Geoffrey Alley, Librarian: His Life & Work
Chapter 7 — Anni Mirabiles: Country Library Service
Anni Mirabiles: Country Library Service
Until Fraser made his decision, in August 1938, that the scope of the Country Library Service would be extended, so that the proposed demonstration of a district library service in Taranaki would not be necessary, it was still possible that Alley would be needed to head the Taranaki demonstration, which, in the eyes of those who looked forward to the development of a system of district libraries along the lines of the Munn–Barr recommendations, was the way to the future. In that case, the CLS would have continued to be little more than a small-scale subsidy-in-kind to small country libraries, eventually to be absorbed by the district library system, and Alley's job would be to create the first district in Taranaki and then, presumably, help in the creation of other districts. He would also, presumably, take up residence in New Plymouth, or in one of the other Taranaki towns. It was therefore understandable that his family should remain in Christchurch until the uncertainties were resolved. But now it was clear that he would be working from Wellington, and that the family should be reunited there.
Towards the end of 1938 Euphan moved to Wellington with the three children. Geoff had taken a lease, from his cousin Reuel Lochore, of one of two houses in Te Anau Road, Hataitai, which Reuel had inherited from his father; Reuel was living in the other. On the edge of the Hataitai ridge, overlooking Evans Bay and the Miramar peninsula, with the harbour entrance, the eastern bays, the Orongorongo hills, and the Rimutaka range beyond, Te Anau Road commands one of the most spectacular views in a spectacular city; and it is within comfortable distance of the city centre – an advantage, since the Alleys had no car.
Lochore had spent several years in Germany in the early 1930s, studying widely in linguistics and historical and philosophical subjects and gaining a doctorate from the University of Bonn. In 1938 he was hoping for a government appointment which would make use of his esoteric learning, but nothing had turned up yet and he was teaching at Scots College, which must have reminded him of his old school, Waitaki Boys' High School.1
With the likelihood of another war starting, Euphan's dear friend page 110Dorothy Davies, who had been continuing her music studies in Europe and working with the pianist Artur Schnabel, also decided to come home. She stayed with the Alleys in Te Anau Road, was attracted by Reuel, and married him in January 1940. Her subsequent career as a concert pianist, using her original name, and in developing chamber music is part of New Zealand's musical history. In the early 1940s she reinforced the Alleys' love of music and was a source of strength for Euphan, who felt keenly her separation from Westcote and from Clara.
In February 1939 Alley prepared a lengthy report for Fraser on the work of the Country Library Service to that date.2 He set out statistical information on the number of local authorities and county groups that had joined the service, and he went into some detail about its organisation and administration. Among other things, indulging his fascination for minor but possibly useful facts, he noted that the fuel consumption of the North Island van had given it 15.2 miles per gallon, whereas its South Island fellow had achieved 15.99. Assistance and advice had been given to libraries and a start had been made on providing a postal, or reference, service for the supply of individual titles. The numbers of libraries and groups served were pretty much what had been predicted a year earlier, but much publicity was still needed to promote understanding of the value of the free public library as an institution: 'Library service should be accessible, free of charge, to all residents, young or old, in all parts of the country.'
Alley commented that the main difficulty over the Munn–Barr proposals for a system of library districts 'is that it is very unlikely that a sufficient number of local authorities in the same district could be persuaded to give enough support at the outset to any plan for free library service. But the scheme would depend on having all the counties and boroughs contributing from the beginning.' A more gradual approach, through the CLS, would be more likely to succeed. Nevertheless, Alley recommended a three-year plan which included the offer of free service to counties, the formation of library districts, the establishment of a service to schools in the district areas, and assistance to larger libraries by way of subsidies. Some of these recommendations did not really accord with the reservations he had already expressed, but it is not unusual for new appointees, in writing after one year in their new jobs, to be a little naïve in looking into the future – they are protected by the fact that very few people later remember what they said at that time.
In the peroration to his report Alley wrote: 'The process of bringing a unified system of library service into full operation will take longer than three years. The greater part of the task should, however, be done by the end of 1941. The ultimate cost to the Government of a full scheme can be estimated fairly accurately at £30,000 a year. This sum, although page 111substantial, would be a small price to pay for the social and cultural benefits that would be achieved for the people of this country.'
It is as well to be cautiously optimistic when embarking on a new project, but in fact there was no hope of getting a substantial unified system of library service into operation as easily as all that. What the library movement as a whole was wanting to achieve was not simply a matter of providing more resources, but a change in community attitudes towards free access to the printed word – to regarding such access as a public good (to use later jargon). Alley's three-year plan, on its own and in existing conditions, was too optimistic, and yet, if the aims of the library movement and its supporters were to be achieved, it was necessary that substantial results should be achieved quickly, so that appreciation of the new approach to library service could be consolidated. This, it is clear, was the underlying reason for the proposal that a liaison officer should be appointed to work with the CLS and the NZLA.
Fraser agreed in January 1939 that the position of liaison officer should be advertised by the Public Service Commission in New Zealand, and that nominations should also be sought from the Library Association (London) and the American Library Association.3 Munn advised that there was no point in advertising in the United States, since the salary (£445/515 p.a. for five years) was too low to attract suitable applicants, but of the British librarians who offered their services, the central executive committee of the NZLA chose two,4 who were interviewed in London by R.M. Campbell of the New Zealand High Commission, and two prominent British librarians, W.C. Berwick Sayers and Lionel R. McColvin. Reporting on these interviews to Norrie on 28 June 1939,5 Campbell said that the panel recommended E.J. (Jessie) Carnell, 'an altogether admirable appointee, provided that our assumption as to the suitability of a woman is valid'. After the NZLA council had approved this recommendation by postal ballot, Alley and Norrie were authorised to send it through the director of education to the minister of education and so to the public service commissioners.6
In case these procedures seem to have had an unusual potential for the crossing of booby-trapped wires, it should be noted that the central executive committee of the NZLA included such familiar names as Alley, Hall, Norrie, Perry, and Scholefield. Everything, in fact, went very smoothly, and Jessie Carnell, destined to make a strong impact on the New Zealand library scene during her short stay of a little over five years, arrived and took up her duties on 3 January 1940, after evading German submarines and visiting libraries in the United States on the way out.7
Carnell had gained the diploma of the Library Association (London) in 1931, and the same association's honours diploma in 1936 upon page 112acceptance of her thesis, 'The Growth and Future of the County Library'. Her book, County Libraries: retrospect and forecast, had been published in 1938. Most of her experience had been in English county systems, and at the time of her appointment she was a branch librarian of the Lancashire County Library. She told M.K. Rochester in 1977: 'I was fascinated by the challenge of a country geographically the size of the U.K. but with a population of under two million, yet containing over four hundred independent public libraries, the majority of them serving tiny units of population. This was a totally different situation from that which had confronted the first British county libraries in the 1920s, and I was agog to be involved in it.'8
Carnell's background was ideal for her assignment. It was necessary for her to come to grips with the fundamental differences between the English and the New Zealand county systems, but she was vigorous, friendly, intellectually honest, and adaptable, and she was able to work not only with librarians but also with those representatives of the people upon whom librarians depend. Her brief (outlined in chapter 6) included assistance with a wide range of activities which the NZLA was engaged in, but her most immediate task was to win the support of local authorities for the two important changes in public library practice which the NZLA was promoting: the adoption of free library service and abolition of the subscription system, and the participation by libraries in the circulating stock provided by the CLS.9 Her formal appointment to the staff of the CLS, even though the money to pay her came from the Carnegie Corporation through the NZLA, was important in enabling her to carry out these tasks under a mantle of official approval.
Carnell made an immediate impact on members of the NZLA when she spoke to its conference in February 1940.10 In the cold light of print her address seems rather pedestrian, though her strong personality, together with the high expectations that had been aroused by the appointment of a liaison officer, must have caused a feeling of euphoria. She did, however, make some good points about the kind of collection a library needed to have, or have access to, to provide an adequate service. 'However highly it taxes itself,' she said, 'an independent library serving a small population cannot produce a book fund which totals more than a few hundred pounds, and that is far too small. This matter of what constitutes an adequate book supply ought to be gone into but it never is. … A successful library policy can be based only upon a type of organisation capable of producing an adequate book supply.' In the next few months, after a quick survey of conditions in public libraries, Carnell then threw herself into visits to local body councils and committees to explain and urge the changeover to rate-supported service and participation in the CLS. In this work she page 113reinforced the message of the NZLA's publication The Case for Free Library Service (1940), and she also complemented Alley's own work with local authorities.
'The library scene from the 1930s on … especially and fundamentally in the smaller places, was one of extreme poverty, neglect, and misery,' Alley later said in his taped memoir; 'I don't think there were many places – there were one or two, one thinks of Hawera which had an enterprising librarian and was doing a reasonable job under a subscription condition – but so many of them were cemeteries, as the Munn–Pitt Report remarked about Australian libraries, "cemeteries of old and forgotten books". And the local bodies couldn't have cared less.'11 Carnell picked that financial constraints coloured the reaction, in many towns, to proposals for improvements in library service, and suggested, in a report to the NZLA which was quoted in the annual report of the CLS to 31 March 1941,12 'a pay-collection solution, to hasten the abolition of subscriptions, to clarify ideas as to the purposes for which it is legitimate to spend public money, and to provide an efficient means of satisfying the public appetite for fiction'.
Alley and Carnell, in fact, made a formidable team: Alley with his deep concern for and understanding of heartland New Zealand – and his mana as an All Black; Carnell the kind of forthright Englishwoman who could bring people voluntarily to see reason. And they were helped by NZLA members who supported them locally and by the CLS field librarians, driving the vans, who were always keeping an eye on local trends and giving hints as to what places might be wanting to make a move. Carnell also noted another important factor: 'all the nice, sensible women who strayed into the library scene in the 20's and 30's in the small towns and got on with the work'.13
One of Alley's guiding principles was that 'everyone is interested in something', and throughout his career CLS staff were expected to go to a lot of trouble to find out the interests and hobbies of mayors and councillors, particularly those who were known to have no interest in library service, and to make sure that, in one way or another, appropriate books were on hand to catch the appropriate eye.14 As well, from an early stage the CLS issued lists of 'essential books for the small library', to encourage the development of good locally-owned collections which would be enhanced, rather than supplanted, by books available from the CLS. Around 1940 lists were compiled on philosophy, religion, sociology, natural science, useful arts, agriculture, fine arts, literature and philology, history, travel, and biography.15
In reporting on a visit to Gore in 1941, Carnell wrote: 'The Mayor is definitely in favour of joining the CLS, and I think the same can be said of the Town Clerk and the other members of the committee present. As page 114the Council is subsidising the library so heavily already there seems to be ground for hope that it may get through the Council, especially if we allowed them to reduce expenditure on suitable items. I expounded the pay collection idea and said that £100 from pay, county subscriptions, and fines would be a conservative estimate. As usual I promised that copies of the Free Library pamphlet should be sent to the Town Clerk.'16
Not every visit went so smoothly. A field librarian who visited Palmerston in Otago in 1939 reported that it was 'hopeless to expect anything … Unfortunately in some quarters the local Labour Party is not too popular on account of its secretary who is allegedly perfectly fit, and yet is permanently on sustenance.' This town finally accepted CLS service in January 1945,17 but there were even harder nuts to crack elsewhere.
The population limit on boroughs and town boards which were offered service was gradually raised, and in her report for the March 1941 year Carnell recorded visiting 50 libraries serving populations of 10,000 or less. By March 1943, 'A' service was being provided to 43 libraries, and 'B' service to 368 libraries and groups in county areas.18
In September 1939 the NZLA was incorporated by the New Zealand Library Association Act 1939.19 Incorporation was desirable because of the increased amounts of money the association was handling, as well as to help formalise its structure and organisation as its activities increased and brought it into contact with other organisations. 'Who wants the Bill?' asked the Hon. Mr Hamilton in the brief second-reading debate; 'The New Zealand Library Association desires it,' replied the Hon. Mr Fraser,20and that seems to have been the substance of the debate.
Alley was appointed convener of the NZLA's committee on library training in February 1939, and was also a member of the committees on library legislation and book buying (which dealt mainly with booksellers' discounts to libraries). The library training committee's brief was to formulate a working scheme for the training of library assistants, especially by means of correspondence courses and summer schools: that is, the apprenticeship type of training which was then favoured in Britain and with which Carnell was familiar. Carnell, as liaison officer, acted in an ex-officio and advisory capacity on all the NZLA's committees and on its council, but the library training committee was one in which she became especially closely involved.
Judith Alley tells of a large chart her father fixed to the wall of the washhouse in Te Anau Road. He had acquired a Beatty washing machine, a mechanical marvel which he adored, and while he was attending to the week's wash on a Saturday he would update the chart, which was a development plan for the CLS. Boxes for the bits that were working were coloured in; other boxes would be removed by a mammoth eraser and page 115replaced by new boxes.21 Alas, no version of this chart has survived, but its very existence indicates that the CLS did not, as some have suggested, grow like Topsy; from the very first it was assumed that it would undertake responsibilities of national library importance and not remain a small service to small libraries.
The next major development was, however, quite unexpected; 'something different, something nobody counted on'.22 In 1938 and 1939 the New Zealand government suffered a serious exchange crisis, caused partly by reactions to social security legislation and the 'flight of frightened capital', and when the minister of finance, Walter Nash, went to London to seek assistance from the British government and bankers in dealing with the problem he encountered lack of sympathy and a determination to force New Zealand to abandon such policies as industrialisation and import substitution. As Keith Sinclair has said, 'New Zealand was not merely to pay a stiff price, but to be taught a lesson.'23 In order to cope with this situation the government imposed strict controls on imports, and in October 1939 a 50 per cent restriction on the importation of books was announced.
Alley, Norrie (NZLA), and McIntosh (behind the scenes) immediately sought a way of exempting libraries from the cut, and on 22 October 1939 Alley and Norrie submitted to the comptroller of customs a 'Recommendation for the establishment of means for safeguarding essential imports of books and other publications for New Zealand libraries'. Defining 'libraries' as public, university, college, and school libraries, and libraries of scientific societies, this document proposed that a bureau, to be administered by the CLS, should act as a clearing-house for the granting of special licences for the import of essential publications to the extent of 50 per cent of each library's expenditure in the March 1938 year; the full amount spent in the 1938 period would then be available, 'provided the additional fifty per cent was spent on non-fiction books and periodicals'.
The reasons given for attaching the bureau to the CLS were that the CLS had the requisite bibliographical and trade publications giving full information about published material; it was a large enough purchaser of books on its own account to be interested in and familiar with current books; it was situated in Wellington and had recognition from the government; and it was in touch with a large number of smaller libraries.24 In the machinery clauses, procedures were outlined for libraries to submit to the bureau lists of books to be purchased under the special licences; the bureau would check them to ascertain whether the titles really were essential, and it would also note on them any titles which had already been ordered by other libraries, so that the applicants could decide whether to go ahead with their orders. This implied, of course, that the bureau would page 116keep a record of what had been included in lists it had checked, so that a start would be made on compiling very rudimentary records of library holdings.
With the comptroller's sympathetic encouragement, the NZLA council then, on 27 October, appointed a deputation, consisting of Alley, Collins, Dunningham, and Scholefield, to ask Nash to agree to the proposal. Nash, who had been briefed by McIntosh,25 agreed, and so the Central Bureau for Library Book Imports (CBLBI) was established as a new responsibility of the CLS, after the minister of education had agreed to this extension of its role.26 Nash directed that the procedures to be followed should be worked out by the CLS and the Customs Department, and the Customs staff member appointed to act as liaison officer between the two was G.R. Laking. 'Not too long after that,' says Alley in his memoirs, 'George Laking was recruited by McIntosh' 27 (to the Prime Minister's Department in 1941).
On the face of it this was a special solution for a special problem, but most of those who were involved in the discussions saw in it important spin-offs, in making possible the start of a national union catalogue (since the bureau would record titles for which special licences were requested) and in the encouragement of inter-library lending and other forms of cooperation. There were some, however, who saw in the machinery that had been created the potential for government censorship of library, and particularly of university library, purchasing. The main opponent within the library profession was H.G. Miller, librarian at Victoria University College, who was not a member of the NZLA council and had not been privy to the council's deliberations.
Alley wrote to libraries early in February 1940 informing them of the exemption that had been agreed to by the government and inviting applications for special licences. He then, on 21 February, made a statement to the annual conference of the NZLA on the negotiations and their outcome. The conference agreed to a motion, put forward by J.W. Kealy of the Auckland City Council, 'that in the opinion of this Conference any machinery provision which is capable of being used in the censorship of books to be imported by reputable public or institutional libraries is to be most strongly deprecated', after which Alley moved that the council should appoint a standing committee to act in an advisory capacity to the bureau and to report to the council of the association. At this point Miller put forward an amendment which, while welcoming the decision to grant special licences to libraries, added: 'but the Conference is totally opposed to entrusting any central authority with the duty of deciding what particular books each library shall purchase and requests that the activities of the proposed Bureau be restricted to the giving of information and advice'. page 117Miller's amendment was lost, 13 to 44, and Alley's motion was passed,28 but that was not the end of the matter.
Miller reported to his academic head, T.A. Hunter, in such a way as to make him unfurl the banner of academic freedom. Hunter wrote to the other academic heads; the university librarians outside Wellington defended the actions that had been taken; Alley spoke to Hunter, consulted with Scholefield (who was the new president of the NZLA), and asked for advice from the comptroller of customs. A lot of paper was generated, and some rather unfortunate statements were made. It is not possible to present the whole dossier here, but two examples will suffice to give the flavour of the discussion. The first is from a letter, dated 8 March 1940, from Collins to J. Hight, rector of Canterbury University College, in which he commented on a letter which Hight had received from Hunter:
However much I try to see through the eyes of Professor Hunter and Mr Miller, I fail to agree with them. I am afraid that either Professor Hunter has misunderstood Mr Miller, or Mr Miller has misinterpreted the facts even more than I had realized. In his letter, for instance, Professor Hunter states that 'the universities, without being consulted, were dragged in' to the scheme; this is quite untrue. Before any scheme for a Central Bureau was mentioned, we were compulsorily deprived of half our funds for direct overseas purchases. And now we have been invited, if we wish, to accept preferential treatment compared with other importers, on conditions which are slightly restrictive but likely to produce great advantages all round. Professor Hunter implies that the scheme will be unsatisfactory because the Director of the Country Library Service does not know our needs. … The point is that a Bureau for rationalizing purchases had to be in Wellington, and it had to be attached to some institution … A government department was the most suitable. Of the three possible ones, the Country Library Service seemed best, for many reasons. If I remember right, it was I who suggested this, for I, like many librarians, look on the CLS as a potential lending division of a future real national library. Professor Hunter also states that Mr Alley 'is naturally anxious to aggrandize his department'; this is untrue. I can say definitely that Mr Alley was reluctant to accept the extra work and responsibility, but had to admit that, on the long view, the reasons were cogent.29
At about the same time, Collins suggested to Alley a modification under which special libraries would simply report acquisitions, 'trying, in a noncompulsory way, to arrange for the avoidance of unjustifiable duplication'.30 Alley followed this up with the NZLA and the comptroller of customs, but in the meantime a long (two foolscap pages) letter drafted by Hunter and page 118signed by three of the university heads was sent to Nash on 29 April 1940. This letter acknowledged with gratitude the granting of special licences, but said, inter alia:
We feel a good deal of anxiety about the requirement that, so far as these additional licences are concerned, no book may be ordered until it has been approved by the Director of the Country Libraries Service. We are assured that it is not in fact intended by the Government to interfere with our right to decide what books shall come into our libraries; but it seems clear to us that, if we participate in the scheme, we shall be accepting a principle that will make it difficult for us to resist such an interference, if it should be continued in the future by another Government….
We are unable to see how the Director of the Country Libraries Service can be regarded as competent even to advise, much less decide, about the need of a university library for a particular book. Even if he is able to point out that a copy is already in a New Zealand library, how is he competent to decide whether a second copy is justified? …
Our objections to the scheme are … that, in the first place, it commits the university to a principle that would make it difficult in the future to resist interference with academic affairs; and second that, by general admission, the Director of the bureau is not competent to decide whether a book is needed by a university library, that he does not intend to try and that finally, it would not make any difference if he did, since libraries already have licences that are not under his control.31
This letter was signed by J. Rutherford (Auckland), Hunter (Victoria), and Hight (Canterbury). In a separate letter W.J. Morrell of Otago expressed strong support for the request that university libraries be exempted from the control of the bureau, but said that he was not in favour of all the arguments in his colleagues' letter.32
In June 1940 Alley recommended to the comptroller of customs that import licences to the extent of 100 per cent of 1938 figures be made available to the six university libraries (including the two agricultural colleges), 'provided that [they] will in return forward to the Central Bureau full lists of their orders (not waiting till the books are received), these lists to comprise the whole of the libraries' purchases'.33 In October Hunter had pleasure in advising his colleagues that Nash had approved a modified plan along these lines.34
The CBLBI then settled down to a long and useful life, being revived from time to time when governments suffered financial crises, until it was abolished in 1962 when New Zealand adhered to the UNESCO-sponsored Agreement on Importation of Educational, Scientific and Cultural Materials page 119at that time Stuart Perry remarked that 'The man whose leg is restored can throw his crutch away, but he will remember what he owes it.'35
Was all this controversy a storm in a teacup? In a sense it was. The overriding factor was that the government of the day was one which responded readily to a request that import restrictions on books should be softened to the extent that libraries, in which books would be accessible to the public, would be able to maintain their services, and everyone acknowledged this. Most of those who were directly involved failed to see any danger in the machinery that was set up to achieve this objective; indeed, for them, glittering not far off was the prospect of using the machinery for the start of bibliographic controls which were part of their agenda for a national library, and they saw the government's decision as a step in that direction. It is important to realise, too, that although the government of the day, like all governments, was imperfect, it was basically honest and open; we had not, at that time, had bitter experience of governments of a different type. Hunter was prescient when he wrote that 'if we participate in the scheme, we shall be accepting a principle that will make it difficult for us to resist such an interference, if it should be continued in the future by other Governments', but Carnell was more in tune with ordinary thinking of the period when she said, 'This is an excellent example of permanent good emerging from a temporary and rather fatuous evil.'36
Collins, who was often the one who found a way around a problem, proposed a simple solution which the civil servants and the government, to their credit, accepted, so that libraries got their relief and the way was still open to the glittering future. Miller's case is interesting in other ways. His model was the 'scholar-librarian'. He was not noticeably more scholarly than the other university librarians, but he was much less involved than they were in plans for the whole library system, and he was rather loftily disdainful of the idea that a country library service could have anything worthwhile to offer beyond its restricted sphere. For his part, Alley found it hard to accept such attitudes, especially from anyone connected with a university. Mutual antipathy between the two men was a feature of the library landscape for a long time, and perhaps it started here. It was rather strange, since both of them had started their careers as WEA tutors in Canterbury; and it was a great pity, since both of them had qualities which were appreciated by their colleagues.
We shall now take a short break before continuing with the story of the Central Bureau for Library Book Imports and the long-term consequences of its establishment.
For the first two years of the existence of the CLS, Fraser, who held several portfolios, including education and health, retained an extraordinarily close personal interest in this small part of his responsibilities. Even Hall, page 120to whom Alley had been seconded for his apprenticeship, was not so closely involved. When a report on Alley's work was required by the Public Service Commission in May 1939, for instance, and the director of education (Alley's nominal departmental head) referred the task of writing it to Hall, Hall replied: 'As requested by you I have filled in the report on Mr. G.T. Alley, Officer-in-Charge of the Country Library Service, and return it herewith. At the Minister's request Mr. Alley has been dealing direct with him and I have not been exercising of late any general oversight of the operation of his branch. I am, however, familiar with the results being obtained. … I consulted with the Public Service Commissioner … and he agreed that in the case of Mr. Alley a general report would be sufficient.' In the general report referred to, Hall said: 'The Country Library Service is practically the creation of Mr. Alley. He has shown great organising and administrative ability and has moreover succeeded in gaining the confidence of local bodies and others for which the Service caters. His standing in the Library movement is very high.'37
In August 1939, because of Savage's last illness, Fraser became acting prime minister, and after Savage died in March 1940 he became prime minister. His place as minister of education was taken by H.G.R. Mason, attorney general since 1935, with whom Alley formed another close working relationship. 'Now here was a different person entirely,' said Alley in 1983, 'and it's almost as though one's dreams, one's hopes were answered. Instead of the visionary, the encourager, the leader as Peter Fraser was, we had Mason who was practical, competent and assured in his quiet way…. He came in to Education at the beginning of this very vigorous rounding out period following the Fraser time and he was successful because his mind was so lucid. He had a mathematical bent. He had a legal bent and a logical bent. … It was a joy to have a Minister like that.'38
Hall raised the question, in August 1940, of returning the CLS to the care of the Department of Education, and this administrative move was accomplished in December, when Mason wrote to Hall thanking him for his help in placing the service on a working basis. 'Although the association of the Country Library Service with the Legislative Department was tentative,' he said, 'it was most beneficial through your personal enthusiasm and interest.'39 By this time the director of education was C.E. Beeby, who had assumed this office on the same day as Mason became minister, but despite the changes in personnel the relativities remained the same: when Beeby had to prepare Alley's final probation report in April 1941 he wrote: 'Doing excellent work as far as I can judge, although he is not really responsible to me.'40 A minute written on this report says, 'The above appointment is confirmed, 10.4.41.'
At the time of the controversy over the Central Bureau for Library Book page 121Imports, most of the protagonists referred to Alley as the director of the CLS, but his proper title at that time was still officer-in-charge. In July 1941 Mason attempted to persuade the public service commissioner that Alley's remuneration 'should be put on a better basis' because of the expanding scope of his responsibilities, a request which met with a noncommittal response but drew from the commissioner a statement that 'there would be no objection to his being designated Director, Country Library Service'.41 Another loose end tied up!
The committee which was appointed by the council of the NZLA in February 1940 'to act in an advisory capacity to the Central Bureau for library book imports' consisted of the honorary secretary (Norrie), the honorary assistant secretary (Perry), and the liaison officer (Carnell). This does not suggest that its watchdog role was thought to be desperately urgent, and most of those involved in fact had their minds on the next steps that should be taken to achieve bibliographical progress. Mary S. Fleming, who had worked as a cataloguer in the University of Otago library since 1936, was appointed to the staff of the CLS and attached to the bureau early in 1940. Alley, who took the opportunity for the bureau to start compiling a union catalogue very seriously, reported to the council in September 1940 that he considered that more vigorous action was required, and also that, after consulting with Collins, Clyde Taylor (Alexander Turnbull Library), and F.A. Sandall (Massey Agricultural College), he would opt for microfilming as the best method of getting a record of libraries' holdings.42 Taylor had told him that 'Mr A.G. Bagnall of my staff ' would be available to help with the project.
The NZLA council then, on 26 September, appointed a union catalogue committee, consisting of Alley (convener), Scholefield, Barr, Collins, Sandall, Harris, Taylor and Norrie, and empowered it to approach the Carnegie Corporation for financial support if this was appropriate. At its first meeting, on 19 October, which was attended by several other interested parties, the committee resolved 'that a central record of books held by the principal libraries of New Zealand is desirable and that the method of microfilming is approved'. Alley, Scholefield, Taylor, and Norrie were deputed to draw up a request to the Carnegie Corporation, and the committee also recommended that libraries be asked to notify non-fiction accessions to the bureau from January 1941.
On 21 October Miller wrote to Norrie making it clear that, as a nonmember of the committee but present at its meeting, 'I did not vote and do not accept responsibility for its decisions'.43
The Carnegie Corporation agreed, after some correspondence on the methods to be adopted, to provide equipment for the microfilming project, and the minister of education authorised Alley to give all possible page 122help and to be responsible for the work of maintaining the catalogue and giving information to other libraries from it. The retrospective work on libraries' catalogues was held up when the outbreak of war in the Pacific prevented the shipping of the equipment (to be resumed after the war), but cards supplied by libraries for current acquisitions began to be steadily included in the union catalogue. At the same time, suggestions were being made that the CLS should become a central clearing-house for interlibrary loans, and individual librarians, especially in Dunedin, were doing initial work on other bibliographical projects. Bibliographical control of the nation's book resources had become one of the library world's major preoccupations, and because of the association of the CLS with the bureau, attention was becoming focused on its possible role in this area. Scholefield expressed this interest when he said, at a meeting of the union catalogue committee, 'The Union Catalogue is properly an activity of the National Library. This should be considered as a part of the National Library work and any government library could properly undertake this as a trust for the National Library.'44
In the light of these developments, and no doubt with the knowledge and approval of his library colleagues (or most of them), Alley wrote to Mason in June 1941 a letter which he headed 'Book Resources of New Zealand Libraries. Recommendation that the Council of the New Zealand Library Association be asked to act in an advisory capacity to the Central Bureau for Library Book Imports'.45 'In order that the fullest benefit may be gained from the work of the Central Bureau for Library Book Imports,' he said, 'it is necessary that libraries throughout New Zealand adopt more intensive policies of specialisation in importing stock to cover the needs, especially potential and actual industrial needs, of this country. … When the Bureau was first established the Library Association set up a small advisory committee to give any necessary help to the Bureau and to watch the interests of libraries. … The needs of the situation would be met if you would formally invite the Council of the New Zealand Library Association to act in an advisory capacity to the Central Bureau … and to submit proposals to you for the most economic way of ensuring that the necessary books and periodicals enter the country and are made available to the greatest number of those who need them.'
Mason agreed to this proposal and invited the NZLA, in a letter which he had asked Alley to draft, 'to extend the advisory help it now gives to the Central Bureau for Library Book Imports by proposing means whereby (a) at least one copy of every publication of any importance in the English language reaches this country and (b) serious readers everywhere in New Zealand have free access to all such publications'.46 At its next meeting the NZLA council established a New Zealand Book Resources Committee, to page 123be convened by Alley, with the following terms of reference: 'To strengthen, co-ordinate, and exploit the book resources of the Dominion. Its work will include all matters connected with book purchases by libraries, interlibrary loans, accessibility of books to readers, and the compilation of union catalogues.'47 Its membership included the familiar names of Barr, Collins, Dunningham, Harris, Norrie, Scholefield, and Taylor, and it absorbed the committees on inter-library loans and the union catalogue. When this decision was reported to Mason, he was asked to approve the payment of actual and reasonable expenses for members to attend meetings, and he agreed to this request.48 At a meeting of the committee at which he met the members, he said that he knew from his own experience the value which a union catalogue would be to all engaged in research of any description, and added that 'any recommendations which you make regarding the ways in which the Government can further the development of New Zealand libraries will receive very careful and most sympathetic consideration from me and from the Government'.49
The terms of reference of the book resources committee enabled it to contemplate activities a good way beyond those which had been placed before the minister. They included some which turned out, as time went on, to be impractical, but the enthusiasm with which they were contemplated, and which was captured by Carnell in New Zealand Libraries in December 1941,50 is a measure of both the commitment of librarians of the time and the strong relationship which had developed between the library profession and the government. The book resources committee remained for many years a semi-government organisation within the NZLA, a fact which was recognised by the payment of meeting expenses, and this fact also meant that Alley had to continue to be its convener, the vital link between the two bodies.
That series of developments – the Central Bureau for Library Book Imports and the very quick moves towards the involvement of the CLS at the centre of work on national book resources – was quite unexpected; or rather, it happened unexpectedly soon. The next major development, on the other hand, which came to fruition in 1942, had been eagerly awaited. It was a move to address the glaring weaknesses, in most parts of the country, in library services for children.
Munn and Barr, in their 1934 report, said that 'The four large cities and a few of the secondary cities are making an honest attempt to give some service to children. There is no New Zealand librarian who has had any training in library work with children, but several of them show a natural aptitude for it. … Cities as large as New Plymouth, Napier, Gisborne, and Hamilton can claim no more than a gesture towards work with children. … The failure to grasp the importance of service to children seriously page 124detracts from the value of New Zealand libraries.' As far as school libraries were concerned, they observed: 'School libraries, as the term is understood in England and the United States, scarcely exist in New Zealand. With one or two exceptions, library facilities in both secondary and technical schools are extremely meagre, and in no case do they reach an approved standard of library service.'51
In their recommendations, Munn and Barr said that 'In all new plans of library development fuller attention should be given to the children', and that 'Efforts should be made to improve the libraries of primary, secondary and technical schools and to establish small permanent collections of reference books of value to pupils and masters. Improved financial provision should be made by the Education Department with this object in view, by increasing the grants or subsidies for the purchase of books and better equipment.'52
The selection of Kathleen Harvey and Dorothy Neal to study children's library service in Pittsburgh was a direct result of the Munn–Barr report. Harvey returned to work in the Wellington Public Library, while Neal, who had come from Christchurch, went to the Dunedin Public Library, where Dunningham wanted to build on earlier pioneering work with schools, and Neal was able, with Dunningham's backing, her own remarkable abilities, and the co-operation of the Otago Education Board, to develop a service which extended beyond the city.53
At this point we should settle on a name for the Dorothy Mary Neal who went to Pittsburgh and then to Dunedin. In 1939 she married Richard (Dick) White, the proprietor of Newbold's second-hand bookshop in Dunedin, but she continued to work under her original name, since at that time it was obligatory for a woman working for the Dunedin City Council to resign upon marrying. It is likely that the town clerk was aware of the situation, but one of the fundamental principles of good administration is the wise use of common sense, and sensible use of a blind eye was made in this case. Later, when subterfuge was no longer necessary, Dorothy became Dorothy Neal White in public. Still later, after Dick's death in 1967, she married Robert Ballantyne, and the name of Ballantyne became firmly attached to her in the minds of her colleagues, but that was after the close of Alley's public career. From this point we shall refer to her as Dorothy Neal White, or use abbreviations thereof.
Alley was, of course, well aware of the importance placed on children's library service by the Munn–Barr report, and Dorothy White, who was quite a political person, was well aware of Alley's importance in making possible the extension to the whole country of the kind of work she had been doing in Otago. When she spoke to him in Christchurch in August 1937, at the time that plans for the CLS were being gestated, they discussed page 125the question of school libraries,54 and in May 1938, before the CLS was even on the road, Alley was writing to her: 'About the whole question of Junior work. I am still doing nothing. Are you very fed up with me for this? … I still think our original idea is best. To instal the machinery side of the C.L.S. and then wail loudly that nothing is being done about Junior work, and that we must have you or someone added and put in charge for N.Z.'55
Alley was, however, discussing possible ways of establishing a service to children with the minister and within the Department of Education. Carnell was involved in these discussions, and, after Mason had asked for a report, did a good deal of investigative work, including a close examination of school library facilities in Canterbury and Otago and of various Education Board institutions and public libraries. One of her conclusions was: 'It is more economical to attach a school service to an existing library than to set up a separate organization for this purpose (existing library service being public libraries, or, perhaps, Country Library Service).'56 White advised Alley that there had to be a service to schools first and that the strengthening of public library service had to follow,57 and when he sent the director of education copies of Carnell's reports he also enclosed a rough draft of a comprehensive service on a dominion basis, 'for which Miss D.M. Neal has been responsible'.58
A typical discussion at this time was one between Alley (with Carnell) and Mason which occurred in April 1941, of which the following extracts give the flavour:
Alley mentioned problems that had occurred over the Canterbury travelling library for schools, due partly to loss of staff because of uncertainty about the future.
Minister: 'What about a scheme that would absorb them … You have ideas of a scheme – what is your timetable?
Alley said there were two possibilities: CLS or the Canterbury Public Library to be involved. 'It is for you to decide whether the Government should provide more through the Department or our Service, and whether it should be centralized.'
Minister: 'If your depot [in Christchurch] do it, aren't you doing just what these people are doing except that you are more skilled in the work?' … 'It seems to me the more you can centralise the thing the better. Has Hamilton a good library?'
Alley: 'Not up to standard. …'
Minister: 'There has been a lot of talk about a general library service. I thought there would be some scheme worked out.'
Alley: 'A good many have been worked out, but mainly only exploratory.
By this stage things were moving fairly quickly, though. On 28 May 1941 Alley sent to the minister a set of recommendations which included the following:
- A grant of £10,000 for a school library service, over and above previous appropriations, the money to go to the CLS for the purchase of suitable books, etc.
- Appointment of a children's librarian to the CLS staff.
- Schools in areas with a population of less than 10,000 to be offered a supply of books in return for certain payments, except in Otago and Taranaki, where books would be provided for existing circulating schemes, the population limit to be removed later.
- The Canterbury travelling library for rural schools to be placed under the CLS from 1 July 1941.
- Public libraries in Auckland, Wanganui, Palmerston North, Christchurch, Timaru, and Dunedin to be asked to act as district centres.60
The file copy of this letter has a minute, in Alley's handwriting: 'Hon. Minister approved & issued direction for scheme to go ahead & Estimates altered accordingly. 30/5/41.' A formal recommendation for Budget purposes, 'for the purpose of starting a Schools Library Scheme to be conducted by the Country Library Service under the general control of the Education Department',61 was sent to the minister by the director of education at the end of July; it was envisaged that the service would start on 1 April 1942. This separate recommendation would have been necessary because the cost of the School Library Service was not to be charged to subdivision XIV of Vote: Education, which was assigned to the CLS, but to an item in another subdivision which had previously been used for the supply of books to schools. The minister's statement, announcing the new scheme, which was published in New Zealand Libraries in October 1941, gave most of the credit for the investigation of ways and means of improving school libraries to the Department of Education, but was otherwise accurate and informative.62
Kathleen Harvey was appointed to head the School Library Service (SLS) ('We were lucky to have a person so strong and capable,' said Alley).63 The selection of books was a major task, but it was made easier by the fact that the foundation stock had already been acquired – chosen from an important piece of work that White had done for the NZLA: Junior Books: page 127a recommended list for boys and girls, published in 1940 by the NZLA, was a 95-page annotated list to which White brought the discriminating taste of her later, better-known books.
In 1950 a librarian working in the SLS who had been a teacher in the early 1940s wrote a piece for Education, a periodical published by the School Publications Branch of the Department of Education, to draw teachers' attention to the services provided by the School Library Service. Wanting, in 1943, to polish up her knowledge of Renaissance history, she encountered frustration after frustration in approaching her school's library, the local public library, and two bookshops in a provincial town, and contrasted this experience with that of a friend teaching six years later in a school in a similar area who had discovered the resources of the SLS which by then had become available. 'In the last few years,' she wrote, 'most schools have been able to spend more liberally on their own libraries, but the greatest change in their book supply is that each term the book stock is supplemented with two or three loan collections from the School Library Service. These collections may be on any subject – vocations, engineering, play production, a country on which material is needed for project work; or a request may be made for fiction for non-literary pupils in Forms III and IV'.64 This is what was started in 1942.
War resumed during the time that all these developments were occurring. It is known that the government had been consulting with various supporting agencies, such as the YMCA, during the late '30s about their state of preparedness for picking up the roles they had been able to put aside barely 20 years earlier. It is not known whether Alley had been involved in these discussions, but whether or not he had, he acted very quickly after war was declared on 3 September 1939. On 12 October he wrote to the NZLA saying that, with the approval of the minister, the facilities of the CLS would be extended to military camps. It was proposed that the National Advisory Committee for Patriotic Purposes establish a library sub-committee, on which the NZLA would be represented, and the association was asked to co-operate by providing unused books through its member libraries and by helping, through its branches and through libraries, to collect books by public book drives. It was intended that the association should be identified as an active participant, in order to demonstrate its value as a national organisation.65
The NZLA responded enthusiastically to this invitation, and Norrie was appointed to represent it on the camp library committee. Appeals for books were broadcast to the public, and libraries acted as receiving centres. Other organisations, such as the Returned Services' Association and the Boy Scouts Association, were also recruited to the enterprise. The central administration of the scheme was placed in the hands of the CLS, but page 128city librarians in various centres were co-opted to its management.66 Alley himself worked nights sorting books in the basement of the Wellington Public Library,67 and he spent part of the Christmas period in Christchurch working with Jean Wright and Hugh Lorimer of the CLS staff on the Christchurch harvest.68 In an article published in May 1940 the New Zealand Free Lance said that 40,000 books and 60,000 periodicals had been collected at depots in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch: 'Under Mr. Alley's resourceful direction, this ambitious wartime library service overlooks very little and forgets still less. It has remembered, among other things, to lay down the golden rule for those still anxious to give books that they should not forward any book which they would not welcome for themselves.'69
In his annual report for the March 1940 year Alley said that, in addition to co-ordinating the national collection and distribution of gifts of books and periodicals for camps and troop-ships, the CLS had also lent its own books to camp libraries where proper library facilities were available, and had facilitated the use, where possible, of the NZLA's inter-library loan scheme.70
One of the little problems, invisible to the public, that Alley and his colleagues had to cope with in ensuring that army, navy, and air force personnel were not cut off from the advantages of library service is revealed by a brief exchange of correspondence between Barr and Alley in 1942. Barr applied for an oil fuel licence to enable him to do some work in connection with the War Library Service, and was turned down by the district oil fuel controller. He appealed for help to Alley, who wrote to the commissioner of transport recommending that Barr should be allowed 25 gallons to visit and assess the work being done in libraries at the RNZAF stations at Hobsonville and Whenuapai and at the Papakura military camp, and the authorisation was given.71 This was not bureaucratic officiousness – supplies of oil fuel, which were transported in very dangerous conditions at this stage of the war, had to be husbanded carefully – but it illustrates the kind of obstacle that had to be dealt with, in many activities, at that time.
From the beginning of the war, in September 1939, heavy censorship was imposed on all kinds of information and publicity. It was necessary but it could easily become unreasonable, and, in the case of the importation of books and periodicals, it encouraged good keen customs officials to make decisions which defied reason – decisions, moreover, which were themselves concealed under the veil of censorship. In order to bring some common sense into this area of censorship, Walter Nash, who was the minister in charge of customs, set up in 1940 what Nancy M. Taylor, in her contribution to the official war history series,72 called 'an ad hoc and invisible committee page 129of four responsible officials in relevant departments, all more informed in the literary field than were most leading public servants'. Alister McIntosh, Alley, J.S. Reid (private secretary to Nash), and George Laking (Customs) were the original members of this committee, the existence of which was not made known publicly. A reading of Taylor's account of it suggests that it acted conservatively but not, in the context of a major war, unduly oppressively.
In a very few years, Alley had made a great impact on the profession he had joined much later than many of his colleagues. The close relationships he had formed with key government politicians and with influential public servants, in carrying out policies to which they were committed, gave him something of a charmed life, and he had also been accepted by the leaders of the library movement (a revealing term which they often used) as one of their own. He did, however, tend at times to hold his cards very close to his chest, causing some uneasiness. He was still, in the library world, the single general (good or bad) in the old 2–3–2 scrum of his South African days, able to carry points by force of character without necessarily carrying everyone with him.
In September 1940 concerns about the growing strength of the CLS and its relationship with the library world generally, and with the NZLA in particular, were raised with the honorary secretary of the NZLA, Norrie, by W.C. Prosser, a Rangiora borough councillor and a member of the NZLA council. Prosser was not a person to be taken lightly. A public accountant who had served in the NZEF on Gallipoli, he was a member of the Rangiora library committee and had been largely responsible for Rangiora being one of the first boroughs to change to free library service. He had been one of the authors of the NZLA publication The Case for Free Library Service. At the time of his approach to Norrie he was a vice-president of the NZLA, and in line to become president in February 1941.
Perry was asked by Norrie to discuss Prosser's concerns with Alley, and after this discussion he drafted a letter, which he showed to Alley in draft, for Norrie to send to Alley. The main points in this letter were the following:
With reference to the Assistant Secretary's consultation with you on Saturday morning, 21st September, during which, in the interests of harmony and to avoid any possibility of future misunderstanding, you were good enough to inform him of your attitude towards certain current developments affecting libraries. I should like first of all to express the hope that the harmony which has hitherto existed between the Country Library Service and the Association may continue … You are fully aware of my personal admiration for the work which you are doing … much can page 130be done by an alliance between the two organisations, which neither could so effectively accomplish alone …
He then asked Alley to confirm his position on the questions at issue, which he set out as follows:
Overlapping [between the CLS and the NZLA] is inevitable in that the services rendered by the two bodies are not entirely distinct. There is, however, no intention on the part of the Country Library Service to attempt to supersede the Association. It is appreciated that the motions underlying the proposed nomination of a Cabinet Minister as President of the Association are (a) possible benefit to the Association during the coming year, and (b) a desire on the part of the Service to exploit the system of Government support under the exceptionally favourable circumstances which may be assumed to exist during the same period. The principle that the Presidency should be an annual office is reaffirmed; and any suggestion that the nomination is to be put forward to increase the weight of Government representation on the Council of the Association, or as a step towards making the Association in any way subservient to the Government, or bringing it under Government control, is expressly disclaimed.
There is no present intention on the part of the Government to subject public libraries themselves to any system of national control …
… warm appreciation of the fullness of the comments and assurances you have given me … 73
Alley wrote to Norrie confirming his agreement with the statements set out in Norrie's letter;74 Prosser was elected president in February 1941; and no cabinet minister was ever president of the NZLA. The correspondence was placed on a file labelled 'State Aid and Control of Libraries'.
Two years later E.B. Ellerm, librarian of the Leys Institute in Auckland and an NZLA councillor from 1928 to 1942, wrote to Norrie expressing similar concerns, though from a rather different angle. 'It would appear,' he wrote, 'that the affairs of the Association have got into the hands of a Group who are more or less using it for a particular purpose rather than for the good of Libraries as a whole, and a number of those who have seen the Assoc. through its initial stages of teething, feel this way. It seems to have split up into factions, and the general friendly atmosphere of the Conferences is gone'.75 Perry, in a minute to this letter, wrote: 'Mr Norrie. I agree, of course, with Ellerm – it is the old subject of undue Government influence. But that trend is inevitable, and it is of no use pushing against it any longer. If Ellerm cannot bring himself to accept what he cannot alter, I page 131think he should not stand [for the Council] – but if he really cannot accept the situation he is putting himself outside the main current of library development.'
Among the general public there were some who saw in the CLS and all it stood for not only government control of libraries, but a communist plot to subvert the minds of the people. Alley had encountered this kind of reaction in his Canterbury days. In 1935, for instance, A.G.B. Fisher of the University of Otago wrote to George Manning about ACE policy and said: 'I discussed these matters fairly frankly with Alley the other day, and he expressed astonishment that it should be thought desirable for the A.C.E. to exclude controversial matter, pointing out, quite fairly, that the library hampers contained an adequate sprinkling of explosive matter.'76 Ten years later Alley was writing to a public figure in Oamaru who had encountered some criticism of the CLS: 'There is absolutely no ground for saying that this Service is "leftish" as our book stock represents, as you say, all kinds of thought. We do not buy from the Right Book Club, or from the Left Book Club, although we buy from ordinary retailers books by authors who write for both these clubs.'77
Nevertheless, there was no upwelling of outrage about the CLS. In Parliament, apart from the responsible ministers who were understandably delighted to have an achievement to talk about which was generally thought to be uncontroversial, the only members who spoke about the CLS, invariably with approval, tended to be Labour backbenchers from rural or semi-rural seats.78 A considered view was given in an editorial in The Press in August 1943, in which it was said:
The completion of five years' work is recorded in the annual report of the Country Library Service, with the modest comment that, while much remains to be done before New Zealand has an adequate library system, it is a 'hopeful sign' that the service has been able to grow in usefulness during the abnormal conditions of war. Something should be added to this. It should be said that the Country Library Service, which cost little to found and costs little to maintain, which works quietly, out of the glare of publicity and controversy, but with steady, constructive social effect, is an established success. It rapidly passed the stage when it was itself an experiment; it has not ceased to be, and it is to be hoped it will never cease to be, a centre of experimental effort. Some of this effort has been called forth by direct war-time needs. Some has been stimulated by the difficulty of developing its primary programme in war; but the development has been real and instructive.79
A few months later the Dunedin Evening Star called the CLS 'the outstanding success in adult education of recent years … which has succeeded beyond all bounds in putting numerous worthwhile books into hundreds of rural houses and many small-town libraries', and praised 'the skill and energy of the director … and his technique in both working independently and also making use of existing institutions.'80
Apart from the book resources committee, in respect to which he had a semi-official role, one of Alley's strongest NZLA interests was in the library training (later library education) committee, of which he was convener from 1939 to 1955, with one break in the 1943/44 year (when John Harris was persuaded to take over the responsibility but, sadly, failed to measure up to Alley's expectations of him). This committee had been established in 1937 in response to one of the major recommendations of the Munn–Barr report, which had said:
Means must be devised to raise the general and professional standards of librarians and assistant librarians. It is recommended that for all urban public library systems and all university college libraries the matriculation examination of the University of New Zealand, or its equivalent, should be the minimum required for appointment to a library position. In addition every encouragement should be given to young library assistants (1) to acquire a university degree, (2) to study for the professional examinations of the Library Association (London), or to take a course in librarianship at the Library School of the University of London or one of the American universities … As soon as the general level of salaries can be raised, only university graduates should be eligible for appointment to professional staffs.81
This recommendation had been taken up by the societies of librarians which were formed in 1936, and which soon became branches of the NZLA. In August 1936 Perry wrote to the Society of Otago Librarians, suggesting that a correspondence course might be organised and saying: 'I feel that there are now enough trained men82 in New Zealand to undertake the work of setting and correcting correspondence courses for a comparatively small number of students'; and the Otago librarians reported in 1937 in favour of the idea, adding that 'it is less important to have library examinations than to provide a course of instruction designed to equip librarians with such training as is fundamental to their profession'.83
The question was discussed anxiously over the next few years.84 By 1940 Alley's library training committee was committed to organising correspondence courses, and Carnell was deeply involved in implementing them. The first course to start, in 1941, was one for a children's librarian's page 133certificate, for which Dorothy White wrote the notes and acted as tutor, and Kathleen Harvey and Carnell as an examining board. In the end this course foundered because the effort involved in keeping it afloat could not be sustained, but it provided useful experience, and the notes formed the basis of White's important book, About Books for Children (1946).
In January 1941 the NZLA council received a preliminary draft, prepared by Carnell, of a syllabus for a general training course. The syllabus was approved by the council in November 1941, and the first annual intake of 42 students was admitted in August 1942. The course was designed for students who were already employed in libraries and whose educational level was university entrance. It was laid out in two sections: one, taking two and a half years, leading to a certificate, followed by another, taking three years, leading to a diploma. Notes for the certificate course were written by Carnell, and students were assigned to tutors, who marked and commented on regular assignments. An innovative feature, which sprang from Carnell's fertile mind, was a record of their own reading which students were required to keep for 50 weeks and submit to a supervisor. This was in place of a more formal paper in a subject such as English literature, to be found in similar courses elsewhere, and was an acknowledgement that librarians could have very varied interests, all of which could be valuable in their work – the important thing was to discover whether they could comment intelligently and with discrimination on what they read in the ordinary course of their lives. As Alley has said, it was based on 'the idea that people could not just pass themselves off as librarians unless they had a real live contact, an association with books and with reading'.85
It was a very ambitious programme for such a small profession to undertake. At first, with only the first annual intake to be coped with, it was daunting enough, but after five years, even allowing for the probability that many students would not proceed to the diploma, the fugue, in full voice, either would have been unbearably majestic or would have fallen in on itself. In 1942 it was possible for the association to make a bold start, but, even so, by May of that year Alley was facing problems over the appointment of tutors. Writing to members of the committee, he said:
A crisis has arisen regarding the general course. You will have noticed on page 203 of the April number of New Zealand Libraries the note regarding tutors. Up to the time of writing there has been no response at all. The number of students who have applied is 41. It seems fairly certain that, even if one or two last minute applications are received from suitable persons, we are not going to have enough tutors to carry through Part 1, much less Part 2, of the general course. It is true that no attempt has been made to bring pressure to bear upon likely people to undertake tutoring, page 134but under present circumstances is it either fair or wise to do so? … In ordinary times we have a moral claim upon the services of librarians who have had the benefit of study and travel abroad, and at the end of the war there should be no difficulty in finding a dozen suitable tutors, but with some in camp or likely to be called up soon, and others short staffed and preoccupied with E.P.S. or Home Guard work, it is physically impossible for most of the people to undertake extra work of this kind.86
Morale must have reached its lowest point just then. The course did get under way, though a report presented to the NZLA council in January 1944 said that 'The course has only proceeded with difficulty.'87 One could also say that it had only proceeded because of the superhuman dedication of a few overburdened people, including Barr, Collins, Dunningham, and Harris, who were among the first tutors. It is difficult to imagine how the impetus could have been kept up, especially in the years before newlyqualified librarians became available for tutoring duties, without some change of approach. This did happen, but before we get to that we must look at some of the other things that were going on then, both in the library world and in Alley's own life. The context was one that would have overwhelmed a more settled and comfortable profession.
In February 1942 Alley was elected honorary secretary of the NZLA, and in September of that year the association's office moved from the Wellington Public Library to the old wooden building which the CLS had acquired in Sydney Street East, across the road from Parliament. It remained there, with Doreen Bibby, the NZLA's secretary-assistant, until the association bought its own accommodation 20 years later. As honorary secretary, Alley became ex officio a member of every committee of the NZLA council, and the union catalogue, which had moved with the association's office, started to occupy an increasing amount of the CLS's space – the early trickle gradually became a lusty stream, and finally a roaring torrent while card cabinets were still in use. Increasingly, also, distinctions between the CLS and its director and the NZLA and its honorary secretary became somewhat blurred. This did not matter in 1942, but at times it did later.
Carnell continued to work with public libraries, to spread the free library message and to link those in smaller towns with the CLS. In a report on her work in 1941 she noted that 15 libraries had adopted free library service in that year, but said, 'It is significant that there are only three libraries (Dunedin, Timaru, Palmerston North) serving populations of more than 10,000 which give free service, and of these only Palmerston North has made the change in recent years … In larger towns … free library service has made no tangible progress whatever since the Munn–Barr Report.'88page 135
By this time Carnell was concerned that wartime conditions were making it increasingly difficult for her to carry out her responsibilities, and she and Alley had begun to think that a way should be found to conserve the funds provided by the Carnegie Corporation until they could be used more effectively. Writing to Dunningham in February 1942, she said that Alley had discussed with her and with the central executive of the NZLA the possibility of getting her designated assistant director of the CLS, or something like that, and having the salary paid from government funds. 'This would be a comfortable solution in that the Carnegie dollars would be saved (by no means such a trivial point as I gather you think). I could be used for War Library Service, writing training schemes and any other job which seemed useful, and personal ambition would be gratified.'89 Dunningham's response was, 'so long as you are remaining with the C.L.S. I should personally be happy'.90 This seems to have been the general view, and Carnell was appointed assistant director of the CLS from 1 April 1942. In informing the NZLA of the appointment, Alley said that she 'will continue to hold the position of Liaison Officer between this Service and the N.Z. Library Association. Her salary and travelling expenses will not, however, be recoverable from the Association after 31st March next.'91
Despite his preoccupations with the CLS and the NZLA, Alley did have another life at this time. In April or May 1941 The Farmer in New Zealand, by G.T. Alley and D.O.W. Hall, was published by the Department of Internal Affairs as one of a series of historical surveys commissioned to celebrate the nation's centennial in 1940. In all, 13 such books were commissioned, of which 11 were published by the department. One, by Apirana Ngata on the Maori, was never completed. Another, by W.B. Sutch on social welfare, was vetoed by Fraser (and later published independently). The Farmer in New Zealand was late in appearing.
Alley was commissioned to write the book in July 1938. The committee which selected him included C.E. Beeby, J.W. Heenan, Alister McIntosh, Oliver Duff (editor of publications for the centennial), and E.H. McCormick, among whom he was at that time flavour of the month, and the choice was in fact a good one, but for one or two problems that the committee could not have foreseen. One was the extreme pressure that was soon going to affect Alley as a result of the rapid growth of the CLS, the book-importing crisis, the War Library Service, the demands of the NZLA (including the start of training schemes), and his increasing prestige in the library movement generally. Another was that, for all that his thinking was clear and incisive and enabled him to write good, practical, and far-seeing reports on formal matters, when it came to writing down his innermost thoughts, or even speaking about them in public, he encountered a kind page 136of writer's block. This often led him to obscure his thoughts with Delphic riddles; at other times to remain silent. He did not have the gift of the gab that is the mark of the true academic, especially the one who really has very little to say.
In a memorandum to the chosen authors, Duff said that the books should be surveys rather than histories, should not be longer than about 30,000 words, should present a new view of the field covered rather than paraphrase or epitomise existing narratives, and should be held together by a common idea. In writing to Alley, he offered the agreed fee of £100, which was equivalent to about 20 per cent of Alley's salary at that time, and asked him to agree to deliver his manuscript within a year, an undertaking which Alley agreed to.92 In May 1939, though, when McCormick, who had replaced Duff as editor, inquired about progress, Alley had to say that pressure of work was causing delays. By the middle of 1940, when a manuscript had still not appeared, David Hall, as associate editor, joined Alley in a desperate effort to complete the book on time,93 and the text was sent to the printer in January 1941. Reporting this finally successful outcome to the secretary of the Public Service Commission, Heenan endorsed a recommendation that the fee should be split between Alley and Hall. 'Mr. Hall has done a vast amount of work,' he said, 'which alone has made the completion of this survey possible, and has done it to the complete satisfaction of Mr. McCormick and the rest of the Editorial staff.' Alley got £60, Hall got £10, and the rest was held back because much of Hall's work was done in office time.94
The Farmer in New Zealand is an interesting book for its time and, to one who knew Alley better than he knew Hall, it seems, in its independent approach firmly based on fact, to reflect Alley's way of thinking. An anonymous review (possibly by Duff) in the New Zealand Listener95 said that it gave 'no duplication of anything that has ever been written in New Zealand, but an entirely new light and line of thought'. This reviewer highlighted a number of comments on Maori farming before the Troubles (called 'the Maori Wars' in the book): that the Maori were producing food cheaply enough to disturb the white settlers' market; that the Waikato 'ninety years ago' was 'one great wheatfield'; that in the Bay of Plenty and around Taupo and Rotorua, Maori farmers in 1857 had 3000 acres in wheat, 3000 acres in potatoes, nearly 2000 acres in maize, and upwards of 1000 acres planted in kumera; owned nearly 1000 horses, 200 cattle, and 5000 pigs; worked four water-mills and 96 ploughs; and in addition to 900 canoes had 43 coastal vessels of about 20 tons each.
This reviewer was fixated on Maori farming. Alley was, of course, ahead of his time in drawing attention to early Maori achievements, but the distinguishing feature of the book is really its selection of illuminating page 137facts and trenchant comment, coupled with personal knowledge, to offer a series of observations which were as relevant at the end of the 20th century as they were in 1940. For instance:
It is appropriate to consider how far the New Zealand Company settlers had available to them the basic necessities for successful farming. The basic necessities may be crudely defined as access to land, with security of tenure implicit, a reasonably realistic technique, an assured market, and energy and initiative. It is customary to credit the pioneers with the lastmentioned qualities almost by definition. This is perhaps due to the habit of contemplating exclusively the successful examples. (p.34)
The second generation of large graziers rarely inherited either the charm or the education of their fathers, but at least they produced an increasing quantity of wool. (p.56)
Since [the early days] the farmer in this country has become more preoccupied with the prices of his products and the costs of producing them. But he is not wholly a business man, any more than a doctor, who lives by disease, surreptitiously propagates it. … Many farmers are as vividly aware of the beauty of their surroundings as they are of the growth of feed on the portion of the landscape they happen to own. (p.127)
Published at the subsidised price of five shillings, some of the centennial surveys were valued at $30 or $40 70 years later. The Farmer in New Zealand is not one of these. Its value is in the book itself, not in its secondhand price.
Alley-as-Farmer was also involved in another project in 1941. His brother Rewi, who by then was one of the most effective organisers of the vast Gung Ho industrial co-operative movement in the part of China that was out of the reach of the Japanese invaders, wanted some stud sheep to be purchased from New Zealand so that they could be used for improving the standard of stock in Kansu (now Gansu) province. The sheep were ordered by Mr C.C. Wu, of the Pastoral Experimental Station in Minchow,96 and Geoff interested the firm of Wright Stephenson and Company in arranging the purchase; 150 animals of various breeds were shipped to Rangoon early in December 1941. A few days later the Pacific war erupted and the ship was diverted to Calcutta, which had no road link to China.97 Communication with China was disrupted, but in 1944 Rewi told Geoff that he had heard that the sheep had ended up somewhere in Tibet.98 The attempt to introduce new genes to the flocks of Gansu had to be postponed until after the war.
Back in suburban Wellington, the Alleys' fourth and final child, Patrick Geoffrey (Pat), was born on 9 January 1942. Judith, who was then 10 years page 138old, thought much later that her mother might have suffered postnatal depression after this birth, for she was asked to help a great deal around the house, taking Pat out in his pram, shopping and cooking, all of which she enjoyed. With Geoff so busy and preoccupied, Euphan must have felt isolated, but on the whole life in Te Anau Road was happy and comfortable. The old habit of singing around the piano on Sunday evenings was kept up there. It was then, said Judith, that she learned folk songs, ballads, lieder, Gilbert and Sullivan: 'Dad had a deep baritone voice, true pitch, excellent diction, and we were all helped by Mother's wonderful piano playing.' Judith worried that the neighbours would think they were German spies, singing 'Der Wanderer' or 'An die Musik' for all to hear, but many years later she met an old neighbour who said it used to be one of the joys of her life to listen to the Alley kids and their dad sing on Sunday nights. Along the road, Dorothy Davies was involved in getting chamber music established in Wellington, and she and Reuel, who had no children of their own, spoiled and were adored by the young Alleys.
Both the Alley parents were active in the school community. Geoff, who was a member of the Hataitai School committee for several years from June 1940, helped to build a library within the school and was supportive of the few school events that took place in the war years. Euphan formed some good friendships with women with whom she would sit in the sun down at the beach while the younger children played, and she also made a rewarding foray into the playcentre movement. Geoff brought home children's books when they started coming in for the School Library Service. Sometimes Judith was allowed to help in the CLS on Saturday mornings, and even to go and buy morning tea cakes in Bowen Street – and, as a very responsible job, to take the New Yorker up to Mr Fraser's office.99
For a time during the war Alley was a member of a committee which was concerned with imports of anti-war publications. No record of its deliberations has been found, but Alley's attitude might be gauged from his comment on the help given to the committee by Alister McIntosh, who in his earlier days had been 'a very good legislative reference librarian … [and] then showed his grasp and, of course, his basic liberalism, his deep knowledge of some of the more difficult, some of the lesser known works of economic and political theory'.100
In November 1942 Alley, together with other officers of the Department of Education (including Beeby), was balloted for military service. Aged nearly 40, with four children, and always less inclined to enthusiasm for the military life than brother Rewi had been, he did not try to circumvent an appeal which was lodged by the Public Service Commission. In notes prepared for this appeal, Beeby said:page 139
For the past 3 years the Service has administered the War Library Service acting in conjunction with the National Patriotic Fund Board … The Service itself is of great importance, in peace or war, and should be maintained, and, as opportunity offers, developed. It has become in a little over 4 years, one of the largest libraries in New Zealand, and it will in time be the largest, serving nearly half the total population of New Zealand.
Arrangements for Replacement: The Director of the Country Library Service considers that the Assistant Director of the Service, Miss E.J. Carnell, is fully capable of carrying on the work in his absence. He knows of no other person to whom the responsibility could be given. There has been a serious loss of male staff to the armed forces, however, and it is essential that the book van distributing services now operating be kept running and that one or two male officers are available at Headquarters.
Two factors which would need consideration in connection with Carnell's availability were then mentioned: (1) the likelihood that work she had begun, especially the NZLA training courses and the establishment of the School Library Service, would be seriously interrupted, and (2) 'Miss Carnell wishes to join one of the women's branches of the armed forces'. Postponement sine die was requested for Alley, and army reserve transport was suggested as alternative service.101 These requests must have been granted, for in a curriculum vitae prepared in 1944 Alley gave his status in regard to military service thus: 'I am "On Leave Without Pay", Certificate No L 24381, as from 12 November 1942, from Area 5 Wellington, and am Company Sergeant Major of No 17 Lines of Communication Motor Transport Company, in Reserve.'102 Judith's impression was that 'his thing was to get Wellington evacuated'.103
The outcome of the appeal was pretty certain, considering that Alley was in the middle of negotiations over the future of library services as part of the educational activities of the armed forces. By mid-1942 the fact that New Zealand was the only English-speaking country which had no scheme for education in the army had led to a decision by the government to establish an Army Education and Welfare Service (AEWS) under the direction of a senior inspector in the Education Department, D.G. Ball, who was seconded as a lieutenant-colonel.104 The AEWS officially opened in March 1943. Some months earlier Ball and Alley had met together and then, on 23 November 1942, with the War Cabinet, to consider the relationship between the existing War Library Service, in which the CLS and the NZLA were involved, and the AEWS. Following these discussions the War Cabinet decided '(a) that the Government should approach the National Patriotic Fund Board to have their war library interests transferred to the Army Education and Welfare Service, (b) that Colonel Ball and page 140Mr. Alley should discuss and submit for War Cabinet approval a minute setting out the relationship between the Country Library Service and the New Zealand Library Association in country library work and the further development of such work in the Army Education scheme'. The minute referred to, which was approved on 27 November 1942, was as follows:
(a) that the advice and recommendations of the New Zealand Library Association and the Country Library Service should be fully considered in the determination of Army library policy; (b) that the machinery of the Country Library Service, suitably extended to meet wartime needs, should be the chief means for carrying out library services for the armed forces; (c) that the Library Staff Officer, when appointed, should carry out the duties of liaison officer between the Army Education Service on the one hand and the Country Library Service and the New Zealand Library Association on the other; (d) that the Library Staff Officer should also be designated Library Liaison Officer and be recognized as such by the Country Library Service and the New Zealand Library Association.
An important element was that, since the library service was to be run by the CLS, it was accepted that it would cover the navy and the air force as well as the army.
When these decisions and recommendations were referred to the Treasury, it reported favourably, to the extent of £17,500, with the proviso that after the war the CLS 'should take over the books, etc, at valuation for their normal purposes, the War Expenses Account should be reimbursed accordingly'105 – this happened in the 1945/46 year, when the CLS spent £21,379 on books, including AEWS surplus stock, against £14,000 voted, the extra amount being a useful windfall for the CLS since its vote for the next year remained unaffected at £17,000.106
In this matter Alley was of course wearing two hats, CLS and NZLA, a situation which sometimes caused confusion over the next decade until he ceased to be honorary secretary of the NZLA, but which also, in the favourable circumstances of the time, enabled him to steer a number of important projects to safe berths. Over the AEWS he received strong support from all sections of the library world.107
Dunningham was recruited from Dunedin to take the post of library staff officer, with the rank of captain, and Carnell became first subaltern on the library establishment of the AEWS. Dunningham was in his element: an entirely new library service, covering the whole country without the complications of local body boundaries and rivalries, based on the CLS page 141which he and Alley had helped to plan, and operating from premises all over New Zealand and overseas. 'We sometimes forget,' said Alley later, 'that New Zealand had about a hundred thousand or more people in uniform and library service was being given to them in quite an enterprising way by the AEWS', including direct service to small battery units, small coastwatching units and so on – the 'library service where you work' concept.108 An early CLS staff member recalled Dunningham as 'that bouncy guy',109 and this was undoubtedly one of the pinnacles of his career. After the war it was not possible to replicate the organisation of the AEWS library service, but the experience provided good lessons for all libraries on the distribution and circulation of library materials.110 At the time its success enhanced the reputation of the CLS in the official mind.
By 1945 the staff of the CLS numbered 52.111 In the beginning there were the field librarians, who visited the participating libraries and groups, changed their books, and advised on how to use the service; and the headquarters staff, who selected, bought, and catalogued the books, sent them to the vans, and dealt with those that were returned. As time went on the scope of the work widened. The population limit for boroughs which could receive service was raised to 15,000 and by 1946 there were 65 of them, in addition to 504 rural groups, 69 hamper groups and 674 postal borrowers. The SLS opened branches in various towns. A request service for participating libraries was developed, together with subject loan collections which were provided in addition to the standard scale of loans, and in 1943 the CLS became the clearing-house for inter-library requests from all types of libraries. A mechanism was established for circulating regular lists of books which had been requested on interloan and had not been found in the union catalogue or by checking other Wellington libraries. Books that were not reported after these lists were circulated were considered for purchase by the CLS, which began consciously to build up a headquarters stock which was designed to bear part of the interloan load. Thought was being given to service to hospitals and prisons, and to developing an industrial and technical service.
In the long run, a long run which had been foreseen from the start, if only through a glass, darkly, the service was going to change out of recognition, but the heart of it in the 1940s was still the Country Library Service which was established in 1937, and already a certain mystique was accruing to it. In 1941 Allan Mercer, one of the first field librarians, wrote:
The blood-stream of New Zealand's present rural library system is the 4,000-mile route followed by the Country Library Service book-vans, one in each Island, in the course of their fourteen weeks' tours, thrice yearly. page 142Nearly 350 Libraries of all sizes and types in rural districts and in towndistricts and boroughs of up to 10,000 inhabitants are supplied from the vans, which in turn are continually fed from Wellington. The possibilities of van-service as available at present are fairly obvious. Local librarians are afforded a wide choice in their book selection (the vans carry about 1,500 volumes). Personal contact between local and travelling librarians may be of material benefit. The travelling librarian is enabled to compare and correlate the methods, standards and holdings of the libraries visited and should be able to gain information and experience which can be gained in no other convenient way and which can be made available to all libraries concerned.112
Mercer then went on to describe the weaknesses of libraries in rural New Zealand which he had observed – in knowledge of the range of books available, in the standard (or absence) of staffing, in support from local authorities – all of which he did his best to ameliorate in the course of a long career. He was typical of the kind of person who was attracted to work in the CLS.
When the staff was small Alley presided over it like a large and gentle, but somewhat silent, giant. Jean Wright, who had worked in the Canterbury Public Library since 1935, experienced his silence when she applied for a job in the CLS in September 1938. She found her interview very difficult because of what she perceived to be his shyness, but then she joined an office in which the atmosphere was friendly and democratic, though high standards of cataloguing, which was what she did at first, were insisted upon.113 Members of the staff were called upon to give little talks at staff meetings on topics like book selection, the function of the catalogue, reference questions that do arise and might arise in a small library that is working in co-operation with the CLS, pseudonyms, the role of the library in wartime, library equipment, and subject entries in the subject catalogue and in the classified catalogue.114 Wright remembers Alley as very upright in the tradition of the civil service at that time, and as one who gave a good deal of latitude to those whom he trusted. Interestingly enough, Alley, in speaking of Shelley, said: 'His possible weakness [in administration] was perhaps a result of a virtue. He tended to leave his colleagues to themselves – to get on with it. Sometimes it would have been better if he had been more directly involved – but again he had a strong belief in independence for anyone entrusted with a task.'115 That could have been written about Alley himself.
Wright was one whom Alley trusted. He sent her to Christchurch in 1943 to establish a depot for the despatch and receipt of books, and then again in 1945 to set up the first full-scale branch of the CLS outside page 143Wellington, providing the full range of services. 'I was very independent,' she remembers; 'Cook Strait is very deep and very wide in the South Island. Mr Alley was not very good on communication – he didn't like toll calls and there was nothing else, so I just acted … I could go my own way and I went it, and I was trusted to do it.'116 Wright never let him down; those who did found, eventually, that they could not get away with it for ever.
At a very early stage Alley insisted that the salary scale for men and women should be the same, and his attitudes in such matters are also exemplified by the fact that, under his management as honorary secretary, the names of members attending NZLA meetings were given as initials plus surnames, with no indication of gender or marital status. One associate thought his influence was pivotal for women at a time when women were beginning to move into the professions.117 He was also well disposed towards staff members who had physical or social disabilities, and in this respect he anticipated the era when it was thought that special commissioners were needed to ensure justice.
With all his pluses and a few minuses, Alley built up a staff in the 1940s which had a very strong esprit de corps, which felt that it was doing worthwhile and important work, and which was encouraged to think creatively and flexibly. As an example of the kind of approach he encouraged, there is this memorandum which he gave to the librarian in charge of the CLS Christchurch office, on the question of eligibility for the 'D' (postal) service:
Each [application] is judged on its own merits and consideration is given to the individual circumstances. The general rule is that anyone at a distance of 10 miles or over from the nearest Public Library, unless on a railway line, is eligible. In some cases this distance is too far; consideration must be given to type of country, and possibility of transport. If nearer than ten miles, or accessible by rail, the applicant is asked to join the nearest public library and is given details of the interloan service when the library is not linked with WCl [CLS Wellington] and of the Request service when the library is linked with WCl … [and on special cases:] e.g. there is one borrower at Carterton because the librarian refuses to use interloan'.118
Alley regarded the role of the CLS as being not only to provide a service but also to encourage and assist improvements in the service provided by individual libraries, a role for which organising librarian positions were created as time went on, to follow up, in a more intensive way, the kind of advice and assistance that was offered by field librarians. He made this role clear in his annual reports; in 1944, for instance, after commenting that progress by participating libraries was uneven, he said: 'Local authorities, page 144like Tauranga Borough Council, which are spending locally per head of population more than is spent by any city, and are, in addition, getting all that the Country Library Service has to offer, are reaping the fullest reward of the policy of this Service, which has always conceived of financial responsibility for library service as a partnership between local and general governments.'119
In the same report Alley said: 'At the earliest favourable time it is proposed to develop this Service on a regional basis. Instead of separate services for city and country it is proposed, with the co-operation of the city library authorities, to combine the services of town and country in one regional service. A strong National Library Service is essential to coordinate the work of such regions.' This was a rather surprising statement, but it followed several years of discussion, in which Alley had taken an increasingly active role without always being able to control its direction, of the structure that might best meet the needs of the country for the delivery of public library service. During that time the CLS had been established as a central government organisation which initially had very little to do with libraries in the larger centres, and it had been a great success within its limited brief. But members of the library profession kept harking back to the Munn–Barr recommendation that district library organisations should be set up, by co-operative arrangements between local authorities. This model came to be known as the regional library one, although Munn and Barr had used 'regional' in a different sense. Some thought that regional libraries should be supported by the CLS; others that they should supplant it. Most ignored the warnings of those, like McIntosh, who thought that co-operation between consenting local authorities, in the absence of an indissoluble union, would be very difficult to achieve and even more difficult to maintain over libraries, which did not have as high a profile in the public mind as they had in the minds of librarians.
So there had been years of enthusiastic and enjoyable thinking and arguing about the ideal library system for New Zealand, punctuated by the writing of reports on various ways of achieving the desired end. Enthusiasm for the regional idea was particularly strong in Dunedin, where the Otago branch of the NZLA was a lively forum for the discussion of library policies and a source of numerous reports.120 Leaders in the branch were the two charismatic senior librarians, Archie Dunningham at the Public Library and John Harris at the university, of whom Harris was rather more measured in his thinking than his friend and colleague at the other end of town. In 1937 Dunningham put forward a proposal for the NZLA to establish an extension service, to be funded partly by the central government and partly by local authorities, and run by a director responsible to the NZLA council.121 At about the same time he was helping page 145Alley draft the scheme which became the government's Country Library Service. Dunningham was versatile.
By 1944 the idea of 'regional library service' had fixed itself firmly in many library minds as the kind of library organisation which should be put in place as soon as possible. It had been reinforced by a report on the public library service of Great Britain, written by Lionel R. McColvin, city librarian of Westminster and honorary secretary of the Library Association (London), which had recommended that the smallest population unit for public library service should be 220,000 and that existing county libraries should be absorbed into units of this size or larger. This report clarified ideas of the size of a library unit needed to provide a reasonable level of service, but enthusiasm for it tended to obscure, in New Zealand, the very real problems that were caused by New Zealand's peculiar local government structure. 'Regional library service' had become a rallying cry – details to be worked out later. It had a long life and coloured discussions for years to come. Even Alley, a realist if ever there was one, was affected by it when he wrote his 1944 report, though the last sentence quoted above ('A strong National Library Service is essential to co-ordinate the work of such regions') can be read as a pre-emptive strike against the radicals who thought that all library services, including such things as union catalogues, should be devolved, decentralised, regionalised, and separated from Wellington.
The last years of the war were a time of post-war planning in many parts of the world, and New Zealand was not immune from the urge to plan for a better future. The library world, which had been in planning mode for some time, had recently had yet another excitement in the success, for a short time, of the AEWS library service, with Dunningham in operational command, Carnell by his side, and Alley as sponsor, and the novel experience of a library service run from a centre, without local bodies being involved except by supporting it. By 1943 it was time for all these plans and experiences to be brought together.
In August 1943 the NZLA council set up an interim planning committee to set the scene for the post-war era. Convened by Carnell, it included Perry and (nominated by the Wellington branch) Scholefield, W.J. Gaudin (a city councillor) and W.L. Robertson. Alley was, of course, also a member, ex officio. At an early meeting some members of the committee brought forward two drafts outlining possible lines of development. Labelled 'Plan A' and 'Plan B', neither of these was endorsed by the committee. Instead, several librarians were asked to examine them,122 and their comments, together with the plans, were then published in New Zealand Libraries for wider discussion.123
Plan A was an ambitious one, providing for a Ministry of Libraries page 146which would deal with a Minister of Libraries; a Dominion Library Service with a number of central responsibilities, such as a national reference collection, a union catalogue and a clearing-house for interloan, and the supervision of regional administration; a Dominion Library Council, consisting of representatives of regional councils and including a minority group appointed by the NZLA; the regional councils; and local library committees which would appoint members to the regional councils. The cost of the scheme would be met by annual parliamentary vote from the consolidated fund. Both library subscriptions and local body rates would be superseded.
Plan B was designed more as an extension of the existing structure of the Country Library Service, by establishing administrative districts in the charge of district librarians stationed in the larger centres, and by some merging of functions of the General Assembly Library and the Alexander Turnbull Library, together with other functions which had already been added to the CLS, to create a National Library Service. After the districts had been established they would take over the responsibility of providing library service in county areas. The government would pay money subsidies to district authorities.
Plan A was prepared by Carnell and Robertson.124 It is not clear who prepared Plan B, but Alley was probably behind it, with the support of other members of the committee. On the face of it, Plan B seemed to provide for a continuation of a central government scheme, whereas the structure proposed in Plan A provided for a bottom-up approach, with each level of management appointing members to the next level above. But Perry pointed out a major weakness of Plan A when he said that he was 'unable to persuade myself that centralised (i.e. Consolidated Fund) finance can be satisfactorily combined with the form of local control suggested'. Perry also commented that 'Neither of the schemes appears to take any account of possible local authority reform to provide larger units of local government. There appears to be no prospect of such reform in the immediate future, but I believe the problem must be faced immediately after the war.'125
Barr thought that neither plan was sufficiently comprehensive – 'i.e. they do not deal with the whole of the New Zealand Library Service – Public, University, Governmental and Departmental Libraries. Semi-public libraries, such as the Royal Society of New Zealand and its branches, are libraries left out of consideration.' Harris said: 'The two plans seem to me to have a common failure. They approach the problem in an abstract manner. They begin, and end, with an organisational and administrative set-up … Administration is not an objective. It is a means to an end, and should be considered only in relation to that end.'126
To Alley, Plan A was 'An impressive conception, reminds one of a super page 147liner built many miles from the sea. If miraculously launched with its full complement of supercargoes (boards, councils, etc.) and crew (some hundreds of civil servants) it would face an eventful life. Its deep draught – in terms of taxation, some hundreds of thousands of pounds annually – would be a problem. Its steering would be a perpetual compromise – local control versus central finance – and effective steering demands at least elbow room, even admitting that the course might be set in democratic conference.' Plan B, on the other hand, he thought was 'An unimpressive affair. It reminds one of a combination of cargo steamer and dredge. It might be possible, using Plan B or something like it, for the channels to library progress to be deepened, widened and travelled at the same time.'127
It had been intended that the plans, and comments on them, should be considered in February 1944, at a conference of the NZLA which would have been the first such conference since 1941. At the last minute the conference was postponed because severe restrictions were suddenly placed on railway travel (there was a war on), and in the end the postponement lasted until February 1945. Looking back, one can only think that it was providential that the two hastily cobbled together plans could now be given more careful consideration, away from the pressure of remits and resolutions. The coming year was also going to be an eventful one in producing new material to be incorporated in the discussions, though the extent to which this would happen could not have been foreseen in February 1944.
At the next meeting of the interim planning committee, on 17 March 1944, Alley 'stated that since the last meeting the Country Library Service, with the approval of the Minister of Education, had considered a decentralisation plan for the activities of the Country Library Service in one large area of New Zealand. Mr. Alley was not at liberty to give any details, including the name of the metropolitan area with which negotiations had already begun, but said that the type of organization which was envisaged was a regional development, in which the city and county would be made ultimately into one unit.'128 This was the background to the statement in Alley's March 1944 annual report. It seems, from correspondence on the file, that the negotiations were with Barr and Auckland, but nothing ever came of them. The statement did, however, put an end to Plan A. At its meeting in April 1944 the NZLA council appointed a less interim planning committee, again with Carnell as convener but with Barr and Ellen Melville (an Auckland city councillor) added.129 The story of this committee's fortunes will have to be postponed at this point.
There is no doubt that Alley was very annoyed by Carnell's involvement with the production of Plan A, and that his attitude towards her soured from this time; when Alley got annoyed with someone he stayed annoyed. page 148Working in the AEWS with Dunningham, she had become beguiled by his soaring ideas, which were anathema to one, like Alley, who preferred to gain his objectives by patiently and incrementally reinforcing gains already made and then, with political support carefully nurtured, moving on to the next stage. Already, a sharp division was developing between what might be called the Dunningham/Otago school, with its romantic tones of devolution and regionalism, and the McIntosh/Alley method, which was pragmatic and, perhaps, over-conscious of political realities; and Alley was also not above sending out a diversionary sortie in order to keep the opposition guessing.
'Plan A,' said Alley in his memoirs, 'was a very startlingly innovative one … it involved a more or less complete taking over of the whole library system by Government. Now this might have been possible but I don't think Mr Mason or Mr Fraser as Prime Minister would have agreed with it. I don't think the Library Association would have agreed to it, it would of course have caused a great deal of fluttering in the dovecotes. It might, of course on the other hand, have been a good thing because it would have saved an awful lot of energy in trying to persuade reluctant local authorities to do something about their library service. Under Plan A libraries would be just installed, maintained as it were like the Post Office or some Departmental thing. Well, one could talk about this endlessly. One sees all the perils.'130
Another intriguing element in this story is Carnell's association with W.L. Robertson. He had been around for a long time; his membership of the association went back to pre-NZLA days. He is listed in the proceedings of the 1935 conference as a committee member from Hokitika,131 and in 1944 he was chairman of the Wellington branch. Alley: 'Robertson was a committed, avowed, dyed-in-the-wool socialist, a believer in the virtues of co-operation. He just lived and breathed and thought in those terms. He worked in the Country Library Service in a fairly general way in preparation of books and other material for circulation and his association with Carnell brought about this happening, the production of the famous Plan A.'132 Robertson did not continue active work in the association after 1944; he died (by his own hand) in 1950.133
The episode of the two plans is interesting on several levels. It shows Alley's increasing stature, both as a trusted adviser of ministers and as a leader in a profession which was thinking big. Over quite a long period Alley as director and Alley as honorary secretary would orchestrate important library developments, with political support and with the willing co-operation of most of the leaders in the profession. It also shows Alley's ability to take quick and effective action when circumstances demanded it. The downside of this was his somewhat ruthless manipulation of people page 149and events when he thought this was necessary, and his habit of suddenly producing a new factor which would cut the ground from under the feet of those who, he thought, were heading in the wrong direction. One can see in all this the All Black lock, in sole control of the scrum or emerging from the ruck, ball in hand and elbows clearing the way, and as long as the profession could see a bright new future beckoning, by and large it welcomed the forceful leadership.
In his subsequent attitude to Carnell, though, Alley demonstrated another characteristic, his inability to forgive and make allowance for opposition, which arose from what he called, in writing to his sister Joy, 'the well known Alley thin-ness of epidermis';134 over the years this made difficulties for himself as well as for others.
Towards the end of 1943 Scholefield, in writing to Collins about a number of matters concerning the NZLA, said:
To my mind the Robertson–Carnell combination is not nice and is aiming at things I don't like at all. Moreover, they have Geoff Alley very unhappy. It is a strange position for two members of his staff to be working in opposition to him. I have always felt that Geoff did not do what he might have done to secure co-operation from some of us. He was too apt to draw rabbits out of his pocket and make the council feel foolish for discussing matters to which he held the answer. Nevertheless we will have to support him and not allow the C.L.S. to suffer. Miss Carnell's fault is impetuosity; she will plunge at the hurdles. The other party is a bird of passage pure and simple … I do feel that at the present moment our path is very clear and that all we have to do is the obvious; i.e. amalgamate the Turnbull and this Library and the C.L.S. with or without the Royal Society and with or without the Archives …135
A month later Scholefield wrote a long letter to Alley setting out his concerns about the position of the NZLA and its relations with the CLS. After emphasising the help and support that the General Assembly Library staff – 'and I think also those of other libraries' – had always given to the CLS (minute by Alley: 'Bloody little'), he then offered comments and advice which were obviously well meant as coming from a much older and more senior person, of which the following extracts can give only a partial impression.
Though from the outset I realised that the influence of the C.L.S. was bound to be an increasing one and probably dominant I always thought it undesirable that the Association should sell out to the C.L.S. That would be bad from your own point of view and it would be the first stage in page 150complete bureaucratisation of library service in N.Z. I have often thought that the C.L.S. and yourself (or Miss Carnell) went too far and too fast in seizing authority and assuming activities that would have been better left to the Association. Then I felt that the non-C.L.S. personnel of the Council and its committees were simply rubber-stamping what you wished while we were sometimes in the dark as to your real plans. I don't suggest that you had any covert designs, but you quite often spoke flippantly or in miracles which did not make your real meaning clear to my dense mind … Miss Carnell's position has always appeared to me to be anomalous and mischievous … You will understand from this that I believe we have got into a mild imbroglio and that it is our duty to find the way out. The Carnell–Robertson putsch has to me a very sinister implication …Personally I want to see that the C.L.S. and yourself do not suffer as I am afraid you might, from the unexplained defection of people within and without the C.L.S.136
Scholefield was potentially that very valuable kind of person, a strong critic who was basically supportive and who had mana. He remained well disposed towards Alley, but Alley always spoke disparagingly of him from this time.
In the midst of these events, Mary Prescott Parsons arrived in Wellington in January 1944 to establish a United States Information Library for the Office of War Information. Born in 1885, she had had a distinguished career in American libraries, her work in public libraries ranging from the great New York Public Library to the library at Lakeside, Ohio, with periods of teaching in library schools in the United States and Canada. From 1924 to 1929 she had established and directed an American library school in Paris, France (as she liked to call the city), and while she was in Europe she had gained a PhD in Vienna. In 1934 she was teaching reference and bibliography, book selection and ordering at the University of Michigan library school when Dunningham and Clyde Taylor were there; she had also met McIntosh while he was in North America. When she was asked to undertake an assignment in New Zealand she had welcomed the opportunity to follow up the work of the Carnegie Corporation in this country. In premises which had been acquired in Woodward Street, in the heart of Wellington, she created a library which was opened on 25 August 1944 and which was a model for New Zealand librarians in its book stock, carefully chosen for its purpose, its high-quality and elegant décor, and a staff which was selected with great care to give the kind of service which was needed. 'It was perfectionism in staff selection in which Mary Parsons believed – that the quality of librarianship depends entirely on its staffing', as her obituarist in New Zealand Libraries said.137page 151
It is not surprising that members of the NZLA saw Parsons's arrival as a chance to get first-class guidance on finding solutions to problems they had encountered in organising an indigenous form of education for librarianship, or that she would answer the call. She was a member of the NZLA's library training committee by April 1944, when she was offering assistance with the training course by seeking teaching materials in the United States;138 but her presence was also sparking much more ambitious ideas.
McIntosh had returned from the United States in 1933 convinced that postgraduate library training was what New Zealand needed, but this idea had made very little headway because of lack of interest in university circles. At the 1941 conference of the NZLA, which was the one which approved the outline of the association's training course, a supplementary resolution was carried which asked that the standing committee arrange for three of its members to consult with three members of the university senate to determine the possibility of co-operation between the university and the NZLA over a possible degree in librarianship,139 but it was too soon for such a meeting to be successful. In a comment which he placed on his file at that time, Alley wrote:
No one would be so absurd as not to want to have this. If the Association had a long and glorious career of library training, had in effect trained people, if the country were full of good libraries and if one could make sure that the librarian knew his or her job and that the book stock were classified and catalogued and there was some attempt being made in short to meet the situation. But this is not the case. We are dealing now with a situation which I think calls for fairly rapid action. We have got from the Carnegie Corporation assistance for the five year programme … If at the end of 3 or 4 years or even 5 years, it may be longer, it is felt that people should receive the hall mark of academic qualifications, if they need that in order to conduct their libraries better, then it would perhaps be a good thing to take steps in this direction, but I think we are faced with the fact that we have in front of us a draft [for the NZLA course] which does ensure that we do something …140
Three years had passed. The NZLA had started its courses with great difficulty, and the time had come when another superhuman effort would have to be made to launch the second (diploma) part of the general training course. Furthermore, the effort involved was devoted entirely to improving the performance of existing staff members, who were not required to have more than a university entrance qualification; it was not recruiting people to a profession. In January 1944 Harris, who was temporarily convening page 152the training committee, wrote: 'I am becoming ever more dubious of the prospects of our present course and am driven to think we shall have to devise a centralised full time training course with Government subsidy.'141 The logic of the situation was pointing towards a more radical solution to the problem of training, one which had seemed impossible to Alley in 1941 and which would still have seemed to present insuperable difficulties, but for the miraculous arrival of Mary Parsons.
At its meeting in April 1944 the library training committee asked Dunningham 'to consider the question of a school giving short courses in library training, and to report to the next meeting of this Committee'.142 Dunningham did not report until September, but in the meantime there was an informal but seminal meeting at which Parsons decided that she would take on the directorship of a New Zealand library school if arrangements for her to do so could be negotiated. 'I remember,' wrote her obituarist (Dunningham), 'we were walking with Mary through the orchard of the Alley farmhouse at Riccarton when we sat down, as Geoffrey said, to work out the possibility of a Bretton Woods (or was it Dumbarton Oaks?) agreement by which the Director of the USIS Library might be seconded to the New Zealand government for assistance in the founding and direction of the library school if the New Zealand government in its turn would agree to second professional assistance to the work of the USIS Library.'143
True to form, Dunningham, in his report to the library training committee,144 focused entirely on the need for suitably trained staff to be available when the CLS was 'decentralised on a regional basis as suggested in the last Annual Report of the Director … My own view,' he said, 'is that almost complete autonomy should exist in regions. The regional librarian should be responsible to his regional committee which should submit its budget every year to the national board for approval and that the national board should in turn consist of a majority of members elected by local regional conferences … It is suggested that the national centre should set up a library school and that the national library board should retain power to refuse service through a region to any local library where staffing is considered insufficiently trained.' He then referred to the fortunate circumstance of Parsons's presence in the country and recommended that she be asked to report on a more detailed plan in co-operation with the director of the CLS.
Other librarians had their own particular interests, of course. There were, for instance, the university librarians, who also had staffing needs, and Mary L. Brown, Librarian of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR), pointed out to the committee that, if a school of librarianship were established with government assistance, 'it would seem page 153proper that consideration should be given to the Government's own need for suitably trained librarians'.145 When the library training committee met on 19 October 1944 it was ready to go for a wider scheme. With Alley in the chair and Barr, Collins, Joyce Monro (CLS), Parsons, and Dorothy White present, it resolved (Alley/Collins) 'That, in view of the very great need which exists and will continue to exist for some time for trained library personnel in New Zealand, the Government should be asked to establish in consultation with the Training Committee of the N.Z.L.A. intensive training facilities in Wellington, and that steps be taken to obtain the services of Miss M.P. Parsons, Director of the U.S. Information Library, as director of the project.'146
This resolution went to the NZLA council, and the gist of it was included in a composite request which was sent to the government from the association's conference in February 1945, but while the guests were being greeted work was going on in the kitchen. Alley would have been keeping his minister fully informed of what was happening and getting the appropriate green lights, and he was also working on his more cautious and timorous colleagues – Collins remembered being taken by the elbow while he and Alley walked along Lambton Quay in Wellington and being told, 'We've got to do this.'147 Parsons spoke to the conference in February and assured those present that if library school students were self-reliant and intelligent they would experiment and would improve libraries.148 McIntosh, who by then was secretary of external affairs, negotiated with the United States officials in Wellington on behalf of the New Zealand government, while Parsons, coming in from a different angle as an officer of the State Department, added an American viewpoint: 'Mary Parsons,' Alley said, 'excelled in the diplomatic field of representation. She never missed a trick in the world of diplomacy. She mixed a lot with the United States people and in the diplomatic world.'149
So when the time came, in April 1945, for an exchange of notes between the two governments, everything had been pretty well sewn up. Walter Nash, as acting minister of external affairs, in a letter probably drafted by McIntosh, wrote to the United States minister in Wellington, K.S. Pattison, informing him of his government's decision to establish a library training school, saying that his government was impressed with the fortunate circumstance of the presence in Wellington of Miss M.P. Parsons, whose experience was such that she would be an ideal director, and asking whether her services could be made available part time for two years from 1 July 1945 for this purpose. 'As some partial return for the time which Miss Parsons would spend in the School, my Government would be happy to second from the New Zealand Country Library Service, to the United States Information Library, such staff as Miss Parsons might page 154desire.' Pattison replied, two days later, 'I am happy to inform you that on the basis of the earnest recommendation of the Legation, the Office of War Information has wholeheartedly approved the utilization of Miss Parsons' services for this purpose.'150
On 30 April 1945 Alley wrote to Parsons to say that the director of the school would be in full control of staff and students and responsible to the director of the CLS for its operation (or to the director of a National Library Service, if one were instituted), and that the training committee of the NZLA would be consulted on policy matters, although its recommendations would not necessarily be considered as mandatory; interviews of applicants for entry to the school would be conducted by the director of the school, the director of the CLS, and a representative of the NZLA in each interviewing centre.151 Mason's public statement, in which he said, 'In 1946, with the approval of the manpower authorities, the school will give a year's training to 30 students, who will be University graduates in science or arts', 152 followed shortly after.
The decision to establish the Library School was made fairly quickly, so that the first course could start at the beginning of 1946. 'Incidentally,' Alley said in his memoirs, 'this was one of my first experiences of a favourable Treasury report. Treasury gave the thing its blessing and the rest was merely, I think, more or less a formality.'153 But the proposal which led to it was part of a larger programme of development affecting the CLS which was coming through the NZLA's pipelines at the same time. We shall now have to go back to the planning committee; first, though, we should record two events which occurred in the middle of 1944, one of which might have caused problems if it had come to anything, while the other probably enabled those who were concerned with long-term planning to proceed in an orderly way.
The first of these was Alley's apparent decision, in the middle of the year in which, we can now see, he was within sight of the peak of his career, to apply for a position of lecturer in rural education at Lincoln Agricultural College. This position had been established to enable teacher trainees to opt for periods of residence and instruction at Lincoln College in order to meet the needs of rural people,154 and Alley's application155 was supported by testimonials from James Hight (written for the 1934 application for the position of executive officer of the New Zealand Council for Educational Research), Oliver Duff ('He has been, and emotionally still is, a farmer. He is a farm historian. But he is also an educationist'),156 and James Shelley ('Brought up in a farming family, trained as an educational specialist with years of pioneering work in the wider type of rural education … a strong but quiet personality and a man with a most earnest and broad community outlook').157 The decision to apply is described as 'apparent' page 155because in 1992 Lincoln University could find no mention in its records of Alley's application,158 but Alley kept a carbon copy in his personal papers. The appointment went to L.W. McCaskill, who subsequently had a most distinguished career in conservation administration and research.
The other event was what Alley called Carnell's 'very quick and unwelcome departure'.159 She went to London in August 1944, to help to establish a library service for the armed forces in the Middle East160 and to undertake tasks for the CLS and the NZLA, and in May 1945 she resigned her appointment as assistant director of the CLS.161 In her five years in New Zealand she had made a lasting impact. Alley, in his memoirs, emphasised her work in getting the School Library Service set up and in establishing the NZLA's general training course,162 but equal emphasis should be placed on the way in which she ensured that the CLS became quickly implanted in the rural library scene. 'Once she knew what Mr Alley wanted,' said Jean Wright, 'away she went … she brought the CLS out.'163
The planning committee which was appointed by the NZLA council under Carnell's convenership in April 1944 was asked to 'comment on proposals for regional development of library services to be made by the Government Country Library Service'. After Carnell's departure, Perry took it over in a caretaking role and three new members, including Dunningham, were appointed to it. In the same period another planning committee, to report 'on points concerning the development of university and special library service which should be considered by the main planning committee',164 was actively considering its brief. This committee consisted of Collins (convener), Brown (DSIR), Harris and Scholefield. Many of the most prominent members of the association were therefore, by the second half of 1944, involved in the two planning committees, and from this point planning for the future got really serious.
When the main planning committee met on 17 October 1944 it appointed Ellen Melville to the chair and considered a document, prepared by Alley, which set out a scheme for decentralisation of the CLS on a district, and probably on a regional, basis, beginning with the Auckland region. This proposal, which followed the lines which had been suggested in Alley's March 1944 annual report, had not been discussed to the point of negotiation with the local authorities which were likely to be involved, but Melville's presence was an indication of local authority interest. The committee, after making some amendments to the document, sent it to the NZLA council, saying that it approved of the proposals and recommending that the whole question of regional library development should be thoroughly discussed at the association's next conference.165
By the end of 1944, therefore, decentralisation of the work of the CLS, based on the document that had been prepared by Alley (no doubt in page 156consultation with his minister and certainly with the minister's approval), was firmly on the agenda for future development. In fact, the language of the document makes this clear – e.g., 'District development of Country Library Service with co-operation of city authorities'; 'Regional Library Service administered by a board representative of the region and on which the Country Library Service would also be represented'; 'Free service would be extended to county authorities [which would be asked to make financial contributions] as from a given date. This would involve the discontinuance of the present Country Library Service "B" service to independent subscription libraries for counties'; 'This sum would not be paid to the general government, however, any more than is the money found for local free borough library service.'166 The proposals had the strong support of Melville, who was held in great respect in the library world, having been chairman of the Auckland City Council's library committee since 1917 except for a break of three years, a local authority delegate to the Libraries Association/NZLA since 1926, and a wholehearted and consistent supporter of the free public library idea.167
At the same time, the supplementary committee convened by Collins raised questions concerning the 'learned' libraries, which had not hitherto been given much prominence in discussions of national library systems. The emphasis of its report to the council was on the need for 'a real National Library' to be formed by the combination of the General Assembly Library, the Alexander Turnbull Library, and the Country Library Service, including responsibility for the kinds of services which had accrued to the CLS as a consequence of its work with the Central Bureau for Library Book Imports, and with close links, of appropriate types, with the whole range of non-public libraries. 'The problem,' it said, 'is to turn this great asset to more general advantage, while still fully safeguarding the needs of the various special groups concerned.'168
In response to the report by Collins's committee, which had been asked by the NZLA council to continue its discussions, Alley produced another document, 'Draft Proposals for Setting up a New Zealand National Library Service', which was approved by the minister of education 'as a basis of discussion'.169 The committee met for two days, on 12 and 13 December 1944, to consider it, and from this point Collins, working closely with Alley, became a leading figure in bringing together practical ideas for the development of the library system and in breaking the log-jam of reports, opinions, and endless discussions.
In the preamble to his document Alley had said: 'The past few years have taught New Zealand librarians the importance of co-operation and a pressing need has arisen for a well-organized national centre to co-ordinate the efforts of all libraries concerned with the exploitation and conservation page 157of the informational stock of the country. It is obvious that if we are to wait for a national library building many valuable years will be lost and much valuable information will not be available to those who need it.' He suggested that there should be three divisions in the National Library Service: (1) regional development, concerned mainly with the exploitation of library stock through public library service (i.e. the proposals already agreed to in principle by the NZLA council); (2) a national library centre, concerned with both conservation and exploitation of stock and developing centrally as well as regionally (including liaison between all library units, book resources programmes, union catalogues and the like, and centralised services such as cataloguing); and (3) a library training school (already being fast-tracked behind the scenes).
In opening the committee's discussion of Alley's document, Collins referred to earlier attempts to create a national library by the amalgamation of several existing libraries. He said that these had failed because the libraries involved were concerned with their own functions and were not particularly interested in the national library idea. Now we had a new 'extrovert' service, the Country Library Service, which through force of circumstances and because it was sufficiently flexible had been asked to undertake the various functions of a National Library Service. He asked the committee to consider whether it was better to try again to blend two or three state libraries and give them a function that none of them had in mind; or to leave them as they were and build upon the national functions of the CLS. Comments by other members which were recorded were:
- The present duplication could not be justified: the big State libraries must be co-ordinated. It was asking for trouble to leave them as they were, though it might be difficult to bring them under one control (Scholefield).
- The national service would co-ordinate these libraries; it was not necessary to bring them under one control (Harris).
- It was no use attempting unity until real unity existed; the various libraries must learn to work together and then they could talk about new buildings. Continuing with book resources, union catalogues, etc., would prepare the way for later development (Alley).
The committee agreed that to proceed with functional development would not impede the eventual formation of a national library but would prepare the ground for it; and also that the training of staff was the first necessity. It then agreed on a set of resolutions which endorsed Alley's proposals, commenting that further steps concerning the integration of state-owned page 158libraries in Wellington, and the erection of an adequate national library building, could be taken as opportunity offered.170
Reports of these meetings were published in New Zealand Libraries, together with a very detailed organisation chart which showed the connections that might exist between a National Library Service and the various types of libraries in the national system. The conference of the NZLA which was held in Wanganui in February 1945 endorsed the recommendations of both the planning committees and sent telegrams to the prime minister and the minister of education supporting them.171 In introducing his committee's recommendations, Collins said: 'Let me state that it is my committee which is responsible for the new proposal to expand on the basis of the Country Library Service. The situation seems to us to demand it. As was the case whenever new duties were thrust upon it during the past few years, the attitude of the Country Library Service has been somewhat reluctant, though willing to help. While in fairness I have to say this, I must add that some of our most fruitful ideas have arisen from the help which its Director has given us.'172
A full account of these discussions, with the organisation chart, was included in Alley's March 1945 annual report.173 It does not seem to have given rise to any comment in Parliament, but Victoria University College took alarm at the organisation chart, which included the university libraries among all the others. The university authorities were not advanced enough in their administrative thinking or experience to appreciate the difference between a solid line, which indicated an administrative link, and a dotted one, which indicated fraternal co-operation, and assumed that the whole thing was a government takeover. In July 1945 the registrar of Victoria University College wrote to the NZLA conveying a resolution of the college council which said: 'While being happy to co-operate as in the past in making library resources as widely available as possible the controlling authorities of the Library would be opposed to any change in the Library system which impaired their ultimate control.' A reply, drafted by Collins, said, 'In the meantime, I would say that the New Zealand Library Association is fully in accord with the statements of the resolution', and asked what 'actual or potential infringements' were in danger of being imposed. In reply to this, the registrar pointed to the 1940 scheme for a Central Bureau for Library Book Imports, and to the 1945 conference request for a National Library Service in which it appeared that university libraries were to be included. The NZLA did not reply to this letter until October, when it said, in a letter probably drafted by Alley, (a) that the 1939 import restrictions were made by the government; the NZLA had arranged facilities whereby member libraries could be exempted from the effects of the restrictions; and no library was required to participate; and page 159(b) that there had been a misapprehension over the question of control: 'it is expected that such libraries as those of the university colleges, while retaining their full rights and control, will for their own sakes wish to take part in the co-operative activities outlined'.174 It was a storm in a teacup, but it was a teacup which was storm-prone.
Cabinet approved the creation of a National Library Service (NLS) on 21 September 1945, and Mason announced its establishment on 8 October. The plan for the new service was basically the one that had been put forward by the NZLA (chart and all), except that it was much less specific on the question of the future direction of the CLS: 'The present Country Library Service,' Mason said, 'will be extended by the establishment of Regional depots so that closer contact may be maintained with libraries wishing to participate in it. It is hoped that public libraries will later assume regional responsibility where possible.'175 In writing to the public service commissioner to inform him of the Cabinet's decision and its approval of the appointment of a Director, National Library Service, a librarian, National Library Centre, and a Librarian, Country Library Service, Mason said: 'In my view to advertise the first post, that of Director, National Library Service, would be unnecessary, since there is no New Zealand librarian other than Mr. Alley who has the required knowledge and experience to administer this work. As he is the only logical person for this position I desire him to be appointed.'176 This was done (though the appointment was subject to appeal), and Dunningham, in writing to congratulate Alley, said, 'I don't think anyone else could have estimated so accurately the distance which the Government could be persuaded to go from year to year; nor do I think anyone else could have gained confidence and respect for the development so quickly.'177
Dunningham was right, of course, but the importance of Collins's contribution in clarifying the proposals should not be overlooked. In 1969 Perry wrote to W.B. Sutch, who had published a note on national library history based on his experiences in the 1930s and his later observations,178 to clarify Collins's role. 'Until the 1945 Conference of the Association in Wanganui,' Perry wrote,
nothing of moment had revealed itself as far as the proposed composition and character of the library were concerned … Largely as a result of Collins' thinking then and subsequently the National Library Service was brought into being … We thus had under one control a National Library Service – the nucleus at any rate of a comprehensive service – but without a National Library … As I recall it, the figure most to be remembered in connection with determination of function and scope of the library is Collins … Collins was far more concerned with the character the page 160organisation would assume. Without in any way trying to detract from the influence of the Brains Trust in the early days [1934–35], or of Alley or any other individual, I feel fairly sure that much of the force that resulted in the establishment of the Country Library Service had become spent a few years later. Mason's sympathies were enlisted for a further programme which owed as much to Collins' Library Association committee as it did to carried-forward Prime Ministerial sympathy.179
But Alley it was who carried the government with him.