Geoffrey Alley, Librarian: His Life & Work
Chapter 10 — Aiming for a National Library
Aiming for a National Library
Service to the people of New Zealand through a public library system of which the Country Library Service was an integral part was always a major preoccupation of Alley's, but he saw it in a wider context which included facilitating access to the published material that they needed not only by 'the public' but also by scholars and scientists and all those whose work and personal interests were wide-ranging in their requirements. His decision to retain the convenership of the NZLA's book resources committee was deliberately significant. He regarded this committee, to which the government had given semi-official status in 1941 by formally inviting the association to establish it and by agreeing to pay its members' expenses, as an important link between the library profession and the government, on a par with his direct access to the minister of education, and he was determined that both links should remain intact. He also claimed the right to exercise some control over the composition of the committee, even though the members were appointed by the council of the NZLA. This right was being questioned, in the 1950s, by some of the Young Turks of the association, but by and large it was accepted.
With Alley as convener and Bagnall as secretary, the other members of the book resources committee in the 1955/56 year were Clifford Collins and Harold Miller (university libraries), J.O. (Jim) Wilson and Clyde Taylor (state libraries), Stuart Perry and David Wylie (public libraries – the latter a Young Turk), Ted Leatham (DSIR – also a Young Turk), Mary Fleming (NLS) and Jock McEldowney (honorary secretary, NZLA; also NLS).1 At its meeting on 1 September 1955, which was a fairly typical one, this committee received reports on the union catalogue, the Union List of Serials, the Index to New Zealand Periodicals and the national bibliography, and discussed aspects of inter-library loans, the obtaining of important serials and works in sets not available in New Zealand, and the tracing of unlocated university theses.2
Bagnall was directly responsible for a growing list of activities. Many of them had resulted from NZLA initiatives; others arose from discussions page 240which had been focused on the book resources committee; others again had been developed from NLS policies – for instance, from its general oversight of and assistance to the libraries of government departments. His main instruments in carrying out his responsibilities were the three headquarters sections of the NLS – orders, catalogue, and reference – which worked under his control and which were also involved in work connected with the Country Library Service. The orders section, for instance, was responsible for the selection and purchase of books for the CLS, and the catalogue section for their cataloguing, while the reference section, besides dealing with inter-library loan requests which could not be sent directly to holding libraries, also handled large numbers of requests from CLS libraries and groups which the CLS offices had not been able to satisfy.
The union catalogue, which was begun in 1941 as a consequence of the establishment of the Central Bureau for Library Book Imports and in association with the book resources committee, had grown steadily as libraries sent cards for new acquisitions, but the addition of entries for libraries' earlier holdings had had to wait until post-war conditions made it possible to mount a determined effort. In May 1950 the book resources committee reported that photographic equipment provided by the Carnegie Corporation had enabled the holdings of the central reference collection of the Wellington Public Library and the Victoria University College library catalogue to be included, and that Auckland, Christchurch, and Dunedin catalogues would be tackled when an operator was appointed.3 In March 1952 Bagnall reported that 28,117 cards had been added during the preceding year, but commented that 'At this rate of progress many years will pass before the estimated total of a quarter of a million outstanding non-fiction titles will be added to the catalogue. Until this is done the catalogue and the operation of the inter-library loan scheme will not be fully effective.'4
The union catalogue was the largest of the National Library Centre's bibliographical projects at this time, but it was by no means the only one. After taking over the union list of serials when John Harris went to Ibadan, Bagnall completed a checklist, which was sent to libraries in 1950; the main volume, to be followed by supplements, was published by the Government Printer in 1953, and was, as Bagnall described it, 'a useful tribute to what has been essentially a co-operative effort from its inception by Mr John Harris over ten years ago'.5 The Index to New Zealand Periodicals, another project which was started in Dunedin, was compiled regularly by the National Library Centre and published by the NZLA until Alley persuaded the minister of education in 1956 to allow the NLS to assume responsibility for publication as well as for editorial work, in order to relieve the NZLA of financial responsibility for it.6 Bagnall also prepared the second edition of Harris's Guide to New Zealand Reference Material for publication by the page 241NZLA, and compiled supplements to it which were published in 1951 and 1957.
As if all this was not enough to keep him occupied, Bagnall published three histories of Wairarapa towns during this period – Greytown in 1953, Masterton in 1954, and Carterton in 1957; edited an edition of R.A. Cruise's Journal of a Ten Months' Residence in New Zealand; and continued to accumulate notes for his great Wairarapa history (1976) and other historical work which lay beyond the horizon. And he was starting to compile the retrospective national bibliography, the five (in six) volumes of which are now known in the scholarly world as 'Bagnall'. He was an example to us all.
In the 1950s, when the concept of on-line access to a central database was not remotely thinkable, a central catalogue on standard-sized cards was by far the most efficient way of recording national library holdings and of providing access to them, but maintaining it and checking inquiries against it were fairly labour-intensive operations. From time to time it was suggested that there should also be regional union catalogues, but the logistical problems and the cost of creating and maintaining these could not be justified when the aim of a national union catalogue was so difficult to achieve. So there had to be one national union catalogue in Wellington, maintained by the National Library Service, and it was to the NLS that the 'interloan libraries' – i.e. those which did not work through the CLS – sent request cards for books for which they did not know a location. The NLS would add requests sent on by CLS offices, would supply those titles which it held, would send cards to holding libraries if the union catalogue revealed a holding, and would list the residue of books which had not been found in its weekly Book Resources circular so that holdings could be reported. This is the system which was set up in 1943, and it worked as smoothly as the current technologies would allow.
- of 301 items supplied to university libraries, 161 (53.5 per cent) were supplied through interloan and 140 from the NLS collection;page 242
- of 648 items supplied to large public libraries, 152 (23.5 per cent) were supplied through interloan and 496 from the NLS collection.
- 71 (13.3 per cent) were in university libraries,
- 79 (14.8 per cent) were in public libraries,
- 330 (61.9 per cent) were in the NLS,
- 53 (10 per cent) were in 'other' libraries.
For several years the NLS had bought, for its own collection, individual titles which had been requested and which the book resources procedures had failed to turn up in any library in the country. The question of how best to fill gaps in the holdings of periodicals and works in sets was more complicated, and possible answers to it exercised librarians' minds throughout the 1950s (and, indeed, beyond). In August 1950 the book resources committee 'considered the desirability of drawing the attention of libraries to the need for completing gaps in the holdings of important serials as disclosed by the checking of the Union List of Serials', and asked its secretary (Bagnall) 'to advise libraries regularly of serials which should be considered for acquisition'.9 This was the first step in the evolution of an page 243attempt to get extra funds not only for gap-filling purchases, but also for the purchase of important works in sets and runs of serials which were not held by any library in the country, an attempt which, along the way, also raised matters of principle which had not at first been anticipated.
Within the National Library Centre, records were compiled of titles of this kind which interloan requests suggested should be part of the national library resources. A sample checklist of such material was placed before the book resources committee in August 1955,10 when it decided to begin work on the compilation of a list of works valued at more than £50 each, with a view to seeking funds for their purchase.11
While work was proceeding on the completion of a major list, Bagnall raised with Alley the question of one particular title. 'Some time ago,' he wrote, 'you stated your opinion that we should participate actively in the plugging of national gaps of significance, chiefly through microcard and microfilm editions; if necessary, you added, some "bread and butter" purchasing might be waived.' He then proposed that the Royal Aeronautical Society Reports, 1–23 (1866–93), and Journal, 1–15 (1897–1911), should be bought, at a total cost of £117 10s., adding, 'The present case seems quite a good one.' Alley replied: 'A.G.B. Your recommendation agreed to. I am glad to see this.'12 The purchase was made, and was notified to libraries in Book Resources.
Why this particular title was singled out for special attention is one of those little mysteries that the files produce – maybe Bagnall knew someone who had been frustrated by lack of interest elsewhere – but it did set a useful precedent, and perhaps it spurred on the book resources committee to continue with its wide consultations and discussions, leading to the preparation of a list which would require about £30,000 – a considerable sum in those days. In February 1957 the council of the NZLA decided that, when the list was completed, an approach should be made first to the government for funds for purchase, and, if that was unsuccessful, to some foundation or other body.13
At this point alarm bells rang at Victoria University College. Writing to Clifford Collins, Harold Miller asked what was to be done with the list when it was complete. 'If,' he said, 'it is to be used to obtain a special grant from the Government in order to purchase learned periodicals for the National Library Service or to enable the N.L.S. to distribute them as loans to approved university or other learned libraries, I think that the proposal is a bad one. The sensible way of proceeding is to increase the grants to the university [the University of New Zealand] … These are the people who know what is needed and who are going to use the items when purchased; why should the N.L.S., which has not the same knowledge, be called in to make decisions? … Let us by all means prepare a list … page 244but let each be purchased and housed by the institution that is going to use it most.' In his reply Collins said that, 'from the user's point of view, there is little difference between the purchase by four University libraries on special grants of additional material and the holding by such libraries of special material bought under a national scheme', and he pointed out that Miller, who had re-joined the book resources committee after a short absence, would be able to influence decisions on procedural matters.14
The registrar of Victoria University also got involved. At its meeting in August 1957 the book resources committee recommended that the NZLA council '1. Inform the Registrar of VUC of the terms of reference of the Book Resources Committee and its relevance to this matter; 2. That in order to allay anxieties which appear to have arisen the Registrar be informed, (a) that the grants are to be non-recurring, (b) that the institutions accepting periodical material will be expected to continue subscriptions, (c) that it is contemplated that the material thus deposited will remain permanently in the library of deposit.'15 Miller undoubtedly had a hand in this clarification of objectives.
This story of the gaps to be plugged and the plugging of them is a long one. We had better leave it at this point, and take it up again in a later chapter.
During the period from 1952 to 1954 it was Stuart Perry who ensured that what little momentum had been developed at the start of the campaign for a national library was not stalled. Despite the general consensus that New Zealand should have a national library, and that it should include the functions of the existing state libraries and be housed in a suitable building, none of the three state librarians was prepared to take the lead. For his part, Alley was at first rather sceptical and was content to focus on immediate concerns, such as waiting to see what Miriam Tompkins would produce in her report, dealing with the consequences of Nora Bateson's departure, breaking new ground in local body co-operation in the Gisborne area, and, with Bagnall, laying the groundwork for a more systematic approach to the development and use of national library resources. Perry, from his more independent position outside the government service, was not inhibited by the same kind of interdepartmental tensions, and he had had long enough experience of library politics to know that inaction would only breed more inaction. Furthermore, he was friendly with some of the younger members of the National government (and especially with Tom Shand and Jack Marshall)16 and was able to think in terms of the kinds of policies which would engage their attention. He was also determined to get things moving.
At the meeting of the revived national library committee of the NZLA which Perry convened in August 1952, both Harold Miller and Graham page 245Bagnall said that the committee should act as a strong propaganda committee (to which Bagnall added 'and active'). Clyde Taylor stressed the need for the identity of the Turnbull Library to be preserved, and said, 'I am trying to steer a careful course between my allegiance to the Department [of Internal Affairs] and to an ideal, but I agree personally and in my official position with the idea that in a national library all three big collections should be in close relationship to one another.' Wauchop (General Assembly Library) thought that the parliamentary library committee would probably come to see the value of a good scheme. Perry drew attention to the need for defining policy, and offered the idea that a future national library building might be called the Peter Fraser Memorial Library (a non-starter in the political climate of 1952). Alley said, gloomily, 'In the slum area in which we are meeting the Government has been sending people around in pairs and they have decided that the buildings are so bad that nothing can be done.'17
Alley had good reason to be gloomy about his accommodation problems, since the rapid growth of the collection and services of the National Library Centre, crammed into old buildings and assorted basements and other odd spaces around Wellington, had created conditions which one would have thought only the most dedicated of staff could have tolerated. Books were piled on the floors; staff worked cheek by jowl; and it was very difficult for outsiders to gain access to a collection which was becoming one which often repaid careful browsing. In the years that followed it is not surprising that the need for better – even slightly better – accommodation for the National Library Service sometimes distracted attention from the more strategic needs of the state library system, or that it was difficult to sustain the morale of the staff of the National Library Centre.
At this meeting there was plenty of goodwill, but also many unstated reservations. The committee prepared a remit which was duly passed at the NZLA conference in February 1953, recommending that the council ask the government to appoint a parliamentary select committee 'to consider the need for a national library building with adequate storage for future national needs, the elements such a library should contain, and how far existing state libraries and the national archives can, without detriment to their particular functions, be brought together in such an institution'.18
It is obvious from these discussions, and from the wording of the remit, that the serious business of deciding just what librarians and the NZLA meant by 'a national library' had hardly begun. It was perhaps premature to ask for a full-scale official inquiry at this stage, and yet if a request had not gone forward it is very likely that nothing would have happened. The NZLA council did decide to approach the government on the lines proposed by its committee,19 but its standing executive committee deferred page 246action until later in the year because Perry was about to take up an offer of a travelling fellowship from the Carnegie Corporation.20 Since Perry had been again appointed convener of the committee and no one was anxious to stand in for him, this meant another delay of several months, but it also allowed time for some necessary reflection.
In April 1953, before Perry's departure, the Wellington branch of the NZLA staged one of its discussions of current issues in New Zealand librarianship, this time on the national library proposal.21 In an outline which he had prepared in advance, Perry listed arguments in support of the scheme: economy of administration, convenience of the public, physical safety of stock, and a unified purpose. Difficulties he saw were the need to safeguard the identity of the major existing state collections; the absence of an agreed association policy; a defeatist attitude on the part of librarians; and an absence of conviction on the part of the government. Some initial discussion concerned the national archives, but the meeting did not appear to disagree with the view of the national archivist (Michael Standish) that the archives should not be under national library control. John Sage reported on recent discussions in Canada which had some relevance for the New Zealand situation. And then the meeting got down to business.
Among other speakers, Bagnall thought that the merging of the several institutions would not necessarily destroy their intrinsic functions, and that some functions and responsibilities could be shared, with a resultant saving. Taylor thought the Turnbull Library could maintain its identity as a section of a national institution for literary and historical research, and that it would be helpful if the three principal state libraries co-operated actively to prepare the way for a national library in the next few years. Ted Leatham, in his role as the small boy commenting on the emperor's new clothes, thought that insistence on preserving the identity of the three collections would mean a national library building but not a co-ordinated national library in the true sense of the term; he thought that part of the stress on separateness of identity was due to fear of empire-building, and the realisation by the three heads of these libraries that there could be only one national librarian – this should be faced up to, he said, and not hidden behind a screen of tradition and the vested interests of various government departments.
Alley said that he favoured a conservative approach to individual collections. He distrusted efficiency by mere amalgamation; there was a weakness in bigness, not least from the point of view of the user, who was often dauted by size – a familiar fact in public library experience. He was unconvinced of the need for merging collections, but the need for buildings was urgent.
Leatham added to his remarks at this meeting that the heads of the three page 247state libraries should be getting down to specifics, but this is precisely what they were not interested in doing. The need for a national library was part of their formal faith, but armed neutrality was their practical environment, and too close an approach to specifics was likely to provoke thoughts of mobilisation which might lead to open conflict. Perry discovered this when he wrote an article entitled 'No National Library: no programme – wanted: a policy', which was published in New Zealand Libraries in late 195322 and which provoked reactions from both Wauchop and Jim Wilson of the General Assembly Library;23 and some warning shots had been fired, in a more or less friendly way, during the Wellington branch discussion. When the NZLA approached the government in November 1953, after Perry's return from foreign parts, it therefore did so only in the terms of the brief conference resolution, so it is not surprising that the prime minister, S.G. Holland, replied that, after discussing the association's request with the minister of education, he doubted whether a select committee hearing would be appropriate at that time. He did, however, say that if the association would put up a less vague and fairly detailed proposal, the government would arrange for it to be examined and considered.24 Alley would undoubtedly have been consulted by the minister of education over the advice that he had been asked to give to the prime minister, and would have been aware of the fact that the question of defining a policy now had to be faced.
At about this time, in fact, Alley seems to have decided that the national library proposal had to be taken seriously, since it was not going to go away, and that, since the way in which it was handled would affect all that he had built up, he should try to ensure that its course was directed by hands he could trust. Typically, he probably felt that very few hands other than his own were completely trustworthy, and, equally typically, he began to entertain suspicions of Perry's motives and intentions, suspicions which Perry sensed and decided to do something about. During the conference of the NZLA which was held in Nelson in February 1954, Perry therefore talked to one of Alley's younger colleagues, who, he knew, was in Alley's confidence, setting out his own interest and motivation in his leadership of the national library campaign and stating firmly that he had no personal ambition in the matter. It was clear that he was quite sincere in what he said, and also that he hoped the conversation would be reported to Alley, which duly happened. Shortly afterwards, Alley invited Perry to meet with him and they had a long discussion, after which Perry told the go-between both that they had reached complete understanding and how impressed he was by Alley's fairness and by his judicial attitude.25
Perry then told the secretary of the NZLA that some time would be needed to reach agreement on a reply to the prime minister, and said that page 248he would be happy to be relieved of the convenership of the national library committee, since his interest was 'more remote' than that of several other members.26 When the committee was reappointed for the ensuing year, Perry remained a member but Bagnall became convener.27 Perry's handling of a difficult situation had been remarkably successful. Equally remarkable was the fact that from this time Alley and Perry worked together on the national library question amicably and effectively, though Alley often spoke of Perry in private as 'a lightweight', as he did of several other notable people.
It took six months for the national library committee to prepare a reply to the prime minister's request for a less vague and fairly detailed proposal. In the letter which was sent to Holland on 3 August 1954 the NZLA deferred to his view that a prime minister's consultative committee would be the best way of attacking the problem at that time, and set out the current functions of the three state libraries and the problems facing each of them (especially with regard to accommodation). 'The most obvious need,' it said, 'is for a national library building in which all or a major part of these existing collections can be housed adequately and safely and the necessary services performed efficiently'; but it did not attempt to prescribe 'detailed proposals regarding the extent to which the existing state libraries would be included and their consequential administrative relationship': that would be a matter for the consultative committee to examine.28
During this period there were many discussions, both within the NZLA and within the various government departments, of the issues raised by the national library proposal. Positions were defined and hitherto unconsidered problems examined; memoranda were written and filed; stands were taken and lines were drawn, even if only in a tentative, preliminary way. Controversy loomed just over the horizon. One or two comments are worth recording at this point. Jim Wilson of the General Assembly Library (about to become its chief librarian in 1955) suggested, for instance, that economy could be achieved by amalgamating the National Library Centre with the General Assembly Library, but his acknowledgement that there would be opposition to this was endorsed by his chief, Bill Wauchop, who said that taking the National Library Centre from the NLS might mean a loss of essential service there, 'and its transfer would certainly be strongly resisted by the Director and most probably the Association'.29
Alley, in responding to a request from the NZLA's committee for a statement, said: 'I have assumed … that the N.L.S. could occupy its part of the new building and that other libraries could occupy theirs, without any attempt to form what we are often told is a superior creation – "a larger administrative unit." … I still doubt the wisdom of attempting any fusion other than at the level of a. merging of unused WGa and WTu page 249stock with WCl stock,30 and b. the provision in the new building of a very well planned, spacious cataloguing room … The library of Parliament or legislative reference service must be retained as a service unit, with whatever stock and staff the chief librarian requires.'31 Wauchop, while welcoming the idea of bringing together the three services into one building, added, 'It is one thing to ask the institution longest established to become an integral part of a larger establishment and quite another thing to ask it to strip itself of its functions and collections.'32
On 6 October 1954 the prime minister directed the Public Service Commission to take the necessary steps to have an inquiry initiated into the representations made to him by the NZLA on the need for a national library. The commission responded by setting up a committee, chaired by Jack Hunn, which included representatives of the Legislative Department, the Treasury, the Department of Education, and the Department of Internal Affairs.
After Alley stood down from the honorary secretaryship of the NZLA in February 1952 he ceased to be a member of the council, and he waited for two years before allowing his name to be put forward for election as an ordinary member. He was then duly elected – one of nine who were chosen by the personal members of the association from 12 candidates – and rejoined the governing body in February 1954. From the point of view of most members of the association very little changed during the intervening period. Alley's mana within the association was such that he was automatically consulted about or directly involved in most matters of importance in its operations. He had, of course, retained the convenership of the book resources committee because of its special position in relation to the government, but he also continued to act as convener of the library training committee, and he was a member of several other key committees, including finance and, after it was reconstituted in 1955, national library (now convened by Graham Bagnall, another of his surrogates).
A committee which Alley was particularly interested in was one that was set up in 1952 to consider the question of the establishment of a register of qualified librarians. Convened by Jock McEldowney, and including Alley, Archie Dunningham, Clifford Collins (who had reservations about the whole idea), Arthur Olsson (editor of the recently published Who's Who in New Zealand Libraries), and Ron O'Reilly, with Stuart Perry as president and Mary Fleming as honorary secretary, it was a fairly highpowered committee, which had to pick up on several years of desultory discussion and, in the words of its convener, 'inherited a fairly definite feeling that a register was desirable, but a rather vague idea of how it should be compiled and maintained'.33 After deciding that there would not be much point in merely compiling a list of people with library qualifications, page 250the committee prepared a scheme, based on a draft drawn up by O'Reilly, for an associateship which recognised post-qualification work of a sound professional standard, and a fellowship, to be awarded as a high honour. It took three years, in a process which could, in all modesty, be described as a model of widespread discussion and careful consultation,34 to prepare a set of rules, which, after final drafting by the association's old friend T.D.H. Hall, and a postal ballot of association members, which revealed strong support,35 was adopted by the annual meeting on 25 February 1955.36
The registration rules required all applications for associateships and nominations for fellowships to be referred to a credentials committee, consisting of five members selected from the fellows of the association, for recommendation to the council. In order to enable a credentials committee to be set up, rule 4(iv) provided for the council, at its first meeting after the adoption of the rules, to grant five fellowships 'from names brought before the Council by members thereof '. There was a potential for awkwardness in this, but after the council had held a secret ballot, 'the local authority members present to scan the papers and report whether any nominees had received enough votes to enable a clear decision to be made', H.W.B. Bacon (past president of the NZLA and a Petone borough councillor) reported that five names had been overwhelmingly favoured. These five – Geoffrey Alley, Clifford Collins, Archie Dunningham, Harold Miller, and Stuart Perry – were forthwith granted fellowships and appointed members of the credentials committee (subject to the consent, which was later received, of those who were not present).37 Alley was appointed its convener, and it began its painstaking work.
It is typical of Alley's administrative principles in matters of detail that he took steps to ensure that the fee of three guineas charged under registration rule 10 did not disappear into the NZLA's consolidated fund. On his motion, the council decided that the fees should be kept in a special fund or account and used for grants to assist librarians visiting or studying overseas, to enable tutors to travel to assist training course students or to enable such students to attend conferences, or to subsidise publications of general professional interest.38
At this point it is necessary to deal with a matter about which much can only be inferred from inadequate personal knowledge and later speculation, since Alley acted, as he often did, without telling people (even those most directly concerned) precisely what his intentions or reasons were. He seems to have decided at the beginning of 1955 that it would be to everyone's advantage if he were to give up the convenership of the library training committee of the NZLA and move Mary Fleming to it (partly in order to pre-empt a less acceptable appointment), and then propel Jock McEldowney into the honorary secretaryship. There were, of course, proper procedures page 251for handling such matters, but in moving his pawns about the board in this way Alley once again 'drew rabbits out of his pocket' in the way that had disturbed Guy Scholefield 12 years earlier. Technically, he did things by the book, but in such a way that step by step other people found themselves outmanoeuvred. After he had spoken to her, Fleming decided not to accept nomination for re-election to the honorary secretaryship of the association at its imminent annual general meeting. McEldowney was then nominated for it, and, being the only nominee, was elected. But Fleming had not agreed to take the convenership of the training committee, so, when the council was engaged in appointing committees on 25 February 1955, Alley simply nominated her for the position, as if it had been agreed in advance, and the council agreed.
The usually serene and gracious Fleming was furious. After the council meeting she told Alley it was the dirtiest trick he had ever played. He took this impassively, as a forward in a line-out can take grievous knocks as long as he has been able to secure the ball. 39 Shortly afterwards Fleming wrote to Clifford Collins and Bob Duthie saying: 'I wish to explain that my appointment as convener was done without my consent, and as you know, without the committee's prior cognisance. If a change was contemplated I think the committee should have been informed. In fairness to Mr. Alley I hasten to say that he did ask me after the committee had met in Wanganui [on 21 February] but I had not entertained the proposal as a serious one otherwise I would have raised the question of constitution of the committee at the meeting myself …I did consent to accept office next year if he and the committee were agreed on the proposal, but my final word to him, said just before the Council met and which he unfortunately did not hear, was no. I feel very strongly that I and the committee have been treated in a high handed manner.'40
In his reply Collins said: 'Mr. Alley can be disconcerting, can't he? His rugged readiness to do what he thinks to people without minding the consequences to himself leads him also to act sometimes without seeming to mind how other people will react. But, even though he can perturb or annoy me in relatively small matters, I am prepared to forgive him almost automatically because of his magnificent leadership, imagination and execution in really big matters. Probably you, and most of us, feel the same, except momentarily.'41
Collins was one of the library world's kindest and most congenial members, one of those who had served on the Long March with Alley and had many shared memories of hurdles surmounted and objectives attained. But times were changing, and some of Alley's characteristics were not so easily accepted by more recent recruits. In 1946, when Alley was at the height of his influence, the NZLA council included 15 librarians (in addition to local authority members), of whom a powerful core of 10, page 252including himself, had a total of 85 years of council experience. Three of these were still there in 1956, but among the other nine librarians in that year there were five from the Library School generation, whose perspective was somewhat different. Alley had some difficulty adjusting to a situation in which the library world was growing and diversifying and increasingly coming under the control of people who were not programmed to think of him as the all-wise, all-powerful leader. The training committee episode was a rather exaggerated example of how Alley had begun to act towards some people, and on some occasions, in a way which was not consistent with good leadership. Archie Dunningham, writing to him in 1954, said, 'I still remember with some pleasure a paper you did at the first Wellington conference – at a time, I suspect, when you had more respect for your audience than you have since been able to have', and he ended this letter by saying, 'The things which are good in the Assn. will, I think, stifle unless your leadership goes into some open approval of things which are worth doing and things which are worth striving for.'42
Comments like this, and incidents which affected a limited number of people, were warning signals, but in the mid-1950s Alley was for most people still the outstanding leader, the rock on which their profession was built, the lock who held the scrum together, the Great White Chief, as some called him. 'GT was an exacting boss,' according to Malvina Jones, 'often enigmatic in his requests, but I found that once he had confidence in one he willingly delegated and left one to get on with the project. Looking back I realise he often gave me projects, often dealing with local authorities on behalf of the National Library Service, where the level of responsibility was very high given the grading of my position.'43 Jones has also remarked that Alley was charismatic for many women,44 and it was notorious among those who knew him reasonably well that he tended to be more at ease with women than with men in his professional world, whereas his best friends outside that world tended to be men. He also had an eye which roved widely, but Pat Alley instances two women, Mary Fleming (despite the spat over the training committee) and Jean Wright, for whom his father had immense esteem and friendship but with whom his relationship was 'gender-non-specific'.45 Jean Wright's comment, when asked about suggestions that there was a cult of adulation in some quarters, was, 'I do not think that it was adulation but a combination of awe, respect, admiration and affection as we came to know him for it was not easy to do so nor understand him, and we learned to take the difficult with the good.'46
By the mid-1950s big things had been achieved in the New Zealand library system, but there was also a pervasive sense of stagnation. There was unfinished business, particularly in the organisation of a comprehensive public library service, the secret of which, as people felt rather than thought, page 253was to be found in the pot of gold labelled 'regional library service'. The Country Library Service had been very successful, especially in the way that Alley had developed it to provide intellectual stimulus, in all kinds of fields, for citizens in rural areas or small towns who deserved as much cultural respect as their fellows in more crowded circumstances. But it was not the kind of locally-controlled service that Munn and Barr had promoted. Small and medium-sized towns were not parts of a single service in their regions, even though they received service from the CLS. The 'B' service to small rural groups was immensely popular, but each group was a separate entity and there was no guarantee that the network of groups would provide complete coverage or that their members would feel that they were part of a local system that they were proud of. Furthermore, the metropolitan towns were outside the system altogether. Their citizens contributed to the cost of the CLS as well as to the cost of their municipal libraries, but the organisational strength that the largest local libraries should have been contributing was not drawn upon, except in small ways in some areas. That the CLS system worked as well as it did depended very largely on the sense of purpose, the understanding of the people of New Zealand, and the strong ethic of service that derived from Alley himself and was deeply ingrained in his staff, but such qualities are ephemeral if there is not a strong organisational structure to support them.
It is not necessary here to go over the inadequacy of the New Zealand local authority system again, except to remind oneself that this was the fundamental problem which had determined how the CLS system had developed and which would need to be overcome if it were to be rationalised. It was a problem which enthusiasts for change tended to overlook as they fixed their eyes on well-organised (or apparently well-organised) regional systems in countries which had quite different local government structures. And there was another factor by the mid-1950s which was not so obvious. This was that, by then, Alley was justifiably proud of the quality of the service he had created and increasingly resistant to changes that might harm it without providing a better substitute. Discussions on regional library service therefore often tended to become tussles between enthusiasm for an ideal which had not been tested by exposure to a severe political climate, and determination to preserve what had thrived in spite of that climate.
'Regional library service' was, in fact, the mantra which underlay much of the discussion of public library service at this time. It described the heaven that the faithful looked forward to, the promised land on the other side of the desert. Alley made the first students of the Library School enthusiastic for it; Nora Bateson, who had glimpsed its glories, spoke of it at her first NZLA conference47 and thereafter drilled her students in its catechism; Archie Dunningham measured all library proposals against its page 254requirements; Miriam Tompkins mentioned it as a major objective early in her investigation (but became more cautious later). Published studies of possible regional organisations included the scheme for the Gisborne area mentioned above, and one for Northland included by David McIntosh in a series of articles on libraries and local government in New Zealand,48 while Alley referred, in an article on the CLS, to a survey being carried out in the South Otago region by J.E.C. Shearer, a CLS field librarian.49 The NZLA history, published in 1962, said: 'So although the development of public library service had proceeded on the same lines for nearly twenty years – Country Library Service aid to individual public libraries – there was a growing literature on the subject of regional libraries and a belief within the Association that the time must come for another step forward.'50
A most thorough examination of the public library problems of the time was given by David Wylie, Lower Hutt city librarian since 1952, in a paper he delivered at the 1954 NZLA conference,51 in which he said:
We don't want regional library service for the sake of itself, but for the quality of service that can be given; quality of service depends primarily on two things and they're interdependent – and that is a wide range of carefully selected books, and a trained qualified staff working in the libraries to ensure their best and most effective use. In regional service, the wide range readily available can only be there if the service is based on a large public library – large in our terms anyway – one which can carry of itself a fair range, and which can act as a centre for request service, for making regional stock mobile rather than static, and for giving a far greater measure of direct guidance and advice to the small libraries … than is possible under the present four-monthly visits of the CLS van, all too brief anyway.
Wylie's reference to the CLS, together with an account (deleted from the published version of the paper) of how Lower Hutt had taken over part of an adjoining county which had included a CLS group and substituted a much better service, incensed Alley. This was a pity, because Wylie was a much clearer thinker than many others who discussed regional libraries, but Alley did not forgive or forget: in 1956, in an article in New Zealand Libraries, after describing Shearer's survey in South Otago, he wrote: 'I think in his address at Nelson two years ago [Mr Wylie] tended to write off the work of independent libraries in the country areas, in many of which librarianship is going on at a good level … I would sooner live in Inchclutha [in South Otago] than in Taita North – which is in Hutt City – from the point of view of library service.'52 This was the Alley who, when provoked, sentimentalised the undoubted qualities of the good folk page 255who made intelligent use of the CLS, compromising the whole thrust of professional education for librarianship as he did so.
In February 1956, when Archie Dunningham was elected president of the NZLA for the following year, regional library service was therefore a very live topic, overshadowed to some extent by the start of the campaign for a national library, but relevant to it. As he had done on previous occasions when an issue became serious, Alley moved in order to retain his share of the initiative. After discussions with Dunningham and the Dunedin town clerk, he got approval from the minister of education to convene a working party, with expenses paid by the government, to discuss the topic of 'regional and district library service, including much more co-operation between neighbouring local authorities'.53 He invited Dunningham, Helen Cowey, Allan Mercer, Brian O'Neill, Ron O'Reilly and David Wylie to take part, and five of them to prepare papers in advance.54 The working party, which met on 27 and 28 August 1956, prepared an interim report55 in which it recommended that the NZLA 'should move towards the strengthening of the libraries in the secondary cities' to the point where, with government cash subsidies, they could provide the whole range of books appropriate to their regions and give service not only to their own cities but also to their neighbouring areas; and that it should seek legislative changes to facilitate the formation of library federations by contiguous local authorities, to which the subsidies would be paid.
In his presidential address given to the Rotorua conference of the NZLA on 26 February 1956 Dunningham said:
The aim which we have had before us since the publication of the Munn– Barr Report in 1934 is the development of district or regional units of library service, each strong enough to give the sort of service which can be expected in a city of not less than 50,000 population. Since 1934, we have assumed that this can be done through district or regional co-opeeration between local bodies. We have also accepted a recommendation of the Munn–Barr Report that a first step towards this district or regional organisation is the establishment of a centralised service and a centralised request service. The Country Library Service has, I think, been extremely successful in achieving this. Almost all boroughs are now receiving assistance from the Country Library Service … We have been less successful with counties. If we are now to involve counties we will, I think, need to take the next step which the Munn–Barr Report recommended.56
A major session at this conference was one on library co-operation, which was chaired by Alley and for which three members of the working party had prepared papers.57 Helen Cowey pointed out that in most towns it had page 256been an enthusiastic chairman of the library committee or the mayor who had been largely responsible for library progress where it had occurred, and suggested that further successes might depend on stronger incentives from the state. Brian O'Neill enlarged on three points: '(i) Developing regional service of the sort envisaged will face considerable opposition and inertia; (ii) To overcome one important source of opposition it will be necessary to convince local authorities that their libraries will not be "taken over"; (iii) It is necessary to have specific ideas on how to go about starting this sort of thing.' David Wylie had prepared a closely-reasoned paper on the idea of ad hoc federations, but time was running short and, as Cowey has remembered, 'He had only just begun when GTA asked him if he intended to speak much longer, and David went white with fury and sat down before he had finished his sentence.' Next morning Wylie had what Cowey later called 'a serious row' with Harry Barker, who had come from Gisborne for the session on library co-operation, 'and they were both in a very bad mood all day'.58
This was more than just a bit of conference excitement. Alley had long ago taken against Wylie, and it was obvious to those who were present, including the association's honorary secretary, who was sitting next to him on the platform, that he had deliberately decided to put Wylie down. Enid Evans, librarian of the Auckland Institute and Museum, wrote nearly 20 years later: 'G.T. Alley – he certainly had his knife into David. I can remember his quite unjustifiable rudeness to him.'59 Helen Sullivan (Cowey) suspected that Alley thought Wylie had upset Barker, whom he saw as a potentially useful local body representative for future negotiations.
The conference was asked to 'endorse in principle' the report of the working party, but after discussion this was amended to: 'That this Association approves the principle of library co-operation in regional areas with Government assistance, and recommends the Council to continue the investigations of the 1956 Working Party through an appropriate committee of the Association, and authorizes an approach to the Government for expenses for the purposes of the investigation.'60 Stuart Perry was one who thought that several matters, including the lack of government support for metropolitan libraries, needed to be considered before an endorsement in principle could be contemplated, and this resolution reads like the product of Perry/Alley co-operation.61 Alley had cleared the question of expenses with his minister, and had also prepared a suitable list of members for the council to appoint to a new committee on regional library co-operation. 'In those days,' Sullivan has said, 'he could get Government assistance for special NZLA committees, but he also insisted that he should have some say in the personnel of any committee set up in this way.' On this occasion the list included himself (as convener), Barker, Cowey, Dunningham, page 257E.O.E. Hill (New Plymouth City Council), Mercer, O'Neill, Perry, and Priscilla Taylor. Sullivan's memory of the establishment of this committee by the council was: 'I can still remember the gasp that went round the table that Ron O'Reilly and David Wylie had been left off. So I said, shouldn't you leave me off too if it is the contribution of local authority people that you are wanting. So GTA said, "Right, we shall leave you off too".'62
On their way back to Wellington after the conference Alley, Bagnall, and McEldowney stayed a night at the Wairakei Hotel. During the evening they went to the nearby thermal area, where preparations were being made for the construction of the geothermal generating plant which began production in 1959, and outside a huge shed in which there was a loud noise of barely-constrained steam encountered notices telling them not to enter. To Alley notices of this kind were an invitation. He walked in without hesitation, to see what was being done with his taxes. You have to admire bloody-mindedness of this kind, when it is properly directed.
In his annual report to Parliament, Alley said: 'It will be upon the solution to the problem of library co-operation among local authorities, and in particular on the active participation of counties, that the future development of public library service and the efficient administration of Government assistance will depend. Government assistance to library service, whether in books, staffing, or money subsidies, or combinations of all three, must always be planned to encourage local effort and activity, and to strengthen it where it is co-operatively based.'63
The committee reported back to the NZLA council in June 1957,64 pointing out that CLS support had been used by boroughs but not by counties, and proposing that the government be asked to accept the idea of expanding its assistance to ensure complete coverage of all types of community. It endorsed the principle of government subsidies being paid to voluntary federations of local authorities, which would take over many of the services previously provided by the CLS, but favoured a gradualist approach, so that CLS aid-in-kind would still be available where federal district schemes were not formed; and it stressed that incentives to cooperate should be strong enough to overcome inertia. This report, after some amendments suggested by the local authorities section of the NZLA had been made, was published in New Zealand Libraries65 and as a separate pamphlet, and provided the text for further action and discussion in 1958 and beyond, to which we shall return in due course.
At about the same time that Co-operation: a new phase was published and released for study in the NZLA, the proposal for a national library, which had been the subject of a report to the prime minister by the committee which had been established under J.K. (later Sir Jack) Hunn by the Public Service Commission, was referred by Parliament to a special page 258select committee. The two investigations, both of them involving Alley and the National Library Service, had been running in parallel for several years and would continue to do so for several years more.
When he was asked, in October 1954, to chair the committee 'to examine proposals from the New Zealand Library Association' for a national library, Hunn was at the take-off point for his distinguished career as a senior public servant. After 12 years in the Public Trust Office, he had been on the staff of the Public Service Commission since 1946, and in 1954 was appointed a public service commissioner. He had had a brush in 1950 with the kind of problem that he was now about to face when, in an inspection report on the Department of Internal Affairs, he wrote: 'When the Turnbull Library was left to the State, it fell naturally enough into the care of the I/A Dept. There was no National Library Service in those days. Now that the National Library Service is well established, the thought occurs that the Turnbull Library might well be placed under its aegis administratively without in any way destroying the library's identity. Offhand the Librarian [Clyde Taylor] was not sure that there would be any advantage except possibly from the staffing angle. That alone, however, would warrant consideration … Recommendation: That the Commission discuss with both Departments the question whether the Turnbull Library should be administered as part of the National Library Service.' The department's reply to this part of his report was: 'This is a matter for later discussion, but, in general terms, it is felt not desirable that the Turnbull Library should in any way lose its present identity and character.'66 A note on the commission's file copy of this reply indicates that Hunn refreshed his memory of it on 16 September 1954.
Members who were appointed to the committee to assist Hunn were H.N. Dickinson of the Legislative Department, S.C. Parker of The Treasury, A.B. Thompson, officer for higher education in the Department of Education, and H.L.B. Peryman of the Department of Internal Affairs. L.A. Shanks, from the Public Service Commission, acted as its secretary. The chairman of the Public Service Commission, G.T. Bolt, in asking Hunn to undertake the task, said that the project was a big one and required careful consideration, and the members of the committee put a lot of effort, over more than a year, into consulting widely and meeting regularly (18 times altogether).
The underlying situation that the committee faced was a complicated one which the NZLA had not, for obvious reasons, been able to spell out. The three state libraries, each in a different department, ranged in age from 80 years (the General Assembly Library) to 10 (taking 1945 as the founding date of the National Library Service), but the NLS was the most dynamic at this stage. Of the three parent departments, Education was probably the page 259least possessive, though Beeby, the director of education, was determined not to lose control of the School Library Service. The Department of Internal Affairs gained more kudos from having the Alexander Turnbull Library in its fold than the library gained from its department, and the library was an icon in the scholarly world. The General Assembly Library could perhaps have become a national library earlier, if the world had not passed it by, but in its role as a legislative reference library, which accounted for the use of only part of its collection, it had the protection of parliamentary privilege and the sanctions that could be imposed if this was seen to be endangered.
Of the three chief librarians, Alley, the head of the largest unit, was widely perceived to be the leading one, and this had been recognised in his salary grading,67 but the others were understandably reluctant to join him as junior partners. The campaign for a national library, which Alley did not initiate and was not at first keen on, was seen in some quarters as NLS empire-building, to be opposed on those grounds alone. Furthermore, Alley himself had tended to obscure the real position by such actions as failing to appoint a Librarian, Country Library Service and continuing to present his annual reports as reports on the CLS with appendices on other activities. And – a factor which has to be taken into account in considering those McCarthyite days – Alley's reputation in some political circles was compromised by his brother Rewi's radio broadcasts from Peking in 1951 and 1952 condemning United States actions in Korea.68 This was ironical in view of the fact that Geoff was scornful of the cult of personality that had grown up around Mao Tse-tung and Rewi's acceptance of it,69 but it affected Geoff badly in those times, before Rewi, in a remarkable reversal of reputation, became a national icon.
The committee also had to give some thought to the philosophical question of what a national library was: whether, in essence, New Zealand should go on pragmatically building on the past or whether it should start again from scratch. In his autobiography Hunn wrote: 'Librarians differ in their concept of a "national" library. Overseas it is usually a State reference library, such as the British Museum, providing books for research within its precincts. In some countries, however, the national library serves a much wider purpose, including distribution and lending, interloan, central cataloguing, and support for local libraries. In New Zealand all these functions – and more – were performed, in varying degrees, by three State institutions…. Consequently, if these three were linked together, their combined range of services would denote a national library of the active ministering type rather than the passive reference type. But even in that category it would not conform to any overseas model: it would be unique to New Zealand.'70 A later commentator has made a similar point in saying that national libraries 'are monsters: that is, artificial creations, page 260designed by governments to perform functions that other libraries cannot, or will not, perform. Examples are the indefinite preservation of the national literature, management of co-operative networks on behalf of the community of libraries, national management of interlibrary lending, the creation of national bibliographies and indexes, and the setting of national standards.'71 These two statements reflect typical New Zealand attitudes, but there were other people who joined the discussion with the great domed reading room in mind, in which those who really knew how to use libraries would work undistracted.
Hunn would of course have been aware of Alley's standing from a public service point of view. He was also aware of the opinion of Alley held by Alister McIntosh, who was, in his words, 'the most experienced official in the inner councils of State',72 and who was keenly interested in the national library proposal.73 'I do know,' Hunn wrote later, 'that Alister McIntosh was a sort of paternal mentor of Alley. They both understood the library "language" and were kindred spirits in intellectual integrity.'74
The annual reports for the March 1955 year of both the NLS and the General Assembly Library included brief statements of their current functions.75 Jim Wilson described in his report the main fields in which current acquisitions were made for the General Assembly Library, saying, 'These collections are essential to both a parliamentary and a national library, and any solution which deprives one or other of their use will not be an entirely satisfactory one.' Later in the year Wilson told the committee that he was in favour of the formation of a national library as long as a working parliamentary library of 10,000 volumes was maintained; but he also said that he would wish to have a good deal of Turnbull material in the reference section of Parliament,76 which could have been calculated to offend. Among those who responded to invitations to comment, Archie Dunningham, who was consulted at an early stage, said that the basic function of the national library should be to see that library service was efficient and effective, and then related this aim almost entirely to the development of regional library services.77 Beeby said that he was much more concerned that the functions of a national library should be properly carried out than he was about the erection of a building. He was doubtful about the success of any attempt to bring the three libraries under a single unified control, and said that, while the NZLA was able to speak with some authority, 'its very nature precludes it from being a satisfactory means of co-ordinating the State libraries or of advising the Government'. He suggested setting up a committee of the three state librarians, with, say, two senior public servants, to advise.78
During the first stage of the investigation the Public Service Commission committee made no contact with the NZLA, presumably because it did not page 261want to be seen as its puppet, but after the association became restive and asked the Public Service Commission that it be informed of progress and given an opportunity of formally nominating its representative, it received a letter from Shanks, announcing the formation of the committee and asking the NZLA to 'indicate what you consider might be a practical working proposal for the organization, administration, and accommodation of a National Library'. This letter was dated 6 July 1955,79 about nine months after the formation of the committee, a fact which was noted rather plaintively by Perry in his records, but it is clear from its content that by this time the committee had gained a good understanding of the proposal and felt itself in a sound position to discuss it with the NZLA on terms of equality. It asked, in particular, for comments on functions, additional to those performed by the three state libraries, which might be handled by a national library, what organisation or authority should control it, what type of administration would be needed for its day-to-day running, and where, for preference, it should be located, and it said that it would like to discuss such matters with association representatives, on the basis of written views.
|1.||There should be a New Zealand National Library in Wellington to serve as a national reference collection, and a national lending collection.|
|2.||The National Library should be housed in a specially planned building on a central site.|
|3.||The National Library should be administered as a department of state under the direction of a National Librarian, directly responsible to a Minister of the Crown, with an Advisory Council to make recommendations on policy to the Minister.|
|4.||Specific statutory provision should be made for the existence of the National Library and Advisory Council.|
|5.||The National Library should maintain the services set out in paragraph four [of the main part of the document], subject to the qualification below.|
|6.||Subject to commitments and policies existing at the time of the establishment of the National Library, such an institution should include, among other things, the stock and services at present maintained by the page 262National Library Service, the Alexander Turnbull Library, and the General Assembly Library.|
The committee also, at this stage, met with several prominent librarians to discuss its thinking with them. Among them was Harold Miller, who raised what was to become, for a while, the most prominent objection to some aspects of the NZLA's policy. Miller, who was a member of the association's national library committee,82 had not disguised his preference for a type of national library of the kind that Hunn called, in his autobiography, 'a State reference library … providing books for research within its precincts'. When he was interviewed by the Public Service Commission committee and presented his views, he was asked to set them down in writing. This he did in a letter,83 of which he sent copies to other members of the NZLA committee. He gave strong support to the need for better accommodation for the state libraries, but said, 'I differ from the NZLA Committee in that I favour a Library that will be (what in fact national libraries are in other countries) an organization to meet the needs of research, whereas the Committee wants a library that will mainly look after the needs of the general reader.' He then went on to describe the kind of collection the national library should hold (which was in fact the kind of collection that would be achieved by the amalgamation of the Alexander Turnbull Library, the General Assembly Library, and the collection under the control of the National Library Centre), and he added that it should be developed in consultation with the university libraries. The services which he said should be provided included the central bibliographical records. The School Library Service should be detached, and the Country Library Service books entirely separate and perhaps housed elsewhere, and the Library School should be transferred to a university. In commenting on this letter, Alley wrote:84
Mr H.G. Miller, Librarian, Victoria University College, has courteously sent me a copy of his letter to you of 31st August in support of his statements at the interview with the Committee. It is inevitable that a question of this kind should disclose some differences of opinion and that all interested parties could not be expected to view the primary aim in the same light. However, apart from debatable issues I feel bound to comment on the misunderstanding revealed in Mr Miller's letter regarding the stock and page 263functions of the National Library Service now.
Before doing so I would refer to Mr Miller's interpretation of the NZLA Committee's policy. In paragraph (b) he states that the Committee does not favour an organization to meet the needs of research but wants a Library 'that will mainly look after the needs of the general reader.' The Committee, I am sure, from its discussion of this point and the framing of the recommendation, is convinced of the importance of the research needs to be met from a National Library and the deduction that it is to become a general reader's library is Mr Miller's own.
After referring to Miller's description of SLS stock as 'school-books', he continued:
It was never suggested in any context that this collection and the Country Library Service field stock should form part of the National Library headquarters stock which is what Mr Miller is concerned about. The concept that in certain respects the National Library should complement the stock of the university libraries as far as practicable is one with which I personally and I am sure all members of the Committee would agree. To a not insignificant extent this is increasingly done by the National Library Service both in general acquisitions and through the Library Association's Co-operative Purchase Scheme…. I do know that many members of the academic staff at Victoria College have on numerous occasions expressed satisfaction at what is available. This conclusion is perhaps represented by the fact that Victoria College borrows more books from this Service than any other university library.
Miller published an expanded version of his statement in New Zealand Libraries in November 1955.85 This drew dissenting opinions from Bagnall, Perry and C.W. Tolley, which were responded to by Miller, who was in turn responded to by Perry.86 Miller's stand was supported by Frank Rogers, an Englishman who had been Librarian of the University of Otago since 1949 and, having done much to raise the profile of archives work in New Zealand, had been president of the NZLA in 1955/56. When Rogers said in his presidential address,87 'I agree with Mr Miller', he was about to migrate to Australia, leaving Miller to fight his own battles. Miller had spoiled what might have been a case worth serious consideration by displaying a vast ignorance and incomprehension of what was actually being done by libraries outside the small and rather ineffectual 'learned' libraries of the day, so that his expression of his views did not carry much weight at this time. But in the years to come, when dissent on the national library proposal developed on other grounds, some of the things he had said were page 264remembered and used by the new opponents. We shall come to that.
When the Public Service Commission committee got down to drafting its report it embarked on another round of consultations. At an early stage Hunn showed a draft to Alister McIntosh, who wrote to him88 saying, 'I would have thought, though I have not read it, that the case put forward by the NZLA would have contained the soundest ideas.' McIntosh suggested that the draft should be shown to Dunningham: 'He is the most widely experienced librarian in NZ and the most fertile of ideas. I don't think he is as good an all round administrator as Alley, but the two of them are … as able a pair of librarians as you would find in any country today.' He also urged that the draft should be shown in confidence to the NZLA: 'After all the Assn. started this and it would be wise to get their full co-operation … Librarians, like any other group, are a fairly divided body and contentious in their attitude.'
McIntosh, in this letter, gave a warning about the question of parliamentary privilege and prestige and about 'irrational views likely to be taken by Parliamentarians', and added, 'In addition, nowadays, we have the personal attitude of the Speaker, about which I am not prepared to put myself on record.' The Speaker, Sir Matthew Oram, was the chairman of the parliamentary library committee and therefore in a position to influence its members' attitudes towards the draft.
On 1 February 1956 Hunn, accompanied by A.B. Thompson, met McIntosh and Alley to discuss the draft and noted their views on a number of issues. Both felt that the past history of the Department of Internal Affairs was not auspicious and that a proper national library would be more educational in its emphasis. They advised on the degree of credence that should be given to the evidence of some of those who had met the committee and said that 'the error in Mr Dunningham's proposals was that he considered a regional set-up could be arranged "in a day"'; however, the strength of Dunningham's evidence lay in his rebuttal of the Miller/ Gordon89 opinion (Ian Gordon, professor of English at Victoria Universtiy, was Miller's main academic supporter). They agreed that the report should take the emphasis off a new building and stress the need to get the national library founded, and they suggested that the committee should not hasten towards presentation of its report but allow time for discussion.90
The draft was also made available to the NZLA's committee, which agreed that it represented general agreement with the association's submissions and suggested only minor changes (which were accepted) – for instance, that in a statement that 'the Victoria University College folk thought the National Library should be purely a reference library', the words 'the Victoria University College folk' should read 'Mr Miller and Professor Gordon'.91page 265
The final report,
[N.Z. Public Service Commission. National Library Committee] Proposed National Library 1956. Report of Committee set up by Public Service Commission to examine proposals from the New Zealand Library Association to the Prime Minister. Wn, Public Service Commission, 1956. (Bagnall N3064)92
was completed in April 1956 and was sent to the acting prime minister at the end of May.93 Its main conclusion was: 'There is a need for a National Library integrating the services of the present State libraries to eliminate unnecessary overlap; to reinforce the Parliamentary collection with other collections; to provide a central direct reference service of scholastic material; to co-ordinate library services throughout the community; to overcome critical accommodation difficulties; in general to ensure the maximum benefit from the finance available for library purposes'; and the committee noted (p. 27): 'It was pleasing to find such a large area of common ground among [those who responded] – a fact which leads the Committee to feel confident that the policy proposals of the New Zealand Library Association are essentially sound and, in the main, ripe for acceptance.'
The report favoured the amalgamation of all the functions of the existing state libraries but with provision for safeguarding special aspects of each library's identity. Regarding the Alexander Turnbull Library, it noted that 'there was a general consensus that a National Library in New Zealand would be incomplete without the Turnbull stocks', and recommended that the original collection and natural accretions have their identity preserved as 'The Alexander Turnbull Collection'. With regard to the General Assembly Library it recommended that a special parliamentary section be maintained as a separate unit, which was consistent with Jim Wilson's statement favouring the formation of a national library provided that a working parliamentary library of 10,000 volumes was retained. Regarding departmental control, the report favoured Education, with Internal Affairs as a second choice. It did not recommend the inclusion of the national archives (which had dropped out of consideration at an early stage) but said that the archives should be housed close to the library.
There followed a lengthy period during which the various interested parties raised points and jockeyed for position. In particular, the Speaker insisted that the parliamentary library committee should have time to study the report before it was released to outsiders, so that, although Cabinet approved in principle some early moves towards its implementation on 21 August 1956,94 there was a long hiatus before the council of the NZLA was able to see it.95 During that period, however, both Bolt and Alley page 266submitted to the government that a national library administration should be established before the drafting of a statute.96
The delay was caused partly by a resolution of the parliamentary library committee which was sent to the prime minister on 11 March 1956 but did not become public until September. Reporting that Mr Hunn had given it 'all available information' but that 'the committee was not satisfied that the whole story had been given', the committee recommended that the matter should be referred to a recess select parliamentary committee which should 'be set up and charged with the responsibility of calling evidence from all interested parties … and of submitting its recommendations to Parliament'.97 Hunn said later that the suggestion that further information would be needed to arrive at a sound decision was 'a piece of political sophistry. The fact of the matter was that the Legislative Assembly Library was fighting a rearguard action against losing its independence, and this placed the parliamentary Library Committee in an awkward position. They did not wish to abandon their own library to an unwanted liaison so they stalled for time.'98
The government eventually decided to agree to the parliamentary library committee's request for the national library issue to be examined by a select committee, but it did so in a more positive way than some of the committee's members might have wished. On 24 October 1957, on the motion of Keith Holyoake, who was now prime minister, Parliament ordered 'That a Select Committee be appointed, consisting of 10 members, to inquire into and report upon: (a) the ways and means of carrying out the decision of the Government99 to establish a National Library and all matters relating or incidental thereto; (b) the place and functions of the present State libraries and services within the framework of the National Library; (c) the administrative direction and control of the National Library; (d) the provision of an adequate library and reference service for members of Parliament, and the control of such service; (e) generally any other matter which the Committee may deem relevant to the establishment of the National Library.'100
Details of the membership and chairmanship of the select committee were not settled at this time, since a general election was due in less than six weeks, but the prime minister wrote to the NZLA, enclosing a copy of the terms of reference of the select committee and suggesting that the association might prepare its views for submission to it.101
The general election which was held on 30 November 1957 resulted in a change of government. The Labour Party won 41 of the 80 seats in Parliament, and Walter Nash became prime minister. Once again, Alley had to await the appointment of a new minister of education.