State Library Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 68 Spring 2001



Estelle Canning was Assistant Map Librarian for 15 years. She joined the State Library in March 1981, after studying Arts at Melbourne University and Librarianship at RMIT, and working in the Leeper Library at Trinity College. She began in the then La Trobe Library, having majored in History, then moved to External Services (now Document Delivery) when she returned to work after the birth of her first son, Robert, in 1982. Her second son, James, was born in 1984, and she came back to work in the Map Section when he was about seven months old, balancing her job with the care of the two little boys who were her great delight. Estelle threw herself into all her tasks with great enthusiasm and genuine enjoyment, especially when working with the public. This was always obvious in her work on the reference desk and in Maps, where many users came to know her, and to be impressed by her helpfulness and her outgoing personality, as well as her knowledge of the Library's resources.
Estelle also had the wider interests of the Library at heart, contributing to the early plans for the redevelopment (appropriately, facilities for mothers and children), serving as an Occupational Health and Safety and Harrassment Officer, and staunchly maintaining her union membership. She joined the Australian Map Circle and attended most of its Victorian meetings and three of its conferences, the last two in her capacity as Vice President, an office which she held from 1997. In these roles, and in her day-to-day work, Estelle showed that she was an ‘ideas’ person, participating in discussions about future developments and making many contributions to the more effective running of the Map Section. She was particularly keen on its educational role and on working with the Education Centre; in 1991, when Maps, along with other parts of the Library, was overwhelmed by demands from VCE students, she put together collections of photocopied maps of Melbourne suburbs for easy use by students and others, and these have been an extremely useful tool ever since.
Estelle first developed breast cancer early in 1996, when she had surgery, followed by radio- and chemo-therapy. She appeared to recover well, but exactly three years later secondaries were diagnosed, and she was given hormone- and chemotherapy. She continued to work between treatments and to maintain her optimistic outlook, but this became increasingly difficult, and she had to stop work in May 1999. She died in Caritas Christi Hospice on 20 Septembr 2000, surrounded by her loved ones. Her bright, vivacious personality will continue to be missed throughout the Library, and particularly in the Map Section.
Judith Scurfield