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Geoffrey Alley, Librarian: His Life & Work

Chapter 13 — Heading for a National Library

page 311

Chapter 13
Heading for a National Library

Graham Bagnall was appointed acting director of the National Library Service for the period of Alley's absence. Hector Macaskill added the Country Library Service to his responsibility for the School Library Service. Bagnall took overall responsibility for the promotion of the pilot scheme, based on Palmerston North, which would be the first major attempt for many years to move the provision of public library service forward from the system that had developed during the life of the CLS. The scheme was designed to enable an integrated district service to be organised in the 15 counties and 16 boroughs of the Manawatu, Rangitikei, and Wairarapa areas, very familiar to Bagnall, who had grown up in the Manawatu and had published histocal works on the Wairarapa. In a move that was criticised later, it was presented on 31 May 1960, without any prior indication of its main features, to a meeting of representatives of the local authorities in Palmerston North by Skoglund, Macaskill, and Bagnall. The regional headquarters were to be in Palmerston North, and district centres to be in seven towns, including Palmerston North. Boroughs were to contribute 6s. per head and counties 2s., the government subsidy being 4s. These funds would allow a local organisation to be set up to provide a full and appropriate range of services to the population of the district (estimated at 159,000), the incentive to do so being the government subsidy.

This initial meeting was followed by visits to each authority by J.E.C. (Courtney) Shearer, a CLS field librarian who had a way with councillors, librarians, and town clerks, but was inclined to be sanguine in detecting difficulties. He explained the plan in detail and made arrangements for other meetings between local representatives and senior NLS people. The aim was to persuade enough of the authorities to agree to take part in the pilot scheme to ensure that it would be possible to organise and present a viable operating district service. By the end of the year 15 of the authorities (Palmerston North, nine boroughs, and five counties) had agreed to participate or approved in principle, 12 (six counties and six boroughs) had declined or were unwilling to agree at the time, and four counties were still page 312undecided.1 In a way this was an encouraging response to what Bagnall called, in his account of the campaign,2 'what was to most a novel and complex proposal', but only in the neighbourhood of Palmerston North would it have been possible to obtain a contiguous grouping which could support a truncated scheme. It was therefore impossible to go ahead within the original time-frame, and after a change of government at the end of 1960 the scheme was officially abandoned, 'for the time being at least'.3 Since Alley's acceptance of government support for the scheme was tactical in the first place, it is not surprising that there is no evidence that he tried to avert this decision.

There were, of course, many post-mortems, including Bagnall's account of the attempt, cited above, which included 'Observations and Comments', and a more detailed internal report4 in which he said, 'So far as stock is concerned the C.L.S. system of exchange meets very well the impossibility of small libraries covering the full range. If this were all that were at issue a good case could be made for more C.L.S. branches'. Jean Wright, in commenting on this report, wrote, 'I still feel that the approach should have been from below … There should be a constant selling at the consumer end with a longer talking period.' Mary Ronnie, writing much later, maintains that the whole campaign was marred by excessive discretion, secretiveness, and unwillingness to confide in those whom the CLS was wooing.5

These comments are all compelling, but the real question that must be asked is whether the proposals were sensible in the first place. The overriding problem in providing for library service coverage in New Zealand was still the fragmented nature of the local government system and the associated difficulty of getting voluntary co-operation between small authorities whose attentions were focused, perforce, on roads and bridges and water supplies. The Country Library Service was a pragmatic device for overcoming these difficulties and, because of Alley's belief in the fundamental intelligence of New Zealand people, had provided a popular, challenging, and much-appreciated service. It was not perfect, but how were the public to know this when they liked what they currently had?

In his thoughtful analysis of the failure of 'the attempt' Bagnall suggested that some organic modification to the original plan was likely to be the most fruitful reaction. He reported that within the CLS there was 'a feeling that more effort should be put into revising and extending our own patterns of distribution, which after all are much the same as they have been for over twenty years. It is not unlikely that somewhere along the line there are points where changes could be made to make regional development a more logical extension of what is being done now'. This kind of approach, though on a larger scale than Bagnall suggested, might have been the best way to proceed, but it would have needed the kind of long-term vision page 313and long, hard effort that enabled Alley to create and consolidate the CLS in the first place, and he did not have the energy or the time to embark on another life's work at the age of 58. At a meeting of CLS officers in February 1961 he said that 'the form [of the CLS] which was worked out 23 years ago must not necessarily be considered the prototype for all time because the Service must change to meet changing needs'.6 But there was no one who could take up the challenge, and in any case, although he could express sensible views of this kind in meetings, the incumbent Alley had by now reached the stage of being very suspicious of proposals made by others for changes or improvements to his Country Library Service. So the CLS continued as before, as an organisation whose success was, as some have said, 'a disincentive to change',7 but which was part of the way of life, valuing people above theories, which represented the New Zealand of that time.

It is very likely that faults in the planning of the Palmerston North survey had their origin in Alley's relative lack of commitment to it. Jean Wright (to whom Alley confided many of his thoughts) had the impression that he did not think the Palmerston North scheme would succeed, and both Helen Sullivan and Malvina Jones, CLS stalwarts, remembered his saying that he regarded local government reorganisation as the key to regional development.8 His main long-term concern, as he lay in his hospital bed, was that the campaign for a national library should not be frustrated by ill-planned, short-term decisions or by lack of vigilance in the lobbies. In August 1960 Tom Clifford, the Public Service Commission inspector who had special responsibility for the NLS, and who had been trying to get some action on the national library proposal, visited Alley with Graham Bagnall. Points which he noted in reporting on their conversation included: (a) with regard to the Treasury objection to acting on the national library committee's recommendation that an administration should be established first, this was necessary because a lot of preliminary planning would be needed before the bricks and mortar stage was reached; (b) Nash and Mr Mason supported the proposal, but a number of other ministers were neither for nor against it; (c) 'Mr Wilson of the General Assembly Library was in a position to influence ministers against the proposal.'9 Alley followed this discussion by writing to the chairman of the Public Service Commission (L.A. Atkinson) suggesting a procedure for implementing the recommendations of the national library committee. Among other things he said: 'It may be thought necessary that Cabinet in appointing a National Librarian should at the same time appoint an Advisory Committee.'10

It was probably too early to expect anything to happen as a result of these discussions, but in any case there was another change of government in November 1960, when the National Party was returned to power page 314under Keith Holyoake with a comfortable majority of 46 to 34. The new government was different in texture from the National government of the 1950s, as a result of the withdrawal of older members and the increased experience of promising younger ones. The new minister of education was W. Blair Tennent, a dentist who had been active in local and national politics and was currently MP for Manawatu.

When he was in Australia, Keyes Metcalf had decided that he should try to break the deadlock caused by Alley's reluctance, for various reasons, to accept offers of a travelling fellowship to visit the United States. Writing to Alley in July 1959 he said: 'Let me say to you again something that I hope you already understand: that is, that we were tremendously impressed by what you have accomplished in New Zealand. I very much hope that you will find it possible to come to the United States in the not too distant future and talk with the librarians that are trying to do the kind of work that you have done so successfully in New Zealand. I can go on to say that you may be able to get some ideas from us'.11 A couple of months later Metcalf spoke to Stephen Stackpole of the Carnegie Corporation, who made the following note of the conversation: 'M believes that Alley is one of the great library figures in the world. He feels that a visit to the U.S. and to Australia and South Africa now would be very useful not only to Alley but to these countries. He feels that the N.Z. National Library Service is one of the most extensive anywhere and that Alley's experience could be of real use in other situations. M understands that 10 years ago Alley had an opportunity to come. He did not seize it for 2 reasons: (1) pressure of work and (2) the fact that his brother, now in China, was under a cloud in N.Z. and he felt that it might be difficult for him to get a visa.'12

Stackpole wrote in November 1959, saying that, as a result of his discussions with Metcalf, he hoped that it would now be possible for Alley to accept a renewed offer of a travel grant, and asking him to say when and for what length of time he would be able to get away.13 The car accident occurred before Alley could do this, but in November 1960, having arranged matters with the Carnegie Corporation (including a grant of $US6000)14 and worked out an itinerary with Metcalf 's help, he applied to the Public Service Commission for seven months' special leave on pay, 'for the purpose of visiting the United States and England to study state library services, library buildings, and to make necessary contacts concerned with the supply of books and periodicals to this Service'.15 Initial reaction was swift and unfavourable. An anonymous minute-writer thought the application should be declined because of the time that Alley had had off duty following his motor accident, and that 'the matters he intends to investigate are problems which could be solved by correspondence or by architects'. Another noted that the commission page 315had usually been sympathetic to leave for study under Carnegie grants, but thought the case for including the United Kingdom seemed 'rather thin'. A series of meetings involving the director of education, the chairman of the Public Service Commission, the minister of education, the prime minister, the Cabinet, and Uncle Tom Clifford and all, led finally to approval being given for leave for seven months and payment of 'full salary – but no other expenses – for a period of four months', the rest being leave without pay. A comment that 'there is little doubt that there is an element of "working holiday" in Mr Alley's proposals' was left on the file.16

Geoff and Euphan sailed from Wellington in February 1961 in the Dutch liner Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, and arrived in New York on 17 March. Graham Bagnall became once again acting director of the NLS. In his four months in North America Alley travelled from east to west, from north to south, and through the heartland, visiting university and college libraries, public libraries large and small, library schools, special libraries, and state libraries. Unlike younger travellers who set out early in their careers, he was observing from an informed point of view, but it was a point of view that was critical and receptive at the same time. After completing the main part of their itinerary, the Alleys went back to Boston to the Metcalfs, who took them to small libraries in Belmont, Lexington, and Concord, as well as to Harvard. In Dartmouth they introduced the Alleys to Robert Frost, the poet of New England, whom they encountered in an inn. The Metcalfs and the Alleys then drove to Cleveland, Ohio, for conferences of the American Library Association and the Association of Research Libraries – and to see libraries in the country of Metcalf 's youth. Six years later Alley referred, in writing to Metcalf, to 'the wonderful trip out to Cleveland', adding, 'But the whole 4 months in your country was an outstanding experience.'17

At the NZLA conference in February 1962 Alley spoke of academic and research libraries, which, he thought, were increasingly occupying the centre of gravity of American librarianship. He spoke of the great numbers of well-planned library buildings he had seen, as well as a few outstandingly beautiful and excellent ones; of the 'whole-of-life' (i.e. public) library sector, of which he was surprisingly critical; and of what he thought was the outstanding lesson from the libraries of the United States, which was that the idea of the library was strong in the community, the fundamental point of 'the community's belief in libraries, its willingness to put its hand in both pockets, community and personal, to provide and maintain them'.18

The North American sector was followed by a trip to the United Kingdom, where Ruth was living. While they were there Geoff and Euphan visited the Wickhambrook Nurseries in Suffolk on 31 August 1961, when Geoff 's authority on pomological matters, Justin Brooke, entertained them page 316to lunch. The menu, it is recorded, included English country bread, cheese, and pears19 cooked in a special way. Soon afterwards Geoff flew back to New Zealand, while Euphan stayed in Britain for a while before returning by sea.

While Alley was overseas, Stuart Perry wrote in New Zealand Libraries of national library developments in Canada and Australia, and noted that 'New Zealand seems to have ground to a standstill'.20 Just at this time, though, the new government decided to establish a Royal Commission on the State Services in New Zealand, which provided another opportunity for library interests to urge that the decisions already made 'in principle' to establish a national library by the amalgamation of the three state libraries should be implemented. The royal commission, which was established in July 1961, was chaired by the Hon. Thaddeus McCarthy, judge of the Supreme Court. Its three other members were M.O. Barnett, a prominent lawyer; K.J. Scott, head of the School of Public Administration at Victoria University; and J. Turnbull, an experienced public servant. When Scott died later the same month he was replaced by R.H. Brookes, professor of political science at Victoria University. The commission's terms of reference included two matters which had direct relevance to the national library proposal. These were:
  • Any improvement that should be made in the machinery of Government, in relation to the organisation, co-ordination and control of Departments of State and Government agencies.
  • Any major functions that should be redistributed among Departments and Government agencies, or that should be transferred to or from any new or existing agency or body.'

The NZLA's submission to the royal commission was prepared by a subcommittee of the council consisting of Jock McEldowney, David Wylie, and John Cole. Cole, who was a fairly new member of the council, had joined the staff of the Alexander Turnbull Library in 1953 as Clyde Taylor's assistant, and, as the Turnbull's historian says, 'had played an important role in increasing the professionalism of the Library'.21 The sub-committee decided, after very full discussion in which Cole was asked to scrutinise every point in the light of its possible effect on the Turnbull Library, to emphasise the continuity of the association's policies by reaffirming its submissions to Hunn's inter-departmental committee and to the parliamentary select committee, and reiterating its support for the conclusions reached by those committees. The submission was therefore written, in effect, as an appendix to what had gone before, with some general supplementary comments. Admitting, for instance, that the royal commission must be page 317concerned with what was administratively possible, it submitted that 'the first and most essential step is to establish an administration with a National Librarian who is in a position to begin immediately the work of co-ordinating the functions of the National Library'. On the question of the serious accommodation problems of the National Library Service, which had been used elsewhere as a red herring, it said that these had been made worse because of the failure of the government to act earlier, but that 'the best solution will be found in the context of a National Library'. It also stressed 'the vital importance of giving the National Librarian a status in keeping with the standing of the institution he will be expected to plan and organise'.22

The Public Service Commission also supported the thrust of the recommendations of the two official committees, though it now thought that the national library should be in Internal Affairs rather than Education,23 a view which it presented to the royal commission at a hearing in August, when Bagnall wrote to Alley, 'The reasons advanced for Internal Affairs are presumably Jack Hunn's and are amusingly tenuous in places.'24 Alley, in his own submission, agreed with the Public Service Commission's submission that the administration of the national library should come first, but not with its new-found enthusiasm for the Department of Internal Affairs. On the question of accommodation for the NLS he said: 'Our position is so bad that it has been affecting the recruitment and retention of staff … The situation is, in a word, impossible.'25 Treasury's contribution was to stick to its interpretation of the recommendations of the national library committee (the parliamentary select committee), and especially to its wish for a building for the National Library Service before all else.

The NZLA's submission was presented to the royal commission by Stuart Perry, while Graham Bagnall kept an eye on proceedings on behalf of the NLS. Both Perry and Bagnall were able on 28 November 1961 to question the Treasury representative, A.B. Taylor, on Treasury's comments on the national library proposal.26 Referring to a Treasury statement that the concept of a national library was still not clear-cut, for instance, Bagnall pointed to substantial agreement by the Hunn working party and the select committee, which had been endorsed by the NZLA, the NLS, and (in substantial measure) by the Public Service Commission, and asked, 'Could Mr Taylor tell us in what further respects the concept of a National Library could be clarified before some progress could be made, bearing in mind that the first stage in which these reports are in agreement envisages the appointment of a National Librarian to work out the developmental details beyond that point?' In his replies to this and other questions, Taylor focused on Treasury's objections to going ahead with a national library building. When Bagnall referred to a statement by the Public Service Commission page 318that 'no progress has been made in the last 18 months, largely because of Treasury objection', and commented that 'in 1959, presumably assuming ignorance of the fact that Cabinet some years earlier had approved in principle of the National Library, you, as I understand it, recommended against the establishment of a National Library and the appointment of a National Librarian', Taylor's answer was: 'Our view is that there are a lot of problems needing to be solved before you go ahead and put up a building.'

Perry then homed in on the same points. 'I take it,' he said, 'that while Treasury sees objection to recommending an immediate appropriation for housing, Treasury has no objection to the setting up of that committee [as recommended by the select committee] and the appointment of a National Librarian.' To this Taylor said: 'I think it is the cart before the horse. I think the interests of the three libraries, the way that it is going to come together and be integrated should be settled before you get a National Library. There is one very important thing that we have been up against and that is where Sir Matthew Oram27 said, Over my dead body would the General Assembly Library leave.'

After Perry had tried to get Taylor to accept the select committee's recommendation on the early appointment of a national librarian, commission member J. Turnbull entered the discussion:

Turnbull: 'Mr Taylor, this inter-departmental [Hunn] committee or working party … it did not have any representative of local authorities, did it?'
Taylor: 'No, I don't think so.'
Turnbull: 'Who did it make its report to? Do you know that?'
Taylor: 'No, I don't know the answer to that one.'
A voice: 'Through the Chairman of the Public Service Commission to the Prime Minister.'
Turnbull: 'Do you know if it was supported by the Public Service Commission?'
Taylor: 'I would think that is a certainty because it went through Cabinet.'
Turnbull: 'And it was approved by Cabinet?'
Taylor: 'Yes, in principle.'
Turnbull: 'Now, the Select Committee … I presume that made its recommendations to the House, did it?'
Taylor: 'Yes, to the House.'
Turnbull: 'And did the House just receive it or adopt it? Do you happen to know?'
Taylor: 'No, I don't know what they did with it.'page 319
Turnbull: 'Do you know whether Cabinet endorsed it or approved it?'
Taylor: 'No, I don't know the answer on that.'

During the rest of Turnbull's examination, Taylor agreed that someone needed to make definite recommendations, but stayed with the idea that Treasury should solve the problem. Much of his argument was against going ahead with a building.

Writing to Jock McEldowney, who had just gone to the University of Otago to be its Librarian, Bagnall said, 'Stuart did very well at the Royal Commission this morning. A.B. Taylor Clyde's28 brother was in the box presenting the Treasury case and C.S.P. succeeded in showing that they were agin apptmt of National Librarian and agin a building now and that their only solution was to leave the whole thing to Treasury which caused some amusement to those present including the Royal Comm. McCarthy and Jack Turnbull both alluded to NLS working conditions (the Chairman twice) & made it clear that they expected something done – what were the necessary stages? etc. Water over the dam I suppose but quite cheering for a few minutes.'29

In its 470-page report,30 which it submitted on 28 June 1962, the royal commission, dealing with the national library question on pages 141–2, said that the evidence it heard had supported the conclusions reached by 'these two well-qualified committees' (Hunn's and the parliamentary select committee) and stated, firmly: 'Though a single building is necessary to the fully effective working of a National Library, we consider that the setting up of the library organisation should not be delayed until the building is erected. Matters could be immediately improved by legislating for and appointing the National Librarian, the administrative organisation, and the advisory council recommended by the Parliamentary Committee of 1958. These three should plan the exact scope and development of the National Library, including the type and size of the building needed.' The commission's first recommendation was in line with this statement. Its second (and only other) recommendation was: 'For administrative convenience the library be associated with the Department of Education, but the National Librarian have the degree of autonomy stated in paragraph 153 and the status of a Permanent Head.' The degree of autonomy defined in paragraph 153 was made up of 'direct access to the Minister of Education (as the Director of the National Service now has), to the State Services Commission [which was to absorb the Public Service Commission], to the Treasury, and to any other relevant control authorities … free to prepare his own estimates and defend them before the Public Accounts Committee … [and] like the present Director of the National Library Service, be responsible for formulating and carrying into effect the policy page 320of the library, subject to Cabinet and Ministerial control and aided by an advisory council.' The status of a permanent head was defined as being appointed under a procedure which the commission was recommending for permanent heads, the appointment being not subject to appeal.

The report of the Royal Commission on the State Services of New Zealand, like the reports of previous inquiries which had dealt with the national library proposal, set off a flurry of correspondence and memowriting within the public service, but this time, possibly because of the positive tone and directness of the royal commission itself, most of it seemed to be designed to get things moving. It took a little while for the wheels to begin turning, and there are some other matters which we should now consider before going on with the national library story. But portents of things to come can be seen in a couple of reports by Public Service Commission officials. J.F. Robertson summarised the royal commission's views on this topic and suggested that the next steps by the Public Service Commission should be: (1) general discussion with the minister of education and a meeting with the Speaker [now R.M. Algie]; (2) seeking approval through the Cabinet committee on government administration and the Cabinet itself; (3) appointing a national librarian and an advisory committee and setting them working on the scope and development of the national library, including the size and style of a building, the preparation of a draft bill, and the establishment of central control.31

Three weeks after the date of Robertson's report, R.J. MacLachlan of the Public Service Commission reported on a discussion with Alley. Mr Alley, he said, called by arrangement on 25 October 1962 and was pleased that someone was at last initiating action. He thought there should be discussion with the Speaker concerning the General Assembly Library, and with the secretary for internal affairs concerning the Turnbull Library. Draft legislation not a high priority – first get government approval for a national library, then appoint national librarian with a working party. – biggest problem was a suitable building – 'thinks an overseas expert should be employed to write the brief for New Zealand architects to design'. Did not know his Minister's attitude and 'Says it took him some years to get Mr Algie enthusiastic and just when he got him to the point the Government went out of office.'32

Two of Alley's oldest associates died in the early 1960s. Sir James Shelley, who had been the first of his mentors, died on 18 March 1961. Ian Carter, writing in 1993, said, 'We live in times when much that he built is demolished around us in the name of morally stunted economic nostra that our hero would disdain utterly.'33 Alley, in the memoirs he dictated in 1980 before the devastation that Carter refers to, had described Shelley as 'the sower of seeds', and that is how he would have remembered him in 1961.

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Guy Scholefield, who was the senior state librarian when Alley became officer in charge of the Country Library Service, died on 19 July 1963, aged 86. By the time he retired in 1947 he had been rather overshadowed by the sudden growth of the National Library Service, but he had been a member of the Carnegie Library Group which had helped to launch the Country Library Service and he had been proud of their vigorous youngster.

The other state librarian of the time of Alley's early career, Clyde Taylor, also departed in 1963, but this was by retirement after 30 years at the Alexander Turnbull Library, 26 as chief librarian. In a note on his retirement Graham Bagnall wrote: 'It is well known that Mr Taylor has consistently held to his reservations regarding the inclusion of the Library in a National Library despite the assurances which have been made. Many of us differ from him on this question but we respect the vigour and consistency with which he has followed his policy.'34

In 1961, the standing committee of university librarians, which had weathered the storm which its creation in 1958 had raised, asked the new University Grants Committee (UGC) to establish the standing committee on library resources which the Hughes Parry committee had recommended.35 The UGC supported the idea of such a committee 'as an advisory committee to the Universities', but suggested to the equally new Vice-Chancellors' Committee that it should establish and maintain it. So the Standing Committee on Library Resources came into being, with terms of reference which were wide enough for it to consider anything that might affect university libraries.36 Its membership consisted of the Librarian and one academic from each university institution, and the NZLA was invited to appoint another member. Deputy librarians were later permitted to attend meetings, provided they didn't expect to receive expenses. When J.T. Campbell, professor of mathematics at Victoria University, convened the first meeting of the standing committee on 23 August 1963 Alley was present as the NZLA's nominee, having been appointed because of his convenership of the association's library resources committee (the old book resources committee re-branded). He remained a member of it, in one capacity or another, until his retirement at the end of 1967, but he never seemed to be really comfortable in this group, even though he was used to working with its members in other contexts.

Another organisation with which Alley had a rather unenthusiastic relationship was the National Council of Adult Education, of which he was, nevertheless, chairman for a year in 1959/60. He had regarded the council, to which he belonged by virtue of his position as director of the National Library Service, as unwieldy and ineffective in trying to run adult education through other bodies. He had also been disappointed in the failure of most of those who were concerned with the adult education page 322system to accept that libraries should be seen as an integral part of it. A new approach was suggested in 1961 by F.J. Llewellyn, who for a brief period was chairman of both the council and the University Grants Committee. Based on a much smaller council whose functions were more investigative and advisory, and on more flexibility in the duties imposed on universities, this led to a new act which was passed in October 1963.37 It also led to Alley's ex officio membership being dropped, but this did not worry him. 'It is with relief that I personally contemplate the proposed change,' he wrote to P. Martin Smith, the national secretary; 'The amount of time and work involved in meetings of all kinds for the National Council has been considerable and the amount of benefit to library service slight.'38 John Sage, who was now the honorary secretary of the NZLA, pointed out, in an analysis of the draft bill, that the association should consider its possible effect on libraries: 'The library-centred provision of adult education which was envisaged in the 1945 submissions has not come about but nevertheless libraries have played a useful part in collaborating with the work of regional councils.' Alley commented on this: 'Council doesn't matter. Present one ineffective and the proposed one is obviously so.'39 But it was not his concern now.

In 1960 Alley appealed against his salary grading, which at that time was £1860, or about 82 per cent of the salary of an assistant director of education. Despite a recommendation by the director of education that his salary should be raised to £2000, the matter was deferred pending a decision on a national library and the appointment of a national librarian. He appealed again in 1961, but because of the events which had kept him out of action this appeal was not heard until October 1962. By this time his salary was £2300, or 77 per cent of the salary of an assistant director of education.

In presenting his case in 1962, in an eight-page submission, Alley drew comparisons with university librarians, who could be paid up to £2350 (the equivalent of senior lecturer in charge of a department), and city librarians (including Wellington, where the salary was £2430 plus a car allowance of £100). 'Since the National Library Service has more staff,' he wrote, 'wider responsibilities, greater expenditure than the four university libraries together … there should be recognition in its salary structure of this fact…. A reasonable comparison would be that of the Librarians of the National Library Centre and the School Library Service with the University Librarians.' In explanation of his action in appealing Alley said, 'This appeal has been brought not for personal reasons but because there would appear to be no other way of repairing the very serious harm that has been done and will continue to be done, if proper recognition, by way of reasonably competitive salaries, is not made in the National Library Service.'40

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The Board of Appeal heard Alley's case on 28 September 1962. Tom Clifford (the Public Service Commission inspector) appeared for the commission, and Jock McEldowney was called as a witness by Alley, which might have been a bit premature in view of his recent departure from the National Library Service. In his report to the commissioner41 Clifford wrote: 'When I discussed the appeal with Arnold Campbell [director of education since 1960] prior to the hearing he said that he did not know enough about Mr Alley's service to appear as Permanent Head. Accordingly, I put the Commission's case without a Departmental representative being present' – which could be taken as an indication of the downside of having direct access to the minister. After the hearing Alley wrote to McEldowney: 'Finally got away about 3.25 and no doubt in due course we shall hear the result – I am being pessimistic about it, in spite of there having been some direct hits scored. But the target is curiously impervious or lacking a registration capacity.'42

The appeal was not allowed. Clifford gave his view, in his report, that 'In comparison with City Librarians and University Librarians Mr Alley is not well paid … Mr Alley is running his service,' he went on, 'with direct access to the Minister pretty well as a self-contained unit. He is thoroughly conscientious, at times as awkward as only an All Black lock can be, but I have the feeling that a little recognition now would do a power of good.' Clifford could not do anything to overturn the decision of the Board of Appeal, but he recommended an increase, personal to officer, to £2450 from 1 April 1962, and the commissioner agreed to this. This put Alley back to 82 per cent of the current salary of an assistant director of education. It did nothing, of course, for the library profession as a whole; it was a grace and favour increase which did not apply to the position.

After the NZLA celebrated its jubilee in 1960, Alley remained on its council for a year as immediate past president. He retained his close interest in the association, and he was always a powerful figure who was consulted and relied upon, but in many areas of its work he was no longer directly interested, and in some areas the new generation of senior librarians was developing attitudes which differed from his. He gradually reduced his membership of council committees, until, by the 1964/65 year, he was a member of only the hospital library service, the library legislation, the library resources, and the public library service committees, a group which reflected many of his long-term interests while not compromising his position over matters, such as the national library proposal, in which he could not risk conflicts of interest.

In 1960 the NZLA bought a property to which it transferred its office. Since Alley became its honorary secretary in 1942 the office had been housed, rent free, by the CLS/NLS, but its location there, which page 324had been very appropriate at first, had become increasingly anomalous and ambiguous. For public relations reasons alone it was desirable that a separation should be arranged, but it was also desirable for members of the association to feel that their organisation was completely independent. From Alley's point of view, too, it was better that he should be supported, on many important issues, by an association which had clearly established its own policies, while on other issues differences of opinion were arrived at separately.

The NZLA, in this period, was still an active organisation. In 1961 it established an award for the written record of notable library work which it named after John Harris,43 and made submissions to the Royal Commission on the State Services not only on the proposed national library but also on service personnel policies, when it argued that professionally qualified librarians should have the same degree of recognition as other professional groups in the public service.44 In 1961 and 1962 it put its views on school libraries and school librarianship to a commission on education in New Zealand which produced a good set of recommendations,45 of which a reviewer (a concerned teacher) said, in welcoming them, 'but it is up to us to see that they are not lost sight of as were so many of the library recommendations in the [1944] Thomas Report'46 (they were, on the whole). Submissions on a copyright bill were made in 1962.47 Committees established to formulate policies on music library service and on library service to Maori reported in 1963.48 These are but a sample. It was a productive period for the association, in which the tradition of active involvement by senior members of the profession was still strong.

The problems which the Library School experienced in recruiting suitable graduates for its professional course continued throughout the 1950s and into the 1960s. In the five years from 1958 to 1962 the number of New Zealanders accepted for the course was 67, the low point of 10 being reached in 1962. In these same years 10 Asian students added to the cultural mix and no doubt broadened the New Zealanders' horizons, but the school was always vulnerable to questions about its viability. The Asian students, and those who had attended since 1952 for a six-week period to complete part II of the NZLA certificate course, enabled the school to maintain a reasonable level of activity, but the number of professionally qualified librarians being produced for New Zealand libraries through the main course was dangerously low for a period when libraries of all kinds seemed likely to have greater demands placed upon them. But then, in 1963, the school was able to assemble a professional class of 19; in 1964 the number rose to 21, and in 1965 to 25 (excluding Colombo Plan students). That particular crisis was over.

Looking back to that period, it can be seen that one of Alley's most page 325important achievements was to keep the light of professional library education burning, even if it was flickering. In his contribution to the 1962 annual report of the NLS, Brian O'Neill, who had taken over the directorship of the Library School, estimated that, on current projections of average working lives, 14 graduates a year could maintain a professional force of 200, which was about the current level of staffing but made no allowance for expansion and development.49 When the number of people wanting to enter the profession rose, the school was there and able to take them. It had established a tradition of teaching; libraries were accustomed to looking to it for professional recruits; it had enabled the library world to organise itself generally on a professional model, even if, in some quarters, this model was not completely understood. It had also begun to produce by-products which were the results of research. Since its early days it had made available for consultation some of the students' bibliographical and administrative studies, and in 1960 it started publishing some of the more notable ones.50 In 1961 it convened a study group to consider questions relating to the free-and-rental policy in public libraries, which also produced a useful and provocative publication.51 With limited resources and a small staff who had to work under standard public service conditions, the school could not branch out too enthusiastically in these ways, but what it was able to do set objectives for the future.

There were, however, a number of problems looming over education for librarianship which were just becoming apparent in the early 1960s, but which were eventually to lead to differences of opinion and difficult negotiations over the better part of a couple of decades. In the first place, the professional course of the Library School, which had to be regarded as the core of any programme for library education, had passed through a period in which it was a miracle that it had survived at all, but now needed to be developed to cover the varying needs of a growing profession, including provision for advanced study and research. Its existence had been safeguarded, to some extent, by the school's acceptance of responsibility for the conduct of part II of the NZLA certificate course, but the addition of a lower-level course had inherent dangers for the main work of the school, which became more ominous when recruitment to the certificate course began to increase after 1956: the number of certificates awarded, which was 24 in 1957, had risen to 38 in 1960. As well, the increase in the number of students was causing difficulties for the NZLA in organising teaching for part I of the certificate course, which was still conducted by correspondence by volunteer tutors. In effect, the whole structure of education for librarianship needed to be examined at this stage, and the situation was not helped by the fact that the NZLA's education committee included several members with a strong interest in long-term planning page 326whose ideas did not appeal to Alley. The major issues on which the two parties began to focus were the future organisation of library education at the professional and intermediate levels, and whether they should be developed together or in separate institutions.

In 1961 Stuart Perry raised the question of a university school, which had not been seriously considered since the 1940s, when the Library School had been established as part of the National Library Service because none of the university colleges could have undertaken the task, even if it had wanted to. In a report to the Wellington City Council on a visit to Australia Perry wrote: 'I believe our school should go to a University now, if the transfer can be made without any sacrifice of the impressive standards the present school has maintained.' This section of his report was made available to the NZLA,52 which decided to consult the director of the National Library Service before approaching Victoria University of Wellington, which was considered to be the most appropriate home for a library school because of its interests in public administration; but the prospect of a co-ordinated approach was hampered by the discovery that Alley had independently raised the matter with the university, which had indicated that the question of a library school might be considered during the next university quinquennial funding period of 1965–69. The NZLA council then asked its education committee to formulate a detailed basis on which the association could support the setting up of a university school. The document which was then produced53 said that the association believed that the present Library School would be able to meet the challenges of the future, but that it also believed that a university school would be able not only to improve the quality of library education but also to raise the status of librarianship as a career. This document became the starting point for future discussions which will be taken up in the next chapter.

The question of the rapidly growing NZLA certificate course was being tackled at the same time. A report written in 1961 by the honorary secretary of the NZLA said: 'From time to time it has been suggested that the Library School should take over some of the burden of conducting the [NZLA] Training Course. This proposal has appealed as an easy way out, but needs to be considered in relation to the effect on both the School and the Association.'54 After wide consultation within the association, the education committee recommended that the Technical Correspondence School be asked to undertake the tutoring for the course, but this was anathema to Alley, who immediately prepared a proposal that the Library School should take over responsibility for the conduct of the course, running it as a full-time course totalling about 12 weeks spread over a period of up to three years – that is, as a block course encompassing both page 327parts of the existing NZLA course. The association would still conduct a preliminary examination to sort out candidates, and it would still award its certificate to successful students. If the association agreed, Alley would do his best to obtain the approval of the minister of education and to secure the necessary space and staff.

In explaining his proposal regarding the certificate course, Alley said: 'The Association's Training Course cannot be replaced by one for "technicians", i.e. people primarily equipped to carry out technical processes such as preparing and checking orders, maintaining serial records, verifying entries, routine cataloguing, and similar tasks. An overwhelming majority of students work in public libraries, and they need an understanding of librarianship. While the development of special options should permit more advanced technical training for those who choose it, the greatest need will remain for the training of intermediate level librarians who are working with their public; they do not require advanced training, but they are librarians, not technicians.'55 He also added, referring to a suggestion that intermediate education should be continued by the National Library Service, that, since the Library School was the library education division of the NLS, its transfer to Victoria University would leave the NLS without the facilities for library education.

The NZLA was placed in an awkward position by this proposal, which Alley had produced so remarkably quickly. Its council formally accepted the offer in February 1964, but in doing so it placed on record its 'firm opinion that such action should not prejudice negotiations with the Victoria University of Wellington for the transfer of the Library School to the University'.56

On the question of a national library, on the other hand, the senses of purpose of Alley and the NZLA still coincided at this time, though it had become necessary for Alley to cease to be actively involved on behalf of the association. After the report of the Royal Commission on the State Services had been digested, there was a discernible turning of the tide in government waters. Politicians were showing signs of interest in what might lie ahead, and the public servants who advised ministers began to suggest that it might be time to catch the wind of the royal commission's recommendations. Alley was increasingly called upon to draft reports and memoranda for his minister which were aimed at achieving the objective of a national library, and it was essential for him not to be seen as promoting the views of an outside body. It was fortunate for the NZLA, in these circumstances, that it had the services of members like Perry and Collins who were able to carry on the task of presenting its views. At the same time, however, the growing sense of purpose on the part of those who were setting forth towards the goal of a national library was awakening those page 328who did not wish to be carried with the tide. The stage was being set for a running battle.

At the 1962 annual general meeting of the Friends of the Turnbull Library, Pat Lawlor, a prominent bibliophile who had been a founding member of the Friends and was currently their president, denounced the proposed amalgamation of the three state libraries as 'one of the worst examples of the heresy of depersonalisation now sweeping the world' and 'an interference with the identity of the Alexander Turnbull collection'.57 He received a good deal of vocal support for his views, particularly from fellow Wellington bibliophiles, whose proximity to Parliament magnified their effect, and the Friends of the Turnbull Library continued, over the next few years, to offer the strongest opposition to the national library plans. Treasury and the Department of Internal Affairs continued their opposition, too, but by now the government was increasingly inclined to override them.

On 11 December 1962 the minister of education, Blair Tennent, accompanied by A.E. Campbell, the director of education, and Alley, received a deputation from the NZLA consisting of Maida Clark (its president), Stuart Perry, Clifford Collins, and John Sage, who asked for action on the royal commission's recommendations. In presenting the association's request Perry said: 'It is more than apparent from the submissions of Treasury to the Royal Commission on the State Services and from the answers of the Treasury witness under cross-examination that Treasury was not only not prepared to assist in getting the recommendations …under way, but was actively determined that when a National Library was established it should be according to Treasury views and not the views of the various committees set up by the Prime Minister.' He suggested, therefore, that a Cabinet direction would be needed to achieve the appointment of a national librarian and the establishment of an administrative organisation and an advisory council.58 In preparation for this meeting L.A. Atkinson, chairman of the Public Service Commission, had provided Tennent with background notes in which he outlined in some detail the history of the national library proposal and said that nothing more could be achieved at the departmental level. He recommended 'most strongly' that Tennent ask the Cabinet to resolve the question of whether or not a national library should be established, and he set out the steps which would be needed to establish a national library administration.59

After Tennent reported to the Cabinet,60 and after T.P. (Tom) Shand, chairman of the Cabinet committee on government administration, had declared that he had sympathy for the establishment of a national library and that he would support any reasonable move in that direction,61 Holyoake asked Tennent to prepare a paper for Cabinet seeking approval in page 329principle,62 and after further discussion Cabinet resolved, on 17 October, to grant this. Six weeks later the prime minister announced that a national librarian would be appointed and that an inter-departmental committee would consider the steps to be taken to implement the government's decision. In making this statement, Holyoake stressed the government's intention to safeguard the integrity or character of the three institutions involved, and said that the committee would make recommendations on such matters.63

The president of the NZLA, Maida Clark, welcomed these developments in her presidential address, which she delivered in February 1964. 'The campaign for this essential development … seems to be nearing an end,' she said; 'A National Library, founded on an adequate and effective scale, will provide a coping stone for the construction of a library service of vision and vigour.'64 These views reflected the opinions of most members of the association, but they were not shared by all of those who were associated with the Alexander Turnbull Library. Both the Librarian and the Department of Internal Affairs had consistently said that, while they supported the concept of a national library, they did not consider that there was anything to be gained and thought that there was much to be lost by incorporating the Turnbull Library,65 and the Friends of the Turnbull Library had taken up the apocalyptic vision of the library's future as part of a national library with millennial foreboding. Until the end of 1962 they had taken part in successful delaying tactics, but the resolution of the Holyoake government had taken them by surprise in 1963.

In August 1963 Pat Lawlor was replaced by Denis Glover as president of the Friends. Pugilist, poet, printer, and publisher, sailor and veteran of the Arctic convoys and the Normandy landings, Glover was one of the most flamboyant members of the New Zealand literary world. Many would say that he was New Zealand's best lyrical poet, and he had revolutionised standards of printing and publishing in New Zealand in the 1930s. But after the war he had serious problems with alcohol which made it difficult for him to follow a steady career and which exaggerated his natural pugnacity. He was well liked and respected for his achievements, but his head was not always clear or his temper unruffled.

In 1963, also, Clyde Taylor retired from the position of chief librarian of the Turnbull Library and was replaced by John Cole. Cole had, of course, been a member of the committee which prepared the draft which was the basis of the NZLA's submission on the national library proposal to the Royal Commission on the State Services, but in October 1963, before he could take part in the national library negotiations as chief librarian, he received head injuries in a motor accident from which he never fully recovered. After some months in hospital and on sick leave, he returned page 330to work towards the end of 1964, but he had to retire at the end of 1965.66 Before he suffered his accident, his had been the clear head which was needed by the Turnbull Library at this time and for which there was no real substitute.

At this stage, immediately after the government's decision that a national librarian should be appointed, those members of Parliament who had opposed the inclusion of the General Assembly Library in the national library remained silent, though they were probably checking their watches before going over the top. Government support for the national library was now so strong that any attempted interruption of the preliminary moves would have been bound to fail.

At the end of November 1963 E.G. Heggie, assistant state services commissioner, wrote to the commissioner67 suggesting that, since the way was now clear to call for applications for the position of national librarian, consideration should be given to an appropriate salary and to a specification for an advertisement, and that these questions should be discussed with the permanent heads of the Education and Prime Minister's departments, 'and perhaps with Internal Affairs'. He added that Alister McIntosh had told him he was very interested in the appointment of a national librarian, 'both in his official capacity and as a member of the NZLA'.

After noting that the salary for the position of director, National Library Service, was £2340 (though 'the present incumbent' had a personal grading of £2450 [which was soon adjusted to £2480]), Heggie listed some positions 'of somewhat comparable nature', namely the head of child welfare, chief inspector of post-primary schools, and surveyor general (all on £2620), and the director of civil aviation and director of the Meteorological Service (both on £2800). He concluded that £2450 or £2620 would be appropriate, and the position was advertised on 25 January 1964 at £2480–£2620. These levels were 83 and 87 per cent of the salary of an assistant director of education.

While the NZLA was naturally delighted that the decisive step of appointing a national librarian was going ahead, it was very disappointed by the salary level that had been assigned to the position. On 21 February 1964 it sent this telegram to the prime minister from its annual conference:

The Conference of the New Zealand Library Association today resolved as follows. It regards the status accorded to the newly created position of National Librarian as inadequate in view of the importance to library services in New Zealand of having this key position worthily occupied. By setting the salary at £2,480–£2,620, those responsible have shown a misapprehension of the qualities required of a national librarian, the function of a national library in industry, culture, and education, and the page 331status of libraries and librarians generally. In no other country known to the Association, and certainly in no other Commonwealth country, has a comparable position been so poorly graded. The Association also notes with concern that the advertisement for the position appeared only in New Zealand and that full details were not given in the public press. The Association calls upon the Government to give the position of National Librarian the status which was recommended by the Royal Commission on the State Services, and to advertise it widely, both in New Zealand and overseas, in terms which will attract the best man it is possible to obtain.68

Despite a further approach by the NZLA later in the year to the prime minister, who asked the State Services Commission to give special attention to the association's views,69 the protests had no effect at all. The State Services Commission had its own way of working out priorities and relativities, and the association was in a weak position to bargain because all senior library salaries in New Zealand were paid from one public purse or another and none of the others was paid as much as the salary decided upon for the national librarian.

The selection panel which interviewed applicants for the position of national librarian was chaired by A.G. Rodda, who reported to the chairman of the State Services Commission on 10 March 1964 the panel's conclusion that Alley should be appointed. After the minister of education (now A.E. (Arthur) Kinsella) had been informed, the appointment was announced on 19 March.70 'This,' the announcement said, 'is the first step in the Government's plan to establish a National Library … essential to the future expansion of the great cultural resources of our three State libraries.' The appointment was made at £2620,71 which seems to have included the 'special to officer' supplement, since the salary given in the public service list for 31 March 1964 was £2480. Three years later Alley's salary, as shown in the list, was £3100, which was 84 per cent of the salary of an assistant director of education (£3700).

During March 1964 Pat Lawlor fired a parting shot in four Dominion columns on the 'Sad Fate of Famous Turnbull Library',72 which was followed by a public meeting, but a newspaper survey of eminent citizens' opinions, including those of the mayor of Wellington and J.C. Beaglehole, failed to find widespread alarm. As John Sage said in a private letter, quite the most useful thing the prime minister had done was to couch his announcement in such firm tones: 'There are general sighs of relief that the Government has done the obvious thing and appointed G.T.A. – though his depressed attitude to any development anywhere almost makes me wonder whether he must be classed as one of the … extinct volcanoes.'73

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Alley received many letters of congratulation. To Stuart Perry, who was one of the first to write to him, he said, 'Your letter was characteristically speedy and spontaneous. Well, here we go then and who knows what will come of it? But we can try now. I haven't any foolish idea of its being something I can do alone, because we have had so long since the midthirties in working things out together.'74 To Jack Hunn he wrote: 'Your committee did a tremendous amount in clearing away irrelevancies and in cutting a path. Later committees have not done a great deal more than endorse your findings.'75 Replying to Dorothy White he said, 'Life will be brimfull of disappointments, no doubt (because nobody pretends it is going to be easy or that some of it may not be possible), of trivia and irritations, and perhaps of some sense of achieving. Saw Denis Glover the other day … and he was pleasantly – to me – helpful about it.'76

When A.G. Rodda was interviewed in connection with this book, he remarked on the fact that at the time of the appointment no one but Alley was in real contention, and his interviewer said that he thought all the best people would have hoped that Alley would be appointed.77 There is some support for this contention in a letter which Perry wrote to the State Services Commission declining an opportunity to be interviewed, saying that he did not consider the position to be 'worthily established', but adding that he did not wish to compete with another librarian, 'who I am now reasonably assured has made application'.78