strength in diversity is a good one in itself – it requires more imagination and understanding in its management than a monolithic style, but it can protect its individual units against predatory outsiders. Graham Bagnall, who was one of the act's principal architects and who had become head of one of the National Library's most important parts, spoke some years later of the act's 'deliberate permissiveness', and illustrated its effect by saying, 'My own picture is of a strong federation of semi-autonomous libraries and divisions with a central lynch-pin, the informational centre and national treasure-house within the National Library building. Far from seeing anything incongruous or incompatible with overall unity by institutions such as the Alexander Turnbull and General Assembly Libraries continuing to be regarded as separate individual libraries and to be administered as such rather than as collections, many of us consider that such continuing individualities is what in our New Zealand context a National Library should be.'8
Alley spoke of his perception of the role of the National Library as it had been created by the act when he delivered the 1966 K.J. Scott Memorial Lecture to the New Zealand Institute of Public Administration on 21 September that year.9 Suggesting that it was time to turn from past problems to the present and the future (and 'reminding ourselves that it is not a remote future but the future of the present'), he saw five things that seemed now to be important:
1. The National Library will provide a much-needed focus for leadership in the acquisition and use of recorded knowledge in this country; 2. It will achieve this to the fullest possible degree only when it is housed in a modern building, but the energy and support needed to realise the physical building must not be allowed to diminish after the completion of the building because only then will the tasks of the library increase as it becomes capable of giving its services;page 375 3. Technical advances in handling information and recorded knowledge of which we hear so much will not lessen, they will increase the role which we shall require the National Library to fulfil; 4. Community support for all types of libraries – public, special, academic – will be essential for getting the best from the national one; and 5. To make the most effective economical use of the facilities which a national library can provide we need a stronger library profession. Recognition by society of the need for the job will imply recognition for the worker.
Referring to the term 'a focus of leadership', he said, 'It is to be thought of as a means of encouraging by example rather than leading in size, or prestige, or vanity, or of imagined importance of any kind.' And, turning to the question of a National Library building, he said: 'There are intangible advantages in placing, for example, the national collection about New Zealand which will be in the Alexander Turnbull Library, in the same building as the other collections covering the whole range of recorded knowledge. A writer, a historian, or any creative person has to come to terms with his own material, his own background, his own country. But the earth is his home as well and he can't escape from responding or being affected by communication with the minds of people with other backgrounds, with other countries as their own.'
The interdependence of all kinds of libraries, and the need for them to co-operate in providing the services needed by their users, is the strongest theme in this paper. The National Library, Alley said, 'should work with and help other libraries, and through helping others help itself, in the task of making the best use of the country's total available resources in printed materials'.
Alley was concerned that the membership of the Trustees of the National Library should be established by the time the act came into force on 1 April 1966, and that the appointed members should be people of high standing and acceptable to all the various groups which had been involved in the controversies of the past. He had mentioned to friends the names of some, associated with the Turnbull Library, who might be approached to accept membership, and it was also essential that the New Zealand Library Association should be carefully consulted. As far as the General Assembly Library was concerned, the provisions of the act ensured that its interests would be strongly represented. Appointments of non-official members were to be made by the governor-general after receiving recommendations from the minister of education, but this was clearly a case on which a minister would take heed of advice from his permanent head, and it is safe to assume that the initial list of appointed members reflected Alley's views, page 376and those of Bagnall, his closest associate in matters concerning the act and its implementation.
The council of the NZLA, in November 1965, set up a committee consisting of Stuart Perry, David Wylie, and John Sage to consult its members and prepare a list of four people who might be nominated for appointment as trustees.10 At this time Bagnall, who was immediate past president of the association, told the council bluntly (and rather undiplomatically) that no librarian could expect to be appointed; and he made it clear that, from his point of view, this was a matter of principle and not merely of expediency when he wrote to Perry protesting at the inclusion of his own name in a preliminary list, saying, 'I would consider it improper even as a superannuitant from the staff of the Library or indeed from any library position in New Zealand, to accept nomination.'11
The NZLA's nominees for membership of the Trustees, sent to the minister in January 1966, were J.C. Beaglehole, J.C. Garrett, A.D. McIntosh and W.B. Sutch.12 Nominations were also made by the Friends of the Turnbull Library, and the initial membership of the Trustees was as follows:
- Sir John Ilott, a member and past president of the Friends of the Turnbull Library and a trustee of the National Art Gallery.
- A.D. McIntosh, secretary of external affairs and an honorary life member of the NZLA.
- The Right Reverend A.K. Warren, Anglican bishop of Christchurch and chancellor of the University of Canterbury.
- Professor J.C. Garrett of the University of Canterbury, and a member of the NZLA council.
- D.J. Riddiford, MP for Wellington Central.
Appointed by the library committee of the House of Representatives
- The director-general of education
- The secretary for internal affairs
- The Clerk of the House of Representatives.
The sixth appointed member, added later in the year, was Sir Ronald Algie, former minister of education and Speaker from 1961 to 1966, and another former minister of education, Rex Mason, was appointed temporarily when McIntosh went away to do a stint as ambassador to Rome.page 377
Ilott was appointed chairman of the Trustees, and the Friends of the Turnbull Library regarded Riddiford with favour for 'his interest, advice and support within the House' during the passage of the bill.13 The list of names is an impressive one, which undoubtedly owed much to Alley's diplomatic skills. But he made one serious mistake, which was to bedevil relations between the National Library and the library profession in the future. The unofficial veto on the appointment of a practising librarian as a trustee was put forward as a sensible (though questionable) precaution in 1966, but the reasons for it were not discussed properly with senior librarians, many of whom had helped with the birth of the National Library. Nor was there any suggestion that it might be lifted in a few years' time, let alone that, in the future, the inclusion of a librarian might be welcomed, or even sought. As the years rolled by it became entrenched as a law which had not been legislated for, and it caused a good deal of resentment.14
At the same time that Graham Bagnall was appointed chief librarian of the Alexander Turnbull Library, appointments were also made to the two new senior positions which had been created by the act. Brian O'Neill moved from the Library School to become director of the extension division, which included both the Country Library Service and the School Library Service; and Hector Macaskill from the School Library Service to become deputy national librarian. These were, in a way, housekeeping measures. The first strengthened the position of the extension services which Alley would no longer be controlling after he retired, and the second covered the fact that when Bagnall had been librarian of the National Library Centre he had become, in effect, Alley's de facto deputy, a role which he could not, and would not have wanted to, fill substantively in the new circumstances.
Reorganisation of the functions of the National Library Centre was a more complicated business. Since its inception in 1945 as an instrument for the achievement of the general goals of library co-operation and coordination, Alley and Bagnall, working together and in close association with the NZLA, had created, more or less informally, a core of activities which had become a major part of a future National Library. Some of these activities could now be relocated within the total National Library structure; others had now, in effect, been formally legitimised by being written into the act; while others again remained normal functions of departments of what had been the National Library Service.
Unravelling the structure of the National Library Centre while ensuring that changes did not diminish, but rather enhanced, the important role it had had when Bagnall was in charge of it was a challenge Alley had had in mind as the terms of the National Library Bill and the act were developed. Briefly, the major responsibility for national bibliographical control was page 378to be concentrated in the Turnbull Library, liaison with the rest of the library world in relation to the strengthening and use of national library resources was to be handled under the powers conferred by the act and under the umbrella of the Trustees, and much of the day-to-day work was to continue to be the responsibility of the central departments whose heads had reported to Bagnall (orders, cataloguing, and reference).
In his March 1966 annual report Alley said, rather quaintly, that with the establishment of the National Library, the National Library Centre 'became a part of the National Library and ceased to retain its separate identity'.15 In fact, its rump became the Central Division of the National Library, still with substantial responsibilities within the National Library's internal administration, but lower in the pecking order and without the crucial co-ordinating and policy-making functions which the National Library Centre had had in relation to the total library system of the country. These were generally understood to be joint responsibilities of the National Library Centre and of the book (later library) resources committee of the NZLA, and they were of course still necessary, but Alley's plan was that they were to be carried out by the National Library in accordance with the responsibilities set out in s.6 (Functions and Powers of the National Librarian) and s.13 (Functions and Powers of the Trustees) of the act.
In preparation for the moves which he planned in the area of national library resources, Alley included in his 1966 annual report an historical account and assessment of the National Library Centre's 21-year record, of which the following extracts illustrate his line of thought:
What the Centre was set up to do, in outline, was to promote through the Association's Book Resources Committee some measure of library cooperation, particularly in inter-library lending and in book purchasing; and, secondly, to maintain certain centralised services on behalf of libraries which are in part bibliographical. It is perhaps significant that the areas in which the Centre was most effective were those in which its own services were the main feature of the projects concerned …
While a high degree of co-operation has been achieved in fields like inter-library loan and bibliographical services, satisfactory solutions to more intractable problems, such as co-operative purchasing and the introduction of a technical service to industry are still in the future …
Library Resources Committee. From its establishment in 1941 as the Book Resources Committee, the Committee has been the policy-making body of the New Zealand Library Association in book purchasing, coverage of special fields, and in bibliography. In book coverage the Committee had laid down a guiding principle, that there should be at least one copy in New Zealand of every worth-while and significant work page 379published in English. With the establishment of the Centre more realistic procedures were worked out for library specialisation and co-operative purchase of expensive marginal titles, while a special detailed programme of acquisition of expensive works in sets and back runs of periodicals was a leading concern of the Committee for many years. In some of these areas useful acquisitions were obtained, but in others the proposals were ahead of the resources then available to the libraries or the association.
With the establishment of a National Library the Committee's role needs to be redefined, but the necessity for its continued activity is not in any way diminished, and when the reorganisation of the National Library Centre is completed its work should be much more immediately effective in this field … [and] the National Library will need to continue the role of the Centre as an intermediary between Government policy and library requirements.
With reference to interloan and reference, the National Library Centre took responsibility for central services of the interloan system, he explained, in two main sections:
Firstly, the maintenance of the necessary location aids such as the Union Catalogue and the Union List, and secondly, by the development of a strong headquarters collection from which as much of the required material as possible could be lent. The general weakness of library collections throughout New Zealand has made the formation of such a collection, which will be the task of the Central Division of the National Library to continue, an essential element in the successful maintenance of these services. The facilities of inter-library loan are accepted by the everyday reader as a normal prerogative of citizenship, but it is clear that this level of service could not have been developed and sustained without the headquarters collection.16
The importance of the headquarters collection of the National Library Service in supporting the interloan system, to which Alley referred in these notes, is emphasised elsewhere in the report by figures showing that, of 13,299 interloan requests which ended in the National Library Centre in the reporting year, 7276 were satisfied from this collection, and a further 520 items, not found in the records of other libraries, were ordered for the national collection. Without support of this kind, pressure for uneconomic and wasteful charging systems would undoubtedly have emerged before this time.
Some other consequences of the act were handled expeditiously and were noted in the March 1967 report of the Trustees of the National page 380Library.17 The national librarian delegated to the chief librarian, Alexander Turnbull Library, 'all his powers and duties under the National Library Act in so far as they relate to the continuation of the services given by the Alexander Turnbull Library immediately before the commencement of the National Library Act of 1965, and for the further development of its research collections, particularly in the fields of New Zealand and Pacific studies and in rare books'; and to the chief librarian of the General Assembly Library 'all his powers and duties in connection with the library services of Parliament', together with the secondment of all library staff of the General Assembly Library to the Legislative Department. The Trustees also established a special committee on the Turnbull Library and, to balance this, another on the extension division, and statutory regulations were promulgated to govern the services provided by the Turnbull Library (in 1966) and the Country Library Service (in 1967).18
Bagnall left the work of compiling the Union List of Serials and the Index to New Zealand Periodicals, and of maintaining the union catalogue, with the central division, but he took his beloved retrospective national bibliography to the Turnbull Library with him, and also established there a new current series which absorbed both the Current National Bibliography of the National Library Centre and the General Assembly Library's Copyright List. Upon the demise of the latter, which had originated from a recommendation made by Alister McIntosh in his Libraries Report, August 1933, Jim Wilson wrote a fitting, and moving, tribute, beginning, 'The Copyright List is dead. It died quietly with the issue for January 1967 in its 34th year,' and ending (five pages later) with, 'It was a sad day when we ceased publication of the Copyright List, brightened only by a comment in Library Trends of January 1967: "In the Pacific both Australia and New Zealand have established good national bibliographies" – and they were referring to the Copyright List.'19
A welcome relief for Alley from the work that had to be done in Wellington, within sight and sound of the Parliament buildings, after the National Library Act had become a fact arose from his being asked to help to assess the library needs of two new universities which had emerged early in the 1960s. This was a small operation and, in the broad sweep of library and educational history, not very significant, but the story is worth recording for two reasons: that it shows Alley working on a library problem outside his usual area of comfort, and that it introduces people with other backgrounds who had a firm understanding of library matters.
The University of Waikato originated as a branch of the University of Auckland which had been established in Hamilton to teach a few arts subjects, but by 1965 it was an infant university, though without science subjects. In Palmerston North, Victoria University had established a page 381similar branch which had later merged with Massey Agricultural College to become Massey University. The paths by which these institutions became universities were different and were fascinating from an academic-historical point of view. One thing they had in common was that in neither case did the planners think to consider what kind of library might be needed as students moved from elementary to advanced studies and academics formed themselves into centres of excellence. As the author of a later report on university library resources wrote, 'In many cases, the only person who is likely to be able to give an honest assessment of the cost involved is the Librarian',20 and librarians tend not to be let into the planning process in circumstances like these.
In 1965 the University Grants Committee, which had paid out some £50,000 to Waikato in small special library grants to meet specific needs, decided to appoint a sub-committee 'to undertake an independent assessment of the reasonable needs of the University of Waikato library to the end of the present quinquennium [31 March 1970] and to report back to the Committee'. Its members were Sir Arthur Nevill, deputy chairman of the UGC and a former chief of the air staff, and, later, director of civil aviation (convener); Dr L.J. Wild, who had been involved with research committees of successive UGCs since 1946; Professor Ian Gordon, a member of the UGC; Alley; and W.J. McEldowney, Otago University Librarian. The chairman of the UGC, F.J. Llewellyn, was a sleeping member.21 The university prepared a case, supported by lists of desiderata and other details, for a library establishment grant of £260,000 to be spent over the rest of the quinquennium to enhance library support for the schools of humanities, social sciences, education, and commerce, and its Maori Centre.
The sub-committee met in Wellington on 21 February 1966 and then proceeded to Hamilton, where it met the university's library committee and had discussions with library and teaching staff. Back in Wellington on 24 February, it worked out its response to the university's submission. It was a fairly tight schedule, but a result was helped by Nevill's decisive chairmanship and a high degree of unanimity. Nevill sent out a draft report on 2 March, together with 'unexpurgated notes [prepared in the university] of what we are alleged to have said up at Waikato', and the final report was dated 17 March.
Briefing McEldowney at the start of the exercise, Ross Rowley, the secretary of the UGC, warned him to keep an eye on Alley, who was known to be 'anti-university'. But in fact this warning (old hat though the information was) was not necessary, because at the first meeting of the sub-committee Alley took everyone by surprise by rejecting any thought of reducing the request. 'They need the money,' he said. Nevill did not think page 382that a brief statement of that kind would carry much weight in Treasury and insisted that a careful assessment must be made and that, if possible, a formula should be worked out that would produce pretty much what the university had asked for.
The sub-committee found at Waikato a library staff which was established at a suitable level for normal, on-going work but which was having difficulty in coping with purchasing and organising books bought from earlier special grants, and it noted that staff members were regularly working long hours, including weekends. When it met the library committee, it expressed sympathy for the case put forward by the university, but Alley and McEldowney raised the question of the level of staffing needed to handle a grant of the size that had been requested, especially if the money had to be spent within four years. There was some discussion of the extent to which Waikato could continue to rely on Auckland's resources, but Nevill said that, while he accepted that all universities could not have a complete stock of books, the University of Waikato was trying to develop its own character and he hoped its own areas of research could be developed which would be different from those of other universities.
Nevill was particularly worried by the staffing problem and how it could affect the ability of the library to handle a large cash injection. The academic staff at Waikato, he said, were sitting on the best staff/student ratio in the country and were proud of the way the library staff worked beyond the call of duty, but they would not lift a finger to help the librarians. He expressed his views strongly to the vice-chancellor, and he asked McEldowney to prepare a scheme for a similar expenditure to what had been requested but over a longer period, aiming for a collection in the 300,000–500,000 bracket (the basis for a formula), with a level of staffing which would at first be high in relation to the size of the university but which, as the size of the university grew, would not need to be reduced later.
The report which was sent to the UGC22 quoted a statement by Alley: 'My own view is that it is fairly clear that to give reasonable service at undergraduate level, some service at graduate or honours level, and to provide some research materials in selected fields, the Library's holdings cannot be below 300,000 if a reasonably full programme is undertaken by the teaching institution.' The report said that the sub-committee had 'found difficulty in examining the reasonable needs of a new university library over such a short period as the remaining four years of the present quinquennium', and had therefore considered its terms of reference in the context of an appreciable period of growth related to the long-term development of the university, to about 1980. It also said: 'In spite of the assurances given by the University, it is the view of the two assessors that the University does not fully appreciate the magnitude of the task of accession involved.'page 383
The sub-committee then recommended a capital grant, based on an annual accession rate of 18,000 volumes, of £216,000, but that initially only one half of this be paid and that a review of progress be undertaken after two years. It also recommended that provision be made for supplementary annual grants to be made for basic collections at a diminishing rate for, say, a further 10 years.
The return visit to Waikato took place in June 1968, when the subcommittee reported23 that its general impression was that acquisitions in the meantime had been carefully selected, but that 'the views expressed by the two Library assessors [on staffing levels] have not been changed by their recent inspection'. In fact, despite some increase in staffing, there was (as McEldowney had predicted there would be) a one-year backlog of cataloguing. During this visit Nevill had serious, and probably not too friendly, talks with the university administration over the staffing question: certainly there were increases, and some years later librarians in other universities thought Waikato was overstaffed. But a further grant of $200,000 (dollars!) was approved.
It is convenient, at this point, to deal with the same sub-committee's examination, in April 1967, of a request from Massey University for a special library grant of £123,000, mainly to improve its holdings in veterinary sciences, food science and bacteriology, and biological sciences, but also in the arts subjects which Victoria's branch had brought to its bed upon amalgamation. The tone of the committee's report24 on this occasion was markedly cooler. There was an air of opportunism about the request, and it was noticeable that the greater part of the amount asked for was to support subjects which had long been responsibilities of the agricultural college. In the end the sub-committee recommended a grant of £91,000, but only £25,000 of this was for humanities and social sciences, and the subcommittee found it necessary to demand an assurance that the extra grant would not be applied to further multiple copies for extramural students.
The unanimity with which the sub-committee had dealt with Waikato was absent on this occasion. Gordon, in particular, was scornful of Massey's concern for its new arts departments, and Alley was, at best, lukewarm. Alley and Gordon favoured a total grant of about £45,000, but the larger amount was carried by the cabal of Nevill, Wild, and McEldowney, though they were not really enthusiastic. Massey University was not so convincing in its approach to the problems of its library as Waikato had been.
In 1966 there was another incident which seemed to involve Alley. It turned out to have no significance at all, but it did provide a bit of entertainment. It concerned the design for the 20 cent coin which was almost chosen as one of those which were to be introduced when New Zealand converted to decimal currency in July 1967.page 384
A Decimal Currency Board which had been set up to oversee the whole operation invited several artists (and the public at large) to submit designs for the new coins, and by the end of 1965 had chosen a set of six and had them approved by Cabinet and checked for suitability by the Royal Mint Advisory Committee.25 The chosen design for the 20 cent coin, created by F.A. Shurrock, depicted a well set-up rugby player, holding a ball and looking to his right in a contemplative sort of way ('Should I have them on?' he seems to wonder). Its suitability was queried by various people along the way, including the Duke of Edinburgh, who commented to the Royal Mint Advisory Committee, 'This might make a coin, but I can't believe even Rugby footballers would like to see this on a coin.'26 There were, however, other, more favourable, comments, and the coinage question seemed to have been settled satisfactorily. But in February 1966 the designs were leaked and published in the press, and there was an immediate furore. It fell to Robert Muldoon, who, as parliamentary under-secretary to the minister of finance, was held by the prime minister to be responsible, to settle things down, which he did by having the whole set of designs either revised or replaced.27
The footballer design attracted particular criticism, probably because many of those who complained were the kind of people who did not like being associated with muddied oafs. It was an All Black, they said, as if that was a criticism. It was modelled on G.T. Alley (South Africa, 1928: obviously a racist), thought others, and many years later this idea persisted. R.P. Hargreaves has pointed out that the figure in the design wore a hooped jersey and was therefore only a club player, but back then All Blacks did have time to play with the other boys, and so it could have been an All Black in mufti. The last word should perhaps be given to the designer himself, who wrote: 'The "footballer" as I have always considered it is not an All Black. He stands for club footballers throughout New Zealand.'28 But Shurrock's letter, of course, is buried in Archives New Zealand, where it cannot influence public opinion.
A more significant event was the retirement, at the end of 1965, of Harold Miller from the position of Librarian at Victoria University of Wellington. Five years older than Alley, Miller was another of the generation which was responsible for the flowering of librarianship in New Zealand, but in many ways he stood apart from his fellows. He saw himself as a scholar-librarian, and was suspicious of plans which seemed to him to be based on the needs of public libraries and their ultimate extension, rural library service. He was a sore trial to Alley, who thought he simply did not understand libraries, during the long years which led up to the passing of the National Library Act; and Alley had difficulty in remaining on good terms with those who disagreed with him.page 385
And yet, Miller was liked and admired by most of those he came into contact with. Collins wrote, at the time of his retirement: 'In the Association, Harold Miller played a part which, though not spectacular, was steady. For several terms he was a Councillor or Vice-President, but he always refused nomination to the highest office. On many committees … he helped greatly by his experience and his foresight, and helped sometimes by his opposition … His strong and often unpopular views made him many opponents but rarely if ever enemies.'29 Alley's daughter Judith described him as 'really … one of those nicest characters',30 and that was how many a younger librarian saw him. But there was more to him than that. Reading what he said at various times about such matters as the Central Bureau for Library Book Imports or the proper role of a national library makes one realise that, although he might have been wrong about the intentions of others, he was often right about the principles which he imagined they were ignoring, and he was prepared to take a stand on principle, as he did when he refused, for example, to accept a seat on Victoria's Professorial Board because it was not accompanied by recognition of the librarian as equal in status and emolument to a professor.
When the National Library of New Zealand became a reality in April 1966 the national librarian's office was on the sixth floor of a building on The Terrace in Wellington, isolated from all the component parts of the organisation he was in charge of. This was an unfortunate situation, but it was less unfortunate than alternatives that had been proposed over the previous decade and more would have been, such as a special building to cater for the short-term needs of the NLS. It was, of course, a classic chicken-and-egg situation. Part of the opposition to the establishment of a National Library was based on the premise that it should coincide with the provision of a suitable building, but a counter-argument was that a building could not be planned properly unless those who briefed the architect knew what was to go into it. Because the accommodation problems of the National Library Service became so severe, the temptation to accept a separate building for it had been placed before Alley on more than one occasion, but he had resisted it because it would have pre-empted the proper housing of a complete National Library. In notes which he prepared for the minister of education while the bill was in the legislative process, he said that 'The present accommodation situation of the three libraries ranges from unsatisfactory to desperate',31 and the building on The Terrace was just one of many temporary expedients which had had to be adopted by all three.
The officials committee of 1964, in proposing steps for the orderly establishment of a National Library, was naturally very conscious of the accommodation problems. It reported in favour of a proposal which was page 386put before it that a building should be erected on a block in Hill Street, directly opposite the General Assembly Library, which it thought 'would provide a fitting and dignified position for the National Library' and would have enough space for the foreseeable future.32 It was a block between the Anglican Cathedral and a building owned by the Catholic church – 'a literary island in an ecclesiastical sea', Alister McIntosh called it.33
The importance of pressing on with a building project was emphasised by the fact that s.13(a)(ii) of the National Library Act stated that one of the functions of the Trustees was to advise the minister on 'the provision of suitable and fitting accommodation for the purposes of the National Library, including a modern library building'. Alley devoted a good deal of time to preparing specifications and to dealing with the government architect, F.G.F. Sheppard, who was able to show a model of an eightstorey, 129,000 sq.ft. building, set in its architectural neighbourhood, to the Trustees at a meeting in June 1967.34 The minister had earlier told the Trustees that he hoped that the building would be completed within eight years. Bagnall, always the realist, wrote, in what appear to be notes for a lecture, 'It took 50 years simply to get the National Library established administratively. It will take "x" years from 1965 to get the National Library building, say, 1980.'35 It actually took seven years more, to July 1987, for a National Library building to be built and occupied, after a change of site to Molesworth Street,36 two oil shocks, Britain's joining the Common Market, persistent failure of an economic miracle to materialise, Prime Minister Muldoon's dispute with the Boilermakers' Union, the establishment of the Parliamentary Services Commission in 1985 and the transfer to it of the General Assembly Library, over 20 years' good work by many librarians in conditions ranging from unsatisfactory to desperate, and the deaths of both Alley and Bagnall in 1986. But that is another story.
There were, in fact, several problems facing the New Zealand library world by the time of the passing of the National Library Act, but time was running out, both for Alley and for the people he had worked with in a very creative period in New Zealand librarianship. A new cadre of senior librarians was already taking over and beginning to work out their own futures, which were governed by the increasing complexity of the total library system and a decreasing tendency for librarians of all types of libraries to work together for a common cause. Among other things, senior librarians were becoming busier and less able to spread their efforts so widely. Factors such as these meant that life simply could not go on as it had done in Alley's time, but how the problems were to be dealt with was a matter for a later generation. At this point in Alley's story it is not possible to look very far into the future, except by indicating what library life was like in 1966 and 1967 and by dealing with a limited number of matters, page 387other than those which have already been described, in which Alley had a particular interest and whose outcomes he was keen to influence.
To an outsider, very little change would have been apparent. The Alexander Turnbull and General Assembly libraries continued to serve their appreciative users as they always had done. Libraries of all kinds throughout the country called upon the resources of the co-operative systems which mysteriously produced what readers wanted despite the accommodation problems of which they knew nothing. The Country Library Service and the School Library Service were still comforting reminders that all was well with the world. Within the library circle the New Zealand Library Association was continuing to work on projects like the production of updated standards for public library service,37 and (with less success) technical and commercial services. Led by Stuart Perry, it adopted a conciliatory approach towards the question of public lending right which was agitating the literary and library worlds in many countries at that time.38
But by 1965 Perry and Bagnall were the last of the old-timers still to be members of the council of the NZLA, and by 1966 they had gone too, making way for the next wave. Although it was not obvious at the time, the passing of the National Library Act, which was in many ways the culmination of the efforts of a very special group of librarians who had brought a modern library system into being, was also, symbolically, the end of a chapter. The transition from one era to the next, without a clear road map, was bound to be difficult, and in Alley's last two years as national librarian it was not at all obvious what was happening. With a bit of hindsight, though, it is instructive to consider two matters of policy, dear to Alley's heart but also important to younger people, which were to be affected by changes in the wind. The first of these concerned the oversight of policies for nation-wide library resources. The second was the growing argument over the organisation of education for librarianship.
When Alley wrote his March 1966 annual report he said, as we have seen, that with the establishment of the National Library the role of the NZLA's library resources committee needed to be redefined, but that 'the necessity for its continued activity is not in any way diminished, and when the reorganisation of the National Library Centre is completed its work should be much more immediately effective in this field'. In 1959 he had said to the Hughes Parry committee on New Zealand universities that a national library board would replace the association's committee (see chapter 12), but this statement was not widely known. Andrew Osborn, who did know of it, had, in fact, in his 1960 report, recommended reestablishing the association's committee as a standing committee of the future national library,39 but, although the proposal was therefore not new, page 388it had not been discussed in detail and the wording of Alley's March 1966 report did not dispel the impression that the close relationship between the association and the state library would continue, with enhancements, under the umbrella of the act and the Trustees.
It was something of a shock, therefore, when, at a meeting in August 1966 of the association's committee (of which he was still convener), Alley put forward a detailed proposal for the Trustees of the National Library to establish a new resources committee which would replace the association's one in dealing with the planning and implementing of such bibliographical services and arrangements for acquisition and use of library materials as would give effect to the powers and duties conferred upon the national librarian and the Trustees by the act.40 Such a committee would consist of seven or eight members, all of whom would be librarians, and would be responsible to the minister, 'or preferably to the Trustees of the National Library'. It would be chaired by the national librarian. To deal with such matters as inter-library loans and terms of book purchasing by libraries, Alley said, 'the Association may or may not decide to have special or standing committees', but he added that 'Funds formerly made available for expenses of members attending meetings held under the Library Resources Committee's programme could not continue to be provided in Vote Education for NZLA committees.'
The NZLA's committee dutifully asked the council to recommend that the Trustees set up a committee along the lines suggested by Alley,41 and in doing so it recorded its appreciation of the work of its convener, Mr G.T. Alley, during the whole of its 25 years of existence. 'Under Mr Alley's guidance,' it said, 'and largely because of it, the work of the Committee has been of major importance in the library development of the nation.' The committee's tribute was well deserved, but the sudden and unheralded action that led to it had bemused its members, and the council of the NZLA, when it received the recommendation and had had a little time to think about it, deferred its consideration of it until its November meeting. In the meantime the Trustees went ahead anyway with setting up their own committee.
On 11 October 1966 the Trustees of the National Library decided 'to appoint a special committee pursuant to Section 14 of the National Library Act, to advise the Trustees concerning the provision by the National Library of bibliographical services, in terms of sub-paragraph (c) of sub-section (1) of section 6 of the Act, and the association of the National Library with other libraries for the purpose of increasing New Zealand's resources in library materials for research and scholarship in terms of sub-paragraph (a) of section 13 of the Act'. On the same day Alley wrote to eight librarians who had been selected (without outside consultation) for membership of page 389the committee, quoting this resolution and inviting them to take part.42 Six of them were current members of the NZLA's committee (Bagnall, Collins, R. Duthie, McEldowney, Sage, and Wilson); the other two were Enid Evans of the Auckland Institute and Museum and H.O. (Bert) Roth of the University of Auckland. Members of the NZLA's committee who were not chosen for the Trustees' committee were Ted Leatham, Stuart Perry, and David Wylie. Leatham and Wylie were regularly critical of Alley in other forums and they had clashed with him in the past. It is anyone's guess why Perry was left out; perhaps he indicated that he would decline. When the council of the NZLA reappointed its own committee in February 1967, under Perry's convenership, senior members of the staff of the National Library were not available to join it.
This was a very strange episode, in which a necessary change was handled in the worst possible way. The NZLA's book resources committee had been a symbol of the way in which the library profession worked together on many common causes. Alley, an inspiring leader over those 25 years, must have been conscious of the fact that its members were among those who had propelled him into another leadership role. No better group could have been found to work out amicably a new approach in new circumstances. Instead, he sprang a solution on them and bulldozed it through without even a tactful pause for consideration. And then the membership of the Trustees' committee was determined without any outside input. Alley had never been comfortable with the tendency of people with whom he did not want to work to turn up on committees in a democratic association, and he clearly had not learned that the best way to deal with such people is often to get them into the fold. As one commentator said later, 'The Trustees' committee is useful for its purpose, which is to provide disinterested advice for the Trustees, but its members are hand-picked and responsible to no one but the hand that picks them.'43 In effect, and probably because the new generation was inconsiderately putting its own people on to NZLA committees, Alley dumped the NZLA committee and got the Trustees unwittingly to put a cipher in its place.
There was some unease when the Trustees' committee met for the first time on 6 December 1966, and it was not dispelled when a member said that the association would not like a particular proposal and Bagnall said, 'We're not going to be told what to do by the bloody Association.' After a stunned silence, Collins said quietly, 'When you speak of the Association you are speaking of your colleagues,' and the discussion continued, but this is the kind of thing that stays in the memory. Nevertheless, since librarians tend to be reasonable people, not easily fazed, the Trustees' committee was able to do a useful job as time went on. Under its aegis an expensive materials bulletin was established, a union catalogue of pre-1801 books was started, page 390the extension to New Zealand of a cataloguing and indexing system for medical material encouraged, and so on. The membership question was settled a few years later when, following a recommendation from a survey of New Zealand university library resources,44 the Trustees reconstituted their committee as the New Zealand Library Resources Committee, which included some members appointed by the NZLA and the universities' standing committee on library resources. But a lot of mistrust between the National Library and the library profession could have been avoided if Alley had exercised his diplomatic skills to better effect in 1966.
The question of the future of education for librarianship, which had lain quiescent while the National Library Bill was overshadowing all other problems, stirred into life with the coming of spring in 1965. On 17 August that year the president (McEldowney) and honorary secretary (Sage) of the NZLA met with Alley and Vice-Chancellor Jim Williams of Victoria University to make a preliminary survey of the idea of establishing a university library school. The meeting lasted for two hours, dealing in very broad terms with such matters as the reasons why a university school might be desirable, how to deal with different levels of training, the selection of students, whether an advisory committee, taking the place of a faculty board, would be needed, treatment of the staff of the existing school (the vice-chancellor said that none would lose salary) and accommodation (it would have to be on campus, according to the vice-chancellor).45 At the end of the meeting, which was an amiable one, it was agreed that the association should think about some problems in detail and that there should be another discussion in about May 1966.
After receiving a report on this meeting,46 the NZLA council asked the education committee to prepare a more detailed document on matters which had been raised in the discussion with Alley and Williams, with a view to producing a statement of policy which the council could be asked to approve as a basis for the next stage of discussion. But this took longer to achieve than had been expected, because of breakdowns in the council's communications with the association's membership. In particular, the council's policy document of 1963, 'The New Zealand Library Association and a University Library School', had not been published in New Zealand Libraries and had not been widely discussed. When the education committee circulated a draft document47 for discussion towards the end of 1965, it became apparent that the committee and the council had got ahead of the general membership, and comments received from branches and sections necessitated some redrafting.
At the same time, because of the absence of any helpful response from Alley and Williams, the committee began to think that simple redrafting would not be enough, and that it should extend the scope of its work to page 391prepare a detailed case for the establishment of a university library school. As a later account of these events said, 'it was not clear to everyone that [the draft document] was intended as a basis for another tri-partite discussion, rather than a full statement of a case'. This was a lesson in elementary public relations, but in mitigation it might be said that the aim of the education committee all along had been to bring the National Library and the university together in order to make it easier for them to work out a programme. In doing this, they had taken at their face value the statements of the national librarian and the vice-chancellor. Step by step, because of the caginess of the other parties, the committee had been led to make the detailed proposals which should have been the work of all three institutions.48
The result of the committee's work in the first half of 1966, under the guidance of David Wylie, who was acting convener while McEldowney was overseas on study leave, was a more detailed document, 'The Future of Library Education in New Zealand',49 than had been attempted earlier. Its basic recommendations were that a graduate library school be established at Victoria University, where it would be possible to extend courses and foster research, and that a training division be established as part of the National Library to continue and develop intermediate-level training. This document was adopted by the council of the NZLA at its meeting on 18 August 1966, when it resolved to ask the association's conference in February 1967 to endorse it as association policy. Copies were sent immediately to the national librarian, the vice-chancellor of Victoria University, the minister of education and the University Grants Committee.
So far, so good, but when it began to look as if the NZLA was going to produce reasoned and detailed proposals, Alley seems to have decided that things were getting too serious and that the time for amiable discussions was coming to an end. Writing to McEldowney in September, Wylie said, 'Just what the Nat. Libn thinks now I don't know – but he did convey to the committee through Brian [O'Neill] that he flatly refused to attend another tripartite discussion with VUW and NZLA. He recommended going through the Minister and the UGC.50 Council is asking him to reconsider and also asking Williams to attend another meeting … I expect G.T. will continue his blocking game, but the date of his retirement is looming up, and something must surely happen then. The question is – can we wait until 1968 if we hope to get anything done in the next quinquennium? I'm also a little concerned at how we get past Williams at VUW – he seems to be as good a block as the N.L. himself!'51
When the NZLA conference started on 14 February 1967, the 261 members and delegates who attended it had been able to read the policy document and discuss it with their colleagues, and knew that their page 392endorsement of it would be sought at a general conference session the next day. But on 10 February Alley had informed the association that he 'no longer had authority' to take part in discussions with the association and the university.52 Because the conference was being held in Wellington, the minister of education, Arthur Kinsella, had been asked to open it formally, which he did in a speech which was devoted almost entirely to the library education issue. There are some variations in the transcripts of what he said, but in essence it was as follows:
It may be helpful to you and to the Conference if I tell you at once that the proposals are quite unacceptable to me. The general idea that there should be a Library School in a University in this country has, I know, had some support – and in at least one developed country, the United States of America, education for librarianship is widely available in Universities. But what is appropriate in a rich country of some 200 million people may not be so in a young, developing one of some 2.5 milion. Our universities have many tasks to fulfil, and there are many calls on the available finance needed to enable them to carry out these tasks. I do not think that in the foreseeable future in New Zealand library education should be a function of a university. In my view and in that of many others library education is being carried out well by the present National Library School …
The proposals which I have now seen … involve not one but two schools, and the cost … could be as much as an additional £20,000 a year. Two schools are not a possibility in the foreseeable future, and I do not wish the National Librarian to engage in any further discussions of the kind previously authorized.
Dealing with suggestions that a university school would be able to extend its programmes to provide for specialist training, Kinsella said that it would be better to send selected students overseas for specialist training, saying, 'I have noted other unsatisfactory features of the proposals and I am sure that all the implications of all of them have not yet been seen or understood. My advice to you now is not to be in a hurry on this matter.' He did, however, say that he would support the setting up of a small group or working party, on which the NZLA could be represented, to report to him.53
Kinsella would of course have relied on Alley to suggest what he should say, but Alley failed both him and the association by not warning key people what that was likely to be. It was an unusual start to a conference, and the mood of many of those who heard him is captured by a later account (written, admittedly, by a protagonist on the other side): 'The Minister's statement gave great offence, not because of its substance but because of the manner in which it was made. Mr Kinsella must have known page 393for a long time the way the Association's policy was being developed. He had been sent a copy of the most recent document, but had not offered to discuss it. He had been invited to open the Conference as a matter of courtesy, because it was being held in Wellington. Until he began to speak he had given no hint of what he would say. It was a pity that the Minister who had got the National Library Act passed felt it necessary to treat so cavalierly the Association which had been of some assistance to him on that occasion.'54
The minister's statement upset many members, but the conference took the sensible course of passing a revised motion, moved by Bagnall and seconded by Perry, 'That the future of library education in New Zealand, with particular reference to the nature and location of the New Zealand Library School, be the subject of further study by a Working Party representative of the National Library and the New Zealand Library Association.'55 There was a hint of tension during the annual general meeting the next day, when Alley asked why the remit on the future of library education had been put on the order paper for the conference and not on the order paper for the annual meeting, and the honorary secretary, John Sage, pointed out that 'when the question of a library school had last been discussed, during Mr Alley's term as Hon. Secretary, it had been brought before the conference and not the annual meeting'.56
There was a little more sparring over library education in 1967. The conference's resolution was sent to the minister, who replied in September 1967 that he could not agree to the immediate setting up of a working party, since 'For an enquiry to be effective, it is important that the timing should be well-chosen and that the matter under discussion has a high priority in the minds of all those concerned. I am convinced that these conditions would not be fulfilled just now.'57 And the committee of the NZLA's professional section, of which Alley had taken over the secretaryship in 1965, welcomed the minister's suggestion that selected librarians should be sent overseas for specialist training and recommended to the council that NZLA representatives on the proposed working party should be instructed to press for this.58 The education committee, when it was asked to comment on this proposal, replied that 'in its view the major preoccupation of the Association's representatives on the Working Party should be the establishment of graduate library training at a university in New Zealand; and that although it views the sending of a limited number of people overseas for specific specialist training as important, it considers that this proposal should be examined in the context of the development of library education which includes the establishment of the university library school' (moved McEldowney, seconded Leatham). The council endorsed this view.59page 394
There were, of course, contrary opinions, both among those who attended the conference and further afield. Dorothy White, for instance, referred later, in a letter to Graham Bagnall, to the minister's speech as 'Kinsella's courageously honest speech when he said "no go" about the Library School transfer',60 and Bagnall, in an address to graduating Library School students in 1973, said, 'I have never been able to accept the Association's thesis that a university is the only true home for a school of librarianship.'61 But Clifford Collins, writing to Alley immediately after Kinsella's address, said: 'I don't like finding myself on the opposite side. Yet I cannot reach the same conclusion in the matter of future library school developments … You will perhaps recall that I was at first and for a long time one of those who declared that a Lib. Sch. within the NZ univ. system was not yet a possibility, even if it were desirable; and I remember opposing at an Assn. Mtg., when I happened to be in the Presidential chair,62 those who wanted then to start a campaign to have the LS transf 'd from NLS to VUC. But that was about 16 years ago, and many things have changed, in NZ and elsewhere'. After referring to changes in thinking in other fields, such as forestry training, Collins then wrote, 'I can see why GTA, as Nat. Lib'n in 1967, need not be – should not be – as aggressive in his thinking as GTA, Officer in Charge of C-L-S in 1944/45, but I feel that I could be allowed to follow what I think the earlier GTA with his boldness, farsightedness and courage and with less restraint than those upon GTA now, would have done in the present situation.'63
Kinsella eventually agreed, in 1968, to set up a working party on education for librarianship, which reported to him in September 1969. This thread, which Alley did not entirely drop upon retiring, will be picked up again in chapter 17.
Alley's hostile reaction to the thinking of others on these two issues, including some of his closest associates from the past, could almost have been designed to create problems for the future, and it was bewildering for many who still looked to him for forward-looking leadership. It was an exaggeration of a tendency not to accept criticism or opposition benignly, which had always been one of his characteristics but for which his contemporaries had made allowances. But in the mid-1960s, when the establishment of the National Library was the achievement of a goal which had absorbed the efforts of so many in the recent past, what was needed was a well-planned and collaborative programme of identifying and finding ways of dealing with emerging problems. The way in which the National Library Act had been drafted provided opportunities for the National Library and other libraries to work together in this way – in other words, for the National Library to act as a leader in a company of equals – but the first opportunities for leadership of this kind to be assumed had been page 395lost; the ball had been dropped. Alley's son Roderic has said that his father was not a team man: 'Emotionally, psychologically, he was ill equipped to deal with the teamwork needed, deriving strength from loftiness if not disdain.'64 In 1928 he had defended the 2–3–2 scrum formation in rugby, in which one lock held the scrum together, saying that 'one bad general is better than two good ones',65 and this attitude was apparent in many contexts throughout his career.
In hindsight we can see that the way in which advances in library organisation had been achieved in the period leading to the establishment of the National Library had left an underlying problem, and it was one which neither Alley nor anyone else really understood at the time, since the environment in which they had been working seemed so natural to them that they had not thought of what would be a more normal relationship. As McEldowney wrote in 1970, 'Great things were achieved in the days when the two [the NLS and the NZLA] were so linked that it was sometimes hard to tell them apart – such things as the start of training courses and the book resources system – but that time really ended in 1949 when the first Labour Government fell from power; it was an unusual relationship which could only work in unusual circumstances.'66 If only Alley had taken the initiative in 1966–67 and got together a strong working party to work out a new relationship between the National Library and the library profession which acknowledged the proper independent roles of each group, he might have left in place a good basis for future co-operation. He did not do this, and one can only wonder what the effect would have been if he had.
It is unfortunate that Alley was unable, at the end of his formal career, to map out a path for others to take towards the future, but there were good reasons why this should have been so. He was tired, and probably affected by the lasting effects of his car accident. The accommodation problems of the Wellington sections of the old National Library Service were so appalling as to be beyond belief, and had led to the strategic mistake of placing him in an isolated office where he was virtually invisible to his own staff. And he was over-sensitive to what he took to be attacks on his own creations. There had been a serious loss of morale in the central core in Wellington, where there was less of a feeling than there had been in the past that the staff was working under an inspiring leader, or that long-term planning, both within the National Library and in the wider library community, would create new programmes and new opportunities. The potential long-term planners within the National Library had gone elsewhere, where there was more scope for their energies, and those librarians, nationwide, with whom Alley had worked closely in his innovative days were reaching retiring age, so that his own staff did not feel any longer that they were in contact with the profession's thinkers and planners.page 396
It was notorious, in the mid-1960s, that very few graduates of the Library School wanted to work in the National Library, and, as Brian O'Neill, who was then director of the extension division, noted later, 'No competent librarian wanted to be National Librarian.'67 Significantly, one librarian who had come to New Zealand from the United States to work in a university library and who was told of Alley's past achievements said, 'That's fine, but while you tell me of the great things that he has done, all I can see is the one who blocks us at every turn.'
Curiously enough, the Alexander Turnbull and General Assembly libraries were less affected by post-legislative malaise at this time, since so much care had been taken to safeguard their identities and integrities. Annoyed, some of their staff members might have been at the turn of events, but their roles remained clear and their positions in their own fields, if anything, enhanced. And for the extension division (CLS and SLS), working away in the provinces, little had changed. Greatly loved by the public whom they served, they were still symbols of the good times of the past.
In the case of the Country Library Service, it was thought by theorists that the provision of a service to small public libraries by a national organisation was not the best way to run what should be a local service, locally controlled and responsive to local needs, but it seemed obvious to others that, given the structure of local government in New Zealand, no other method was viable. It was obvious, too, that the service provided by the national organisation was, within its limits, very successful. Alley's belief in the intelligence of the typical small town and rural library user ensured that this should be so, and his ethic permeated the whole organisation. After the failure, in 1960–61, to persuade local authorities in the area based on Palmerston North to co-operate in regional library service, Alley's view, according to Helen Sullivan, was that 'only when local authorities were co-operating for other services also were they likely to cooperate for library service throughout the whole country'.68 Brian O'Neill, whose term as director of the extension division was from 1966 to 1971, said, 'I did make efforts to extend services to the medium-sized public libraries without much success. Of course no initiatives or ideas came from the major public libraries. Archie Dunningham whom I much admired was the only thinker and he lacked ambition and leadership. We should have been trying for financial aid for the larger public libraries, specifically tied to particular services like services to children.'69 The whole area of library service that involved the CLS was one in which, in Alley's time, big questions remained, but they were ones which could only be dealt with effectively when the local government structure was reformed. When this did happen, in 1989, the questions had changed and the answers did not include libraries – but that was after Alley's time.page 397
The date of Alley's retirement had originally been set at 31 March 1967, but in October 1966 the State Services Commission decided to extend his term to 31 December 1967.70 The obvious person to succeed him, because of his experience in the National Library Centre and in National Library matters generally, and also because of the high regard in which he was held throughout the library world, was Graham Bagnall, but Bagnall was not to be dislodged from his spiritual home, the Alexander Turnbull Library, and there was little interest from others. Hector Macaskill, born in 1907, who was chosen for the position, was a teacher who had served in the Army Education and Welfare Service after being wounded in action in North Africa, and, after graduating from the Library School class of 1946, had been appointed to take charge of the School Library Service. He had also served as part-time director of the Library School from 1953 to 1958, and was acting director of the Country Library Service in 1960–61, after Alley's car accident. He was national librarian until 1972.
At the end of 1967 Adrian Rodda, who was by then chairman of the State Services Commission, wrote to express the commission's appreciation for Alley's 'many years of outstanding service with the Department of Education'. After wishing him a well-earned period of leisure (and, mercifully, refraining from misunderstanding and misrepresenting Voltaire in the matter of cultivating one's garden), Rodda added, 'In personal vein I would add that to have been associated with you in a small way in the establishment of the National Library was very rewarding. One regret we share is that a new building has not yet eventuated – I would have regarded it as a fitting recognition of your vision and perseverance.'71
Before this parting gesture, Alley went off for a fortnight to Colombo to attend an Asian library conference arranged by UNESCO, for which leave was granted, probably, as some sort of compensation for lack of progress with the building project. It was, he told Keyes Metcalf, 'not successful except in the numerous ways in which such gatherings succeed in bringing library people together'.72 He returned in time for fairly low-key farewells from the National Library, for which Bagnall had produced, mainly on his own printing press, a presentation booklet, dedicated 'To Geoffrey Thomas Alley as a mark of appreciation of his contribution for 37 years to library development in New Zealand from present and past colleagues in the Country and National Library Services and National Library of New Zealand on the occasion of his retirement from the position of National Librarian, December 1967'. In addition to current members of the staff, 'three notable old boys' (Sage, Roth, and McEldowney) were invited to sign a copy and contribute to the cost of its production – 'the blocks alone will cost $100,' Bagnall said.73
The booklet contained reproductions of 20 photographs, ranging page 398from the WEA library car of 1930 to an aerial photograph of the area in Wellington where a National Library building might some day arise. There was a select chronology, and, to give some substance to the work, a 33-line poem in Bagnall's own free-form style, which begins:
Books spawned by authors and publishers
for their own satisfaction,
And for those who read them,
are gathered by librarians
to be recorded, to be passed on to those who
Eagerly, idly or from necessity look beyond the title-page,
Whether they lie briefly and awry before being worn to ugliness
Or are asked to shelf-sit through centuries awaiting the rare
purposive haste of scholars,
They live only in the hands of their parents, their servants
And readers …
The December 1967 issue of New Zealand Libraries74 was devoted to the Country Library Service. The guest editor, Allan Mercer, who had begun his library career as a field librarian in the CLS in 1940, pointed out in his introduction a fact that had tended to be overlooked in more recent years: that 'The revolution in library service that has taken place in New Zealand in the last thirty years had its beginnings in country places, and the story of the CLS is one that has affected all kinds and sizes of library.' He had persuaded Alley to write 'Some Notes Towards a History' of the CLS, and there were articles by Jean Wright (librarian-in-charge of the CLS in Christchurch), Elsie Arnold and Kit Tibbles (public librarians), and J.H. Sutherland and I.B. MacLean (CLS field librarians), followed by a checklist of works about the CLS and related material. Mercer knew so much about the CLS story that he was able to choose his contributors well, and Alley's heart would have been warmed by what they wrote, including this passage by Kit Tibbles, whose library was in New Lynn, a borough within the Auckland urban area:
What would the small suburban library have been like without the influence, example and supplementary stock provided by a CLS office within a hundred or so miles? Its standards would have been lower for one thing, and its stock so much the less, its range of books so much the more limited. In fact, it is doubtful whether such libraries could have raised themselves much beyond the scope of a bookshop lending library. What would have been the effect on the minds of the people? A much wider gap between rich and poor, between the privileged with the Mudie-like service page 399from the cities and nothing at all for the under-privileged. It is impossible to overestimate the value of what, under Mr Alley's guidance, the Country Library Service has done for New Zealand.
At the other end of the operational spectrum, Tom Shand, the chairman of the Cabinet committee on government administration who had been so influential in ensuring that the National Library was born, wrote in his regular column in the Marlborough Express: 'I have had several calls in the last week from senior public servants about to retire. One who will be remembered with affection by many country people in isolated areas is Geoff Alley, the National Librarian, known for many years as the man with the book van of the Country Library Service … In recent years I have worked a lot with Geoff Alley as National Librarian and regard him as one of our greatest public servants. He has always suffered some embarrassment from being confused with his brother in China – they are very different people.'75 Shand's reference to Rewi was coloured by his attitudes as a conservative politician who accepted the view that Rewi had connived in knocking over a major domino in the Communists' game, but his reference to Geoff was based on direct and personal experience. Geoff related well to ministers, who recognised his honesty, his great integrity, his respect for their relative roles, and the careful way in which he formulated and carried out policies which they were confident in approving.
When the New Zealand Library Association met in conference in February 1968, a buffet dinner was arranged to enable members to honour Alley and his career. Earlier that day the president, David Wylie, in delivering one of the more notable of the association's presidential addresses, had said, after considering the past history of local authorities and their libraries in New Zealand: 'Here I should pause a moment to pay tribute to the work of the Country Library Service – not least for what has grown out of it, the National Library, from a small seed, a big tree. But it is the difference made to the public libraries of this country that I am particularly stressing. Its work and the type of assistance it has given have been admirable; it was a magnificent concept for the situation it was designed to meet, and for the development of the small library in both town and country. The work of the Country Library Service in particular will be the living reminder of the life work of its first Director and the country's first, now recently retired, National Librarian, Geoffrey Alley.' He then went on to consider what needed to be done to extend the relationship between local and general government to meet the needs of the future, observing first: 'What I go on to say is less – if at all – a reflection on how the Country Library Service was conceived and developed, than a tribute to the success of its work, and page 400to the central government assistance given by it to the libraries which could best benefit from that kind of assistance.'76
Wylie also chaired a fairly difficult conference session which considered remits on the state of post-primary school libraries, the need for a survey of library service to New Zealand schools, the participation of small industrial libraries in the interloan scheme, salary levels in public libraries, and the perennial question of whether the association should meet in May rather than February. In replying to speeches by Wylie, Margaret Campbell, Stuart Perry, and Clifford Collins at the evening function, Alley repaid Wylie's compliments by drawing heart for the association's future under the control of the next generation, saying, 'I think of the superb chairmanship of your President Wylie this morning, skilful, patient, knowledgeable.'
It was a mellow occasion, and Alley was in a somewhat cryptic mood of reflective reminiscence, spiced by admonitions from his past experience. Of the tributes paid by earlier speakers, he said that they were so generous that he had to regard them as tributes, not to himself personally, so much as collective ones, since so much of what had happened in the last 30 years had been done with others; in fact, by others. He spoke of those, like John Barr, W.B. McEwan, and Guy Scholefield, who in the 1920s and 1930s had prepared the way for the work of the New Zealand Library Association after the major conference of 1937, and of his own colleagues, of whom he said that, though there were discords between them, there was also harmony. 'We tried whenever we could to make the system work and I think the results – one does not need to do more than say, there were results.'
He pointed out that most of his work in the association was in fact done as a member of the Public Service, and said that the example, the inspiration, of many of those in the public service made it for him an honour to be part of it: first, T.D.H. Hall, Clerk of the House of Representatives and an NZLA president, a man who had a feeling for ideas, a feeling for principles and a feeling for the beautiful, who had influenced him as much as anyone to regard the library as 'a local thing'. 'There were people who thought it would be nice to do things as the Post Office did and have all the blotters the same and all the libraries the same. Don Hall had a feeling for the local and it was a considerable influence in the early days to have had his guidance.'
The second example was Alister McIntosh. 'His terrifying candour, his withering sarcasm could blow away a whole tirade, a whole apparatus of superficial thinking. He became, of course, Secretary of External Affairs and blossomed in many contexts, in the United Nations and elsewhere and now a second career, a diplomat, an ambassador in Rome. McIntosh's contribution [to library service] was very great and has been acknowledged, page 401very properly, by the Association by giving him a life membership.' Alley's third example was Graham Bagnall, 'another person who gives an example of a Public Servant, whose grasp and stature have not yet been fully realized, his big contribution in important developments, his immense, tireless application.'
For the younger generation Alley had warnings about the pipe dreams of the mechanics and the technicians and the allure of the international super information retrieval centre which would be able to send material every which way, so that 'our kind of library service' would not be in existence – the dream of the mechanic and the humanist's nightmare. For this generation he had three wishes: that they should have unity and harmony, even with diversity; that they should be able to extend themselves and strengthen links with others, with all kinds of libraries, both within their own country and overseas; and that they should live by admiration, hope, and love.77