State Library Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 46 Spring 1991


Barry's ‘Great Emporium’ in the Twenty-First Century: The Future of The State Library of Victoria Collections (Redmond Barry Lecture, 1990)

At the outset I should like to express to the Council of the State Library my great pleasure in having been invited to deliver a lecture that bears the name of Redmond Barry. Barry, like David Scott Mitchell, has long been for me an object of particular — but not, I hope, uncritical — veneration. Although this brief afternoon of reflection on the State Library's collections will not match the splendid occasion ten years ago when the centenary of Barry's death was commemorated in the Wilson Hall1, it ought nonetheless to remind us of one of the most solid achievements of a man who strove to give real substance to the notion — which was then far from being a conceit — of Melbourne as the cultural capital of the Australian colonies. It is, of course, my main purpose to assess the extent to which the State Library can expect to play a central role in supplying information and in supporting research endeavours now and in the new century that is fast approaching. In that connection the ambitions of Barry and of his fellow trustees cannot be ignored.
At the same time it is not my intention to dwell on the details of a career that is still awaiting comprehensive analysis. A decade ago I tried to review the surviving evidence concerning Barry's private library in his later years.2 Since then others, and particularly Ann Galbally, have looked further at the way Barry's upbringing in the Anglo-Irish Ascendancy influenced his work as a ‘cultural commissar’ in Melbourne.3 That background is manifestly not irrelevant to the aims set for what was to become the State Library. Here again I do not wish to plunge — after David McVilly4 and the current research of Margery Ramsay — into a circumstantial history of the Library's collections and of the debates they occasioned from an early date. However, given the difficulties institutions have in abandoning old paths even in 1990, it is essential to grasp — in its context and without anachronism — what was being attempted in Barry's Public Library. Hence, in defining what it is desirable to have after the year 2000, we must consider not only the grave problems of the present but also the framework left to us by the ‘cultural evangelists’ who established our institutions in the first part of the reign of Queen Victoria. It will perhaps become apparent that there are surprising continuities in this story and themes that recur from one period to another.
* * *
Some of us who have been looking closely at the decades that followed the turning point of the 1850s have been struck by the exceptional quality and spirit of what was being accomplished in Victoria by Barry and all the other talented, resourceful and determined immigrants of his generation. Harold Love has written of the Golden Age of Australian Opera,5 and I have ventured more than once to claim that the combination of free trade in the United Kingdom and of dedicated wholesaler-importers like George Robertson in Melbourne and the Walches in Hobart gave Antipodean bookbuyers opportunities to acquire cheaply and in enviable variety that they have not had in this century.6 Let us not be deceived by the sense that visitors like Trollope had of excessive ‘blowing'. There is no doubt a thin line between confidence and arrogance, but it had not been crossed, at least not before the mad years of the land boomers and of the crash — another leitmotif of our wider Victorian story. No, what is striking in Barry, Hearn, Robertson and all the others is a strength of purpose linked to a realistic appraisal of where the colony fitted into the world of culture and the intellect. It is not a passive, cringing attitude — it takes it as axiomatic that a Melbourne professor should be able to publish in the 1860s in his own city a major statement on political economy.7 True, appropriate arrangements were made for distribution in Britain by Macmillan, but that was the hard-headedness of real entrepreneurs. Bluff and bluster of the Bulletin sort were for later. In the meantime we have — and

Sir Redmond Barry, 1866 (carte-de-visite, La Trobe Picture Collection H6056)

notably in the reports and the prefatory declarations of the first Public Library trustees — sober, assured, practical, sometimes opinionated definitions of how intellectual life should be organized in an overseas province of the English-speaking world. These are the documents that deserve our attention, not least because they describe problems that are still with us and because they state trenchantly principles that have lost none of their validity.
The monument to Barry's stewardship lies in the two stout volumes — over 2,000 pages — of The Catalogue of the Public Library of Victoria published in 1880. His preface brings together a series of texts that illuminate the Library's history and sums up amongst other things the trustees’ conception of the collections and their selection criteria. What is to be included is defined in the following terms:
The Trustees regarded the Institution as a Public Library of reference, consultation, and research, which ought to be characterized by a comprehensiveness which would stamp it not merely as national, but universal. They considered that it ought to contain all works required to meet the demands of all ordinary readers, the wants of men of every profession, trade, calling, and occupation, the desires of those who indulge in the pursuit of polite literature and of every branch of human inquiry.
They were of opinion that, as the community which partakes of the benefit of the institution is composed of persons different in nationality, quality of education, and habit of thought, the Library ought to contain expositions of every view of questions interesting to the public, and of every phase of opinion, in all languages; moreover that means of reference to the works of contemporary writers of the most active minds in all parts of the world ought to be found on the shelves.
They deemed it necessary also to acquire the most approved editions of all standard works, and afterwards such books as by reason of the expenses attendant on the production and illustration of them, are highly valuable in yielding information of a special nature, in cultivating the taste and improving the intellectual refinement of the readers, but which by their cost are placed beyond the reach of individuals, professional men, and the general public.8
The last point can be taken first. Although the initial report produced in 1871 after the Act of Incorporation of 29 December 1869 refers in passing to large and expensive sets ‘usually found only in the hands of those who with unstinted wealth encourage the prosecution of some favourite study’,9 there is no doubt that Barry and his colleagues recognized that, in Australian circumstances, there had to be public provision for advanced research in all fields. Communal resources had to be devoted to pursuits that even then were necessarily inaccessible to private persons on their own. There is nothing paradoxical, then, in the fact that one of the strongest champions of public libraries in early nineteenth-century France was that fantastic bibliomaniac Boulard, a Parisian notary who went beyond Richard Heber and Sir Thomas Phillipps in accumulating perhaps 300,000, perhaps even 600,000 volumes in his various houses.10 In other words, privatization is not, and cannot be, an issue in this domain.
It is clear too that the trustees may have had some difficulty in understanding another of the favourite prejudices of the 1980s, namely that Australians cannot and should not aspire to carry out investigations on subjects judged to be outside the national interest. While one can concede that the allocation of scarce research funds poses enormous problems, it is astonishing that attacks on the basic freedom of inquiry taken as self-evident by Barry should be allowed to pass virtually unchallenged in our current debates about higher education. There as well, I suspect that public research libraries have an indispensable even if forgotten function in our utilitarian society.
Barry's contemporaries had their own prejudices, needless to say, and these, duly set out in a later paragraph, draw the limits for the universal pretensions of the collections:
On the other hand they abstained from displaying on the shelves works of injurious tendency, or from supplying an undue proportion of novels and of those usually classed as works of fiction and of the imagination, of those which in some catalogues are entered under the head of “literature for juveniles,” of such as are purely ephemeral and of transient value, unless connected with some event of political or exceptional importance, such, also, as are regarded as mere literary curiosities, or are recommended by their rarity alone, or by their sumptuous binding, or costly manuscripts, and voluminous publications, superseded by others of later date and of acknowledged superior excellence. These were set aside for such as commended themselves by reason of their substantial merit and sterling value. Regard for the quality of the literature, not for the number of books, has been throughout the dominant rule.11
Leaving aside people of bibliophilic inclinations or, quite simply, all those interested in books as physical objects, we can recognize in this refusal of the ephemeral and trivial a position that would now be quite unacceptable to social and cultural historians.

Trinity College Library, Dublin, 1860 (from The Book of Trinity College Dublin 1591–1891, p. 178 State Library of Victoria)


Queen's Hall, State Library of Victoria c.1870, showing similar decoration to that of Trinity College Library, Dublin. (La Trobe Picture Collection H4741)

But let us not forget that Barry was of his place and time in this.
The scholarship and the preoccupations of Trinity College, Dublin in the 1830s had relatively little to do with the march of science and erudition in the second half of the century. As Barry Smith pointed out in 1987, the University of Melbourne itself ‘was predominantly an Irish foundation in colonial Australia’, analogous to the Queen's Colleges in Belfast and Galway from which some of its professors came.12 Given that even Oxford and Cambridge at this time were marginal institutions in scholarly terms, it is not surprising that Melbourne foundations lacked — in the humanities — the hard technical and professional edge of Prussia.13 Analysis of the collections built up in Barry's period underlines the somewhat old-fashioned character of the criteria for selection. The canons chosen — and Gibbon's Decline and Fall is only one of them14 — yielded a result that is solid and praiseworthy, but a little too amateurish and gentlemanly. This is still the sphere of Peacock's Gryll Grange, and Dr Opimian and Mr Falconer in that novel had no use for German.15 It is significant that in his Account of the Chief Libraries of Australia and Tasmania of 1886 Holgate remarks that ‘the portion of the Library which seems to be the least well represented in proportion to its importance, was the collection of works relating to the language, literature, and history of Germany’.16 If one examines the often substantial private libraries of the trustees, one finds the enigmatic (and Australian-educated) John Macgregor as the sole exception to this generalization.17 The State Library's own archives reveal how many opportunities were missed in the rich auction market of colonial Melbourne. However, it would be churlish for an explorer of the book world of nineteenth-century Victoria not to acknowledge how much of the primary material — archival, manuscript and printed — lies within these walls, and often in the non-Australian parts of the collections that were acquired for reasons that are no longer ours.
In another important respect the Public Library was not expected to be all-embracing. In early book selection ‘the Trustees were much influenced by the existence in Melbourne of three other Libraries, with the management of one or other of which they had the honour of being also connected’.18 These were the Parliament Library, the University Library and the Supreme Court Library, two of them publicly funded, all of them closed or difficult of access to outsiders, each of them concentrating on works strictly relevant to their primary users.
Thus, during the early years of the foundation of these libraries, while the funds at the disposal of the Managers of each were meagre, the endeavour was to keep each library within the points of its special intention, namely, to supply the particular and technical information required by the statesman, the student, and the practising lawyer. Accordingly the efforts of the Trustees were directed to make the Public Library supplementary to the others, and thus to avoid the needless multiplication of copies of the same book.
They procured, at first, the leading authorities only on the especial branches of learning provided for in those libraries — the common sources of reference for readers of all classes, without which no library could be complete.19
Later the Public Library, with its greater resources, filled in ‘interspaces’, ‘so as to leave no class of literature wholly unrepresented’, while putting its emphasis on ‘all the books most approved in the higher walks of professional, scientific, and technical branches of employment’, and ‘all which bear on discoveries in physical science, and the practical arts, and which help to unfold the natural and artificial resources of the country’.
The result was, that while the gradual increase of the other Libraries was going on, the growth of the Public Library was progressing also in a larger area; and it was estimated that when the contents of the four Libraries were about 110,000 volumes in the aggregate, the number of copies of the works of the same authors repeated in the different libraries had not exceeded 15,000.20
The situation thus described for the beginning of the 1870s indicates that the careful husbanding of resources is nothing new. Nonetheless, one may suppose that arrangements overseen by Barry were more strictly policed than those made in the late twentieth century. Rationalization perhaps needs its commissars!
Whatever criticisms we may make of lack of foresight, of failure to anticipate the research priorities of another age, we cannot deny the basic seriousness of the Barry blueprint for an adequate library system and the meticulous attention to detail in bringing it into being. The ‘great emporium of learning and philosophy, of literature, science, and art’ vaunted in Barry's proselytizing talk ‘On Lending Books’ at the October 1877 Conference of Librarians in London21 was by November 1880 — or even 1871 — no mirage, as statistical tables comparing holdings and use of the Melbourne Public Library and of large institutions in the Northern Hemisphere demonstrated quite amply.22
Much could be said of the long haul from 1880 to the present day. As we are all painfully aware, it is a story of economic crises, of cutbacks, of missed opportunities, of buildings grown inadequate, of government parsimony, of broken promises, of gradual narrowing of focus, of interminable committees of inquiry, of decline from a once unchallenged position of primacy in the Australian library world. To be fair, there are also positive things to mention: the dedication, amidst great difficulties, of the staff at every level, the successful development of specialist departments like the La Trobe Library and AMPA, an impressive series of exhibitions, the work of the Friends and the creation of the La Trobe Library Journal, the maintenance, despite everything, of coherent collecting programmes, notably during Peggy Anthony's years at the head of the Acquisitions Department. The basic definition of the Library's function has changed more than once in the last century, and it is this that must be in the foreground of a discussion of the collections. For convenience I shall look more particularly at two facets of the post-Barry era: the spoken or unspoken shift of policy under Armstrong, and the necessary recognition of a new — and reduced — role that came in the 1960s.
As we all know, the Library of the Barry era was as open to the public as contemporary mores would allow. That is to say that ladies read in a separate area — and were spared denunciation as mutilators (who would seem to have been not infrequently men of the cloth)23 — and that anatomical and medical works were available to professors and approved students. Otherwise the trustees and their staff were obliged to think through and to live with all the advantages and disadvantages of an open access system. The Queen's Hall, modelled on the Long Room of the Library of Trinity College, Dublin, lent itself quite well with its broad subject classifications to this more or less untrammelled freedom.
Despite the generous tributes he paid to Barry's work it is clear that Armstrong was uncomfortable with this way of doing things. The subject comes up more than once in the papers he gave at the various conferences of the Library Association of Australasia between 1896 and 1902. In 1898 he treated ‘The Public Library and the Public’ and began his exposition with an anecdote:
Some years ago I was standing in the Queen's room of the Melbourne Public Library speaking to a friend, when he suddenly made this remark in a very feeling tone: “What a magnificent place this would be if it were not for the public.”
Armstrong owns that his friend was ‘a man somewhat
fastidious in his tastes’, but the ensuing discussion of ‘the deserving and the undeserving’ does not shrink from a firm conclusion about the Library's policy:
The exceptional freedom that has been given, practically without discrimination, to the general public has, in my opinion, already cost too high a price. In theory it was magnificent, but it was not wise.24
To prevent mutilations of scarce and valuable books, one has to envisage their removal from the open shelves. By 1900 in a paper entitled ‘A Model Library from a Librarian's Point of View’ he had come round to the Panizzi-Library of Congress scheme. An octagonal reading room will have 50,000 volumes on open access, whereas some 1,650,000 volumes can be accommodated in a stack. In a flight of fancy he imagines a visit to the future National Library of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1950:
… we pass noiselessly over the thickly-carpeted floor to the inquiry desk. We ask for a certain book and are told that it is in the store room, but will be available immediately. Our informant steps into a little telephone office and closes the door. A minute or two after he emerges with the required volume in his hand. It has been conveyed from the store room by means of a mechanical book carrier running beneath the floor.25
Apart from showing that our generation is not the only one to be dazzled by the promises of technology, the text effectively set the course for the State Library in this century. A paper of 1902 on ‘The Proposed Federal Library of the Commonwealth’ argues again for a stack storage system: ‘absolute freedom of access to all books in a library is not necessary and not desirable’. On the other hand Armstrong is left bewailing the necessity of coping with readers he consigns to the category of ‘the loafer and the vagrant’ and notes ‘the suggestion to provide a special room, with plenty of light literature’.26
A corollary of this approach enshrined in the Domed Reading Room was the possibility of admitting to the State Library's collections those rarities and bibliophilic treasures explicitly excluded in Barry's policy. In fact this was to happen. With the help of the Felton Bequest, and taking advantage of the difficulties of general publishing during the Second World War, the Library was able to add many spectacular items to its special collections. Armstrong himself had long since retired when we had full recognition of the conservation disaster represented by the annulus of the structure completed in 1913. It is no secret that more broadly defined special collections rescued from the Chief Librarian's office, the stacks and other places are still waiting for housing that will satisfy the needs of conservation, security and staff and user access. Which is not to deny the efforts made to find temporary solutions for the problem over the last generation.
Essentially the Library came into the post-1945 era with all its old Barry ambitions, plus the Armstrong accretions. At the same time it faced a growing demand for other special services, particularly in the Australiana field in the widest possible sense. Yet it was already in crisis — as the Jungwirth Inquiry of 1963 demonstrated — and clearly unable to sustain all its collecting programmes. Two decades of reflexion and discussion led to the Selection Policy of 1986,27 but, given all the issues being ventilated nationally on library policy, there is no reason to suppose that this is or should be the last word.
We are so used to thinking of the State Library as a shadow of its former self that we forget just where it stands and stood nationally. If we go back to the chapter on ‘The University Libraries’ by George Russell and Archibald Grenfell Price in the volume The Humanities in Australia published in 1959,28 we are reminded that not much more than a generation ago the National Library and the State Libraries had much stronger holdings than the university libraries: in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne 1,600,000 volumes as against 750,000 volumes, to put it in round figures for the general reference collections. The National Library was just beginning its tremendous expansion, so that, despite the presence of the Mitchell in Sydney, our State Library was still the major resource in the broad area of the humanities in particular. That strength has not disappeared, even if we have to allow for the depredations of loafers and vagrants and for broader conservation problems. We have in hard copy what others have in microform or not at all. It is not a negligible advantage even now.
What has changed dramatically is the relative position of the State libraries vis-à-vis higher education institutions. At a seminar in Perth at the end of September, Eric Wainwright quoted the following figures for 1988 holdings:
National Library of Australia —
2,550,000 printed monograph volumes
108,000 current serial titles
State/Territory Libraries —
4,800,000 printed monograph volumes
90,000 current serial titles
University/CAE Libraries —
17,000,000 printed monograph volumes
270,000 current serial titles29
Such statistics need interpretation, for example to take account of duplicates and of discontinuations of serial subscriptions. Nonetheless the trend is clear. We have chosen to invest in higher education libraries and, to a lesser extent, in the National Library. Our expenditure on State libraries is relatively modest. Some informed judges believe that, as far as research collecting goes, the State libraries should limit their ambitions to material produced in or about their own territories. Whether one agrees or not with this proposition, there can be no question that the old encyclopaedic approach is no longer viable. Indeed in this respect the State Library of Victoria, impelled no doubt by chronic under-funding, can be seen once again as a pioneer — in resigned realism and in self-abnegation.
The present situation of Australian libraries in general is one of doubt and uncertainty. Many institutions are now measuring their own collections using a methodology developed by the Research Libraries Group in the United States of America. Even before the Australian Conspectus is completed decisions to restrict collecting fields are being made. The CSIRO and the National Library of Australia — the latter through its recently published Collection Development Policy30 — have redefined their aims in a quite drastic way. The notion of a Distributed National Collection launched and adopted at the Australian Libraries Summit in October 1988 is still being discussed and assessed. A perhaps growing number of sceptics sees it as fundamentally a new and more precise inventory of existing strengths to support the inter-library loan system. It is not obvious that many people still view it as a blueprint for cooperative development of bibliographic strengths across the country. We are unlikely to be called upon to rerun the Farmington Plan.
What is most disturbing to anyone concerned with maintaining Australian research infrastructure is the competitive mania that has seized the higher education sector. The assumption that mergers and amalgamations would bring greater efficiency and a more economical and rational use of resources seems to be belied by the events. New courses — in fashionable disciplines — are springing up everywhere, and nothing is closing down despite various sleights of hand that have reduced available funds. The conclusion has to be that old and new are trying to cope with a thinner spread of books and journals, not to mention teachers, classrooms and computer facilities. It hardly needs to be said that quality and understanding — a word I prefer here to cleverness — do not lie in that direction. In short it is the way to the library system of a Banana Republic. But in the meantime we have to reflect on how this affects the State Library's own planning for the future.
* * *
The intensity of the debate about the State Library in recent years is present in all our minds. If it has taught us nothing else, at least we now know that it is virtually impossible to dissociate questions of collecting policy from matters of staffing and accommodation. To look at the Library after 2000 — even if briefly — is inevitably to touch upon many issues. The uncertain national context makes it necessary to push speculation to the limit and, no doubt, to be provocative. There is no reason then to avoid the hard problems. Collectively we cannot afford to be wishy-washy — we must recapture Barry's assurance.
It seems to me important first of all to overcome the tension between different types of use of the collections. I have no difficulty with the Barry approach. Let there be as much freedom and openness as possible. However, we do have a clearer sense of conservation requirements and, alas, more experience of the wickedness of the world. Our duty to posterity demands that unique items such as legal deposit copies of Victorian publications be properly protected. Secure reading rooms and conservation rules are a sine qua non. Fragile MSS will need to be consulted in facsimile and not abandoned to the untutored hands of enthusiastic third-graders. Full public access does not preclude regulations that take account of the specific nature of the materials to be used. Equality does not imply uniformity. Privileges must be awarded on an objective basis though. Staff should have the time and the discretion to supervise those who are embarking on the fascinating discovery of books as physical objects. Think of the young Andrew Carnegie, or of Robert Shackleton at the Rylands Library31 or again of Christopher de Hamel at the Dunedin Public Library.32 No vocation for scholarship — or for benefaction — should be stifled. A proper array of specialist departments and librarians — from family history to Australian manuscripts and early European printed books — should support and satisfy the diversity of the public's wishes.
One cannot overemphasize the importance of recognizing the uniqueness of each reader's needs. We are not dealing with abstractions or undifferentiated customers. Emporia have many departments, and the old-fashioned ones that flourished in the days before takeovers, and
doctrinaire corporate management, succeeded in preserving the cosiness and personal relations of the corner store. The State Library, unlike higher education libraries overwhelmed with the pressure of undergraduate loans and reserve reading lists, offers a wide range of specialisms that buttress its scholarly reputation and create its indispensable links with the community outside.
An inkling of the role and contribution of a great specialist librarian can be gleaned from Neil Harris's obituary of Bob Rosenthal in the Autumn 1990 number of The Book Collector. Rosenthal's inspiring work in Special Collections at the Regenstein Library of the University of Chicago was something I first encountered as an unannounced visitor on a Saturday morning in 1974. Harris spoke at the Memorial Service of
Bob's fierce determination to make his own part of the library into an open, responsive, and active region which mediated between the actual research pursuits of the faculty and the traditional canons of coverage and valuation. This was no sequestered set of chambers where rare books and manuscripts were kept away from the dirty hands of those who might want to fondle them. Bob was tireless in finding out what faculty were up to, and amazing in his capacity to discover and then acquire new materials for them. He invited colleagues in to talk, he lunched with them at the Quadrangle Club, he inspired classes to be held in Special Collections, he encouraged visitors to enter the stacks, to see, touch, feel, smell what had been gathered together. Any wear and tear was a reasonable price to pay. Why else did we get things if not for people to use, Bob asked. And how would they know what to seek if they didn't get a sense of what was available?”33
The specialist, be it in pictures or in genealogy, is also in a key position to encourage goodwill and donations. For much of its history, as Bill Rubinstein has shown us, Australia was not a country of very wealthy people compared with Britain, or even less the United States.34 Victorian benefactions have been small for the most part. No Mitchell. No Dixson. Names that should remind us of the crucial part played in this by the childless and celibate. Appeals and Friends’ groups attract donors, but so too does personalized service within the Library.
Beyond donations there is a whole area of activity that a subject organization can stimulate, with due regard to the employment conditions of professional and other staff. Deposited collections, advice, carefully circumscribed and supervized volunteer labour, these are all part of the interaction between librarians and readers.
In passing it should be said that the multiple functions of a great research library that is also called upon to provide a wide range of general reference and information services to the public, including business and industry, must be accommodated in a building that is made from the inside out. I salute the memory of Axel Lodewycks, who said this tirelessly.35 But who is listening even now?
Similarly it is evident that the proper way of organizing services costs more money than governments seem willing to provide. I note and deplore the fact. But in the end we have to change the minds of politicians and bureaucrats; we have to argue the case for allowing experts to make satisfying professional careers within their special fields; we have to point to the greener grass in New South Wales; we have to wonder aloud if the Ministry of the Arts is the right place to achieve that re-ordering of priorities without which the State Library seems doomed to remain in penury.
I have come to the content of the collections in a roundabout way, first because I see an obvious and essential link with all existing specialist departments, second because I believe that, outside the unavoidable areas like Victoriana — to be pursued with even greater attention to the ephemeral in the interests of future social and cultural historians — a certain flexibility is entirely appropriate. In a society that ruthlessly destroys or disposes of bodies that have a century and a half of existence behind them there is no reason to have particular confidence in our institutions of higher learning. They are in the marketplace, and they may or may not continue to develop some key disciplines. They will assuredly ignore all those that do not pay their way. It would be utopian to imagine that the State Library could fill all the gaps. Nevertheless the detailed review of the Library's collecting responsibilities will have to take careful note of all these possibilities. Historical accidents have brought the Library chess and conjuring and magic. Other fields may be offered in the same way in future. It would be rash to exclude them without due consideration and because they are not on a list drawn up now.
There is another reason for prudence. Russell Cope some years ago described the operations of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft to the readers of AARL,36 and I have argued elsewhere that this gives us an interesting model for linking library infrastructure to research funding.37 Here perhaps is the means to write contracts that would give some ongoing content to the Distributed National Collection. The national agenda should also include
the question of tax incentives for research libraries. It would be good to think we could learn to plan and think further ahead than the next election. If that could happen, collecting policies in the fundamental non-Australian areas could be worked out at leisure and not to fit some inexorable political timetable.
* * *
We can end with first principles, in other words go back to Redmond Barry. He would have understood the need to seek not only cash donations and bequests, but also that collaboration of library and community I have suggested. The sentence where he speaks of a ‘great emporium’ also refers to a ‘voluntary university of adults’, another image for that wider collegiality in research and learning that the Library is uniquely situated to promote.38 The ‘cultural commissar’ would undoubtedly have been horrified at the unrationalized mess in which higher education now finds itself and would have been vigorously persuading vice-chancellors to co-operate with librarians in seeing that scarce resources were properly used in our region at least. Perhaps he would have seen that in the twenty-first century the Library should add to its normal functions of facilitating access to information a new role as a splendid Museum of the Book.
What is certain is that he would have striven to make it possible to say again truthfully what he wrote in the 1871 report to justify the elaborate and flattering comparisons of the Library with similar institutions in the Northern Hemisphere:
The sole object is to show that our fellow-countrymen appear to be fully impressed with one of the most important responsibilities attendant on prosperity and the acquisition of riches, namely, the necessity for a liberal support of those institutions which help to teach the true value of wealth; and that they recognize the truths enforced by the history of all ages that the greatest dangers to freedom arise from the prevalence of ignorance and vice, and that provision must be made for the cultivation and expansion of the public mind, according as it becomes charged with the exercise of political privileges.39
It is, I submit, our most urgent task to impress that responsibility on our fellow-citizens in the coming decade.


Zelman Cowen, ‘Redmond Barry Centenary Oration', The Victorian Historical Journal, Vol. 51, 1980, pp. 203–17.


Wallace Kirsop, ‘In Search of Redmond Barry's Private Library', La Trobe Library Journal, Vol. 7, No. 26, pp. 25–33.


Ann Galbally, ‘The Transplanting of an Irish-Classical Inheritance: Redmond Barry's Early Years in Melbourne, 1839–1853', in La Trobe and his Circle. An Exhibition to Mark the 150th Anniversary of the Arrival of Victoria's First Lieutenant-Governor, Council of the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne, 1989, pp. 29–40; Ann Galbally, ‘The Lost Museum: Redmond Barry and Melbourne's “Musée des Copies”', Australian Journal of Art, Vol. 7, 1988, pp. 28–49. See also Paul Fox, ‘The State Library of Victoria: Science and Civilisation', Transition, Spring 1988, pp. 14–26.


David McVilly, ‘The Acquisitions Policy of the State Library of Victoria, 1853–1880', La Trobe Library Journal, Vol. 2, No. 7, pp. 57–63; David McVilly, “‘Something to Blow About?” The State Library of Victoria, 1856–1880', La Trobe Library Journal, Vol. 2, No. 8, pp. 81–90.


Harold Love, The Golden Age of Australian Opera: W. S. Lyster and his Companies 1861–1880, Currency Press, Sydney, 1981.


See in particular ‘Bookselling and Publishing in the Nineteenth Century', in The Book in Australia. Essays towards a Cultural & Social History, (eds.) D. H. Borchardt & W. Kirsop, Australian Reference Publications, Melbourne, 1988, pp. 16–42, 174–81.


W. E. Hearn, Plutology: or the Theory of the Efforts to Satisfy Human Wants, George Robertson, Melbourne, 1863.


The Catalogue of the Public Library of Victoria, Melbourne, 1880, Vol. 1, p. xxx.


Report of the Trustees of the Public Library, Museums, and National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1871, p. 13.


See the preface to Distiques de Caton, en vers latins, grecs et français:… Fuchs, Paris, 1802, p. xv, where Boulard insists that no old book be destroyed and that ten copies of each new book be given to the public libraries of France by their authors or publishers. There is a brief account of the bibliophilic and scholarly notary in Octave Uzanne, The Book-Hunter in Paris. Studies among the Bookstalls and the Quays, Elliot Stock, London, 1893, pp. 129–30, but it is high time for his career to be studied seriously.


The Catalogue of the Public Library of Victoria, 1880, Vol. 1, pp. xxx-xxxi.


F. B. Smith, ‘Stalwarts of the Garrison: some Irish Academics in Australia’, Australian Cultural History, No. 6, 1987, pp. 74–93.


I propose to argue in a forthcoming paper on ‘Sydney and the German Connection’ that, even before the end of the nineteenth century, the University of Sydney was much more open to the Prussian model.


See The Catalogue of the Public Library of Victoria, 1880, Vol. 1, p. xxxi. See also VSL: La Trobe, MS 12120: ‘List of Books cited by Gibbon’ (with indications of titles held by the State Library).


The Novels of Thomas Love Peacock, (ed.) David Garnett, Rupert Hart-Davis, London, 1948, pp. 788–9.


C. W. Holgate, An Account of the Chief Libraries of Australia and Tasmania, C. Whittingham and Co., London, 1886, p. 19.


See Catalogue of the Library of the late Hon. James [sic] Macgregor, to be sold by auction by Gemmell, Tuckett & Co.…, (18–20 August, 1884), Melbourne. I am preparing an analysis of this remarkable collection of some 10,000 volumes.


The Catalogue of the Public Library of Victoria, 1880, Vol. 1, p. xxix.


ibid., pp. xxix-xxx.


ibid., p. xxx.


Redmond Barry, ‘On Lending Books’, in Transactions and Proceedings of the Conference of Librarians held in London, October, 1877, (eds.) Edward B. Nicholson & Henry R. Tedder, Charles Whittingham, London, 1878, pp. 134–5.


See Report of the Trustees of the Public Library, Museums, and National Gallery of Victoria, 1871, pp. 15–19.


The Trustees’ reports after 1871 deplore losses and mutilations, notably of volumes of sermons.


E. L. Armstrong, ‘The Public Library and the Public’, in Library Association of Australasia, Proceedings of the Sydney Meeting. October, 1898, Hennessey, Campbell & Co., Sydney, 1898, pp. 13–18.


E. La T. Armstrong, ‘A Model Library from a Librarian's Point Of View’, in Transactions and Proceedings of the Library Association of Australasia at its Second General Meeting, held at Adelaide, October 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th, 1900, C. E. Bristow, Government Printer, Adelaide, 1901, pp. XIII-XV.


E. L. Armstrong, ‘The Proposed Federal Library of the Commonwealth’, in Library Association of Australasia, Transactions and Proceedings at the Third General Meeting held at Melbourne, April, 1902, McCarron, Bird & Co., Melbourne, 1902, pp. 62–70.


State Library of Victoria Selection Policy, Library Council of Victoria, Melbourne, 1986.


G. H. Russell, in collaboration with A. Grenfell Price, The University Libraries’, in The Humanities in Australia: A Survey with special reference to the Universities, (ed.) A. Grenfell Price, Angus and Robertson for the Australian Humanities Research Council, 1959, pp. 99–127.


Eric Wainwright, ‘The Distributed National Collection: a View from the Centre’, paper given at ALIA Acquisitions Section Pre-Conference Seminar ‘The Distributed National Collection’, 30 September 1990, p. 2.


National Library of Australia, Collection Development Policy, National Library of Australia, Canberra, 1990.


See Giles Barber, ‘Robert Shackleton 1919–1986’, Proceedings of the British Academy, Vol. 73, 1987, pp. 657–84, esp. pp. 658, 681.


See Israel Shenker, ‘The Greatest Sport’, The New Yorker, 29 May 1989, pp. 48–68, esp. pp. 58–9.


Neil Harris, ‘Robert Rosenthal 1926–1989’, The Book Collector, Vol. 39, No. 3, Autumn 1990, pp. 362–7, esp. p. 365.


W. D. Rubinstein, ‘Men of Wealth’, Australian Cultural History, No. 3, 1984, pp. 24–37.


Axel Lodewycks (ed.), The Campaign for a New State Library of Victoria, The editor, Box Hill South, 1990.


R. L. Cope, ‘The German Research Association and library resources’, Australian Academic & Research Libraries, Vol. 12, No. 1, March 1981, pp. 41–50.


Wallace Kirsop, ‘Australian Libraries and Research in the Humanities’, in The Australian Academy of the Humanities, Proceedings 1984–86, The Australian Academy of the Humanities, Canberra, 1987, pp. 103–31, esp. pp. 125–7.


See Transactions and Proceedings of the Conference of Librarians held in London, October, 1877, p. 135.


Report of the Trustees of the Public Library, Museums, and National Gallery of Victoria, 1871, p. 14.