State Library Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 80 Spring 2007


Dianne Reilly, Paul de Serville, John Arnold
Remembering the La Trobe Library

La Trobe Library Foundation Stone. [1951]. Gelatin silver photograph. H15287. La Trobe Picture Collection.

The La Trobe Library, conceived as a discrete collection of Australiana at the State Library of Victoria and intended to rival the Mitchell Library in Sydney, had a long gestation period and a comparatively short life. The foundation stone of the building was laid on 2 July 1951, as part of the celebration of the anniversary of the establishment of Victoria as a separate colony. The new library opened to the public on 29 March 1965, was formally opened on 6 September 1965, and closed without ceremony on 5 September 1990.
Here three people who knew the library well contribute their recollections: Dianne Reilly, who is currently the La Trobe Librarian and hopes to write a detailed account of the La Trobe Library; historian Paul de Serville, who worked there first as a librarian and afterwards as researcher; and John Arnold, a man of many parts who learned to be a librarian at the La Trobe.

Dianne Reilly

The Reputation of ‘the La Trobe’ as a centre for excellence for all aspects of Australian historical research is not based solely on the incomparable and valuable collections it contains, in particular, material relating to Victoria and its inhabitants through the generations. The high estimation in which it is held is due also to the vision and the superlative management skills of the first La Trobe Librarian, and to the calibre of the specialist staff it attracted.
The two Chief Librarians involved in the creation of the La Trobe Library were Colin A. McCallum, who had much to do with the completion of the plans for the new wing, in consultation with the Public Works Department of the Victorian Government, and his successor, John A Feely, who took over in September 1960 the onerous duties of seeing the project through. Sadly, this genial and scholarly administrator died suddenly on 5 June 1965, three months before his major project reached completion. Mr. Feely was the librarian who personally indexed the early volumes of The Argus newspaper, thus creating a resource of ongoing benefit to so many researchers of Victorian colonial history.
At the outset, the Chief Librarian was also officially titled La Trobe Librarian. This explains the fact that, in 1965, Miss Patricia Reynolds, BA, ALAA, was appointed as Deputy La Trobe Librarian to manage the La Trobe Library. She had dedicated her considerable management skills to the creation and organization in an extraordinarily short space of time of a separate Australiana collection from the greater State Library collection. Her task was to bring together a discrete collection of published and unique material relating to Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific.
In January 1951 Pat Reynolds had been appointed as a librarian to the staff of the then Public Library where she was able to indulge her great passion for research. Her first job was as an assistant in the Research Department to that celebrated librarian P. V. L. (Phil) Garrett. Looking back in an interview in the Age, 26 May 1979, Pat described those early days as a more leisurely life for a librarian:
We could devote a great deal of time to the people doing research. These days, there is so much more self-help expected of library users, and quite possibly, rightly so. But when I was starting in the profession, we saw our role as guiding the research process, and actually checking and locating the appropriate material for each researcher.
A notable instance was the assistance given to the late Dr. Graeme Robertson:
He rang one day and I happened to answer. He told me he was thinking of doing some investigation into cast-iron work and asked if the library could help. The first thing we did was sit down with the file of copies of The Australasian Ironmonger and go through them day after day after day. And we found marvellous things for him in them.
In this way, Graeme Robertson's great fascination with cast-iron was given direction, resulting in the publication of his valuable series of books of ornamental cast-iron in Melbourne and Sydney.

Leone Mills, photographer. C.A. McCallum. 1965. Gelatin silver photograph. La Trobe Picture Collection.

After completing in 1940 an Arts degree at the University of Melbourne, majoring in English and History, Pat Reynolds became secretary to the stockbroker Ian Potter, later Sir Ian Potter, a man of immense influence and a leading financier who dominated the Australian business scene from the 1940s to the 1970s. Pat came to this position through the network of her father, Edward Thomas Reynolds, a Melbourne barrister and MLA for Toorak. He was a friend of the well-known accountant and financial adviser, Justin Hancock, and of the tax expert, Jimmy McColl, both close associates of Ian Potter. Pat had completed a secretarial course after finishing her Arts degree, and she recalls that, due to her lack of practical experience in typing and shorthand, she was very nervous when first confronted by Potter's efficiency, professionalism and prodigious capacity for work. However, she soon adjusted to his particular and rather unorthodox methods of working. He would go out to long lunches with business associates, returning late in the afternoon to dictate countless memoranda and letters, expecting that they would be typed and filed, or made ready for the post before the day was finished. Although there were certain pressures

[View of La Trobe Street showing entry to La Trobe Library and the Tulk building]. [1965–1970]. Gelatin silver photograph. H30065. La Trobe Picture Collection.

in working for the firm, Pat acknowledges the wonderful experience Ian Potter & Co. gave her. It was on the proceeds of a rather large bonus for her work there that she was able to finance a trip to Europe when she resigned in 1949.
On her return to Australia in 1950, she applied for a position in the library at CSIRO, then under the management of the redoubtable Eleanor Archer. Miss Archer advised Pat to qualify as a librarian and perhaps try again. It was at this time that she met the eminent librarian Frank Perry, later Victorian Parliamentary Librarian, who was head of the Library Training School at the then Public Library of Victoria.
After qualifying as a librarian, she was subsequently appointed to the Library's research department. During this period, local history societies were just beginning, the National Trust was getting off the ground, and critically, at this very time, Professor Max Crawford of the History Department at the University of Melbourne proposed the creation of the La Trobe Library. In the fourteen year hiatus, Pat gained invaluable experience and knowledge of the State Library collections before her appointment as Deputy La Trobe
Librarian on 27 November 1964. She was given the title of La Trobe Librarian on 19 September 1975 and retired on 10 April 1980. Under her leadership the La Trobe Library achieved renown.
Beginning with a staff of seven, a number which progressively climbed to fifty at its highest, the Library was ready for business several months before it was officially opened. Pat Reynolds supervised every aspect of collection-building and service delivery, and insisted on the highest standards being maintained in every aspect of the work. Staff training was a great feature and strength of her incumbency, an important foundation for the excellent reference and research work the La Trobe staff always carried out. One reference tool compiled by Pat in those early days, the Chronological Guide to Victorian Directories, Electoral Rolls, Professional Lists, etc. 1836–1900, is still invaluable to reference librarians today.
Exhibitions at the State Library, show-casing the rare and interesting items in the collection, were reinstated by Pat Reynolds, with the opening in the purpose-built Irving Benson Hall adjacent to the La Trobe Library entrance, in April 1966. The first exhibition under her guidance was a tribute to the poet Bernard O'Dowd on the occasion of the centenary of his birth. Thirty choice items, mostly rare volumes of his works, were on display, an expert checklist for the exhibition being compiled by the then the Head of the Cataloguing Division at the State Library, the poet Barrett Reid.
Altogether, during her time no less than twenty-two exhibitions, related to the La Trobe collections and curated by La Trobe staff as part of their normal duties, were shown in the Irving Benson Hall. These included such major displays as ‘John Pascoe Fawkner: a Centennial Exhibition’ (1969), ‘Cook in the Pacific’ (1970), ‘Playbills and Players’ (1971), ‘The Art of Botanical Illustration’ (1975), and ‘Taming the Coast: Early Navigation and Settlement’ (1978).
Pat Reynolds was a great collection-builder. Among the significant material she brought in to the Library, frequently with the aid of Patsy Adam-Smith, the Manuscripts Field Officer, were: the papers of the Docker family of ‘Bontherambo’, Sir Bernard Heinze's personal papers, the Clyde Company papers, and countless watercolours and oil paintings to enhance the Picture Collection. Among Pat's personal research interests were the works of the artists Henry Burn and Henry Gritten. As well as acquiring a number of works by these artists, Pat described her research on Burn in an article in the La Trobe Library Journal No. 11.
It must be said that the single most important factor in achieving the goal of the separate La Trobe collection and in bringing the La Trobe to prominence as a cultural institution lay in the dedication by Patricia Reynolds of her talents and energies to the cause.
Her successor was Miss Kathleen Young, BA (Syd.), ALAA. She was Acting La Trobe Librarian from May 1979 until April 1980, when she was appointed as La Trobe Librarian.
An experienced librarian, Kathleen Young maintained the high service standards established when the La Trobe was first opened, and the celebrity of the Library continued to grow in stature.
After spending four years in London in a variety of interesting jobs as a stenographer, Kathleen joined the staff of the State Library on 18 May 1966. Part-way through her Librarianship studies at RMIT at this time, she was immediately placed in the La Trobe Library and completed the qualification part-time. She spent several years working on the La Trobe desk and in the La Trobe research department. In May 1972, she was appointed La Trobe Reference Librarian, in which position she managed the La Trobe reference and research staff who provided invaluable service to the growing hordes of researchers needing the assistance of specialist Australiana librarians. This position fulfilled, in effect, the role of deputy to the La Trobe Librarian.
In keeping with the training she had received herself under Pat Reynolds' guidance, staff development was of key importance to Kathleen. On Pat's departure on leave prior to her retirement, she was Acting La Trobe Librarian for ten months until 11 April 1980, when she was formally appointed La Trobe Librarian. This was a post she held until 19 June 1981 when she herself retired.
Under Kathleen's management, the two major exhibitions launched in the Irving Benson Hall during the period from May 1979 and June 1981 were ‘Victorian Treasures from the La Trobe Collection’, and ‘Barry's Great Emporium : the State Library of Victoria, 1856–1981’, to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the founding of the Library in 1856.
Following Kathleen Young's retirement, there was an interregnum for seven months while the position was advertised. The staff at this time was a highly-experienced group of fifty who continued business as usual under the able management of Paul Macpherson. Paul later left the State Library to pursue a successful career in archives at the Australian War Memorial and, subsequently, at the National Archives of Australia.
Late in 1981, I was invited by the then State Librarian, Warren Horton, to apply for the position of La Trobe Librarian. Having worked in most departments of the State Library from the age of sixteen, I was at this time External Services Librarian, a position which embraced support for Victoria's many municipal libraries and responsibility for the famed Country Borrowers' Service. With much hesitation, I decided to apply, having voiced fears about my lack of any thorough Australiana background, apart from an only partially-completed Master of Arts in Australian Studies. Warren encouraged confidence by telling me that ‘it is not necessary for a good manager to be a specialist. He or she simply needs to rely on the excellent specialists around them’. Not so sure of the merit of this maxim, I was nevertheless appointed to the position with effect from 27 January 1982. In due course, I came to recognise the truth in Warren Horton's philosophy: I am extremely fortunate to have been surrounded by the best of library professionals and collection experts ever since!
With some trepidation, I took on the position, learning so much about the brilliant collections on the job and playing my part in developing them over the years. The La Trobe comprised not only the books and periodicals which provided the basic framework for the Australiana reference and research service, but fine collections of pictures and manuscripts relating to Victoria and the Victorian people, as well as the remarkable, in-depth collection of newspapers from all areas of Victoria and other parts of Australia, as well as from countries overseas.
The first major collection to be acquired after my appointment was the Port Phillip Association Papers. These key documents in Victoria's history came on the antiquarian market late in 1981, and were expected to fetch a very high price. Warren Horton decided to go to Sydney and bid for them at the auction himself. To the surprise of all, they were acquired for a moderate sum well within the La Trobe budget.
To showcase these foundation documents to the Victorian people, the first major exhibition in 1982 was ‘Trespassers and Intruders: the Port Phillip Association and the Founding of Melbourne’, opened by the then Minister for the Arts, Mr Norman Lacey, in March. It was at the launch of this exhibition that I learned a salutory lesson in the art of serving drinks. The President of the Library Council at this time was Sir John Starke, the rather gruff Supreme Court Judge, a life-long abolitionist who had been legally bound to sentence Ronald Ryan to death. Sir John drank only Scotch whisky at such functions, and when I served him a glass complete with a rather large water jug, the only one available, he set me straight: ‘Listen girlie, next time you serve Scotch make sure you offer the water from a whisky jug, not from a vase of flowers!’ Although mortified at the time, I have not made the same mistake again.
In those days, budgets for exhibitions were always on the low side. In an effort to maintain the high standards set by my predecessors, I asked Pat Reynolds how she managed to always have such beautiful flowers on display for openings. Pat revealed that she had personally gone to the wholesale flower market to select suitable blooms for the formal arrangements for which she was renowned. While somewhat daunted by the early morning marketing hours, I followed her advice on a few occasions as my contribution to the success of those exhibitions during the early period of my incumbency. In fact, from 1982 until the late 1990s, the La Trobe staff were responsible for more than sixty excellent exhibitions, often involving the compilation of a well-researched and produced catalogue, and usually shown in the Irving Benson Hall.
In 1990, I had been given official sanction to erect a gigantic banner over the entrance to the building in La Trobe Street to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of Victoria's premier Australiana collection. There, for all to see, the silver jubilee of the La Trobe was proudly proclaimed. I remember the excitement among the staff that this milestone had been reached as we planned to cut a special celebratory cake on 6 September to mark the occasion. It was therefore all the more painful that, the day before, I had been called to the

Leone Mills, photographer. Plaque unveiled 6th September 1965 by Premier Sir Henry Bolte. Gelatin silver photograph. H27967. La Trobe Picture Collection.

State Librarian's office to be told that, for reasons of economy, the La Trobe entrance was to be closed from that day forward.
Of course, the service from the superlative collections continued undiminished after the closure of the separate entrance, and all — staff and researchers — became accustomed to the new arrangements. As part of the State Library redevelopment and refurbishment, the La Trobe service point had two moves before it was relocated to its permanent home on 8 July 2003. Although still a separate collection, it is now accommodated as a part of the greater State Library of which it continues as a cornerstone. From that date, the La Trobe has been housed in one of the most beautiful public spaces in Australia, the famed Domed Reading Room, renamed the La Trobe Reading Room.

Paul de Serville

A Full history of the La Trobe Library remains to be written, and when this is done, it is likely to indicate that the early years of the La Trobe roughly coincided with the golden years in the writing of Victorian history — that period when authors began to treat the history of Victoria on its own terms. Most of these authors were the product of an educated middle-class background; they had an instinctive understanding of the workings of society; and were at this stage not too burdened with an ideological interpretation of the past. Even before the La Trobe had opened its doors, Marnie Bassett's study of the Henty family had appeared in 1955; her chapter on Mrs Molloy remains one of the most poignant pieces of writing on pioneer women; the proliferation of feminist writers has not managed to eclipse it in the estimation of those with long memories. Margaret Kiddle's posthumous study of the Western District was published in 1961. Has there been any substantial monograph of a pastoral district to equal it? Her understanding of the mind of the Scottish squatters and their upbringing based on the tenets of the Old Testament, is a reminder that she effortlessly presented, without an anachronistic note, a world view which Manning Clark attempted to portray in his history of Australia.
Weston Bate's pioneer study of suburban history, Brighton, appeared in 1962, the first of a number of detailed monographs, all differing in method, content and quality, from the 1930s suburban histories. Then in 1963, Geoffrey Serle published his history of Victoria in the 1850s, a study of a decade in depth which had not been carried out in a similar form for any other colony. In the same year Geoffrey Blainey produced The Rush That Never Ended, one of a remarkable group of monographs which included The Tyranny of Distance and the Triumph of the Nomads, thought-provoking studies with a general sweep of the sort which scarcely any Australian historian had hitherto attempted. What other historian has seen one of his titles enter the Australian vocabulary? And to round off this group, Michael Cannon's study of the land boom appeared in 1966, a bombshell which rocked carefully-arranged memories and façades among the middle classes.
These women and men had the benefit of a solid education; they wrote well and clearly. They found, and kept, a responsive readership among the reading public. Patricia Reynolds, the first La Trobe Librarian (still fortunately with us, living in retirement in Geelong) came from the same background, had the same education and general grasp of professional standards. The Library's long-delayed birth is noted elsewhere. There is still no adequate reason why Sydney, with its collectors, should have had the Mitchell Library, and Melbourne, with its collectors, should have had nothing. The Library, announced belatedly in 1951, at last opened its doors in 1965, as the boom in local history and the early work of the National Trust had taken off; as more history post-graduates chose Australian topics; and as the advance guard of the family historians (then still known as genealogists) moved purposefully through the front doors.
As a junior librarian, whose knowledge of Victorian social history came more from

Leone Mills, photographer. Ground floor, La Trobe Library [May 1967]. Gelatin silver photograph. H31775. La Trobe Picture Collection.

novels of Martin Boyd and H.H. Richardson, family stories (later known as oral history) and snob's patience (so much a part of pre-1960 life in Victoria), this writer took some years to appreciate much of what the La Trobe achieved under Pat Reynolds. Authors and scholars were well served by Pat and her senior staff. The first-floor Reading Room (entry by ticket) mixed the silent, anonymous private researcher, devoting his life to shipwrecks or hotel ownership, with the names (a little like a successful Lloyd's Syndicate) of authors such as Lady Bassett, Manning Clark (nicknamed ‘God’ by one of the sparkier junior female librarians), Cyril Pearl and his masterful second wife, Keith Dunstan, Michael Clarke (whose two studies of his family remain unequalled for their candour and urbanity) and many others. Pat Reynolds would emerge from her office and enter the Reading Room (a silent place where the air scarcely moved) to make sure that the writers had everything they needed: the sort of silver service impossible to imagine today. Another staff member, from
the main library, Phil Garrett, desendant of a Tractarian friend of Cardinal Newman, would make the journey from the Main Library to add a recondite snippet from his vast store of Australiana to the manuscript of a grateful author.
Pat Reynolds was fortunate in her early staff: Kathleen Young, who succeeded her as La Trobe Librarian; Clarice Kemp, who presided over the manuscripts on the third floor; and Joan Sewell who continued the huge task of cataloguing the picture collection. While her knowledge of Australian history and literature was equal to that of all but the specialist, Pat Reynolds's interest in Australian prints and illustrations may have given her a pleasure which made up for the more tedious moments of professional duties. Another interest was in Charles Joseph La Trobe, whose achievements are finally being recorded by scholars, including the current La Trobe Librarian, Dianne Reilly.
Between the Library and the Australian Dictionary of Biography, directed by Geoffrey Serle, there was the most fruitful collaboration. Under Pat Reynolds's leadership a wide-ranging biographical indexing exercise was undertaken, the result being the early biographical indexes, which used to be housed at the end of the ground-floor reading room. Does any other major Australian library have an index of such breadth and depth? In those more peaceful days, staff of the ground floor (trained to speak quietly and deal patiently) were able to index the Coachmakers' Journal or some other trade journal, little realising how useful it would be in their own researches in later years. Then there were the Bibliography Files — subject indexes — containing research work done over the years, and most useful to later scholars.
The Lyceum Club constituted another link between the reading public and Pat Reynolds, not a few of its members writing monographs and drawing on the La Trobe sources: Leslie Henderson, Molly Lazarus, Marnie Bassett, Joan Gilmour, and at the start of a distinguished career, Ann Blainey. The proof of the contribution will be found in so many acknowledgements to published works (always one of the most fruitful keys to a book). In these contributions, the work of the middle staff was vital. Many of these went on to have distinguished careers. During the writer's period of service they included Joy Bourke (notable in the State Library of NSW); Margot Hyslop; Catherine Santamaria (later of the National Library), and Joan Maslen, with her encyclopaedic knowledge of the Australian stage. The one survivor of what Sir Redmond Barry, imitating Gibbon, would have called ‘the aboriginal period’ of the La Trobe, is Mary Lewis, noted for her work in the Picture Collection and in the architecture collections.
In the late 1960s the Library generally was a quieter place, and apart from one exceptional group, readers actually used the books. The exception was the old men who made a second refuge in the original newspaper library. Their preferred reading — the Sporting Globe, Truth and the Sun News-Pictorial. The La Trobe Library had only one representative of this tribe, a man who chose to read in the ground-floor reading room; with a hacking cough; nicknamed Death by the present writer. Was he, in his day, a well-known
sportsman from the 1930s with memories of a classical education (a minor Fleetwood-Smith)? No one knew. Eventually he disappeared. More enduring were the pioneer brigade of the genealogists. At that stage many wore floral hats and the less enamoured junior librarians would murmur that a woman from Brighton (then all genealogists seemed to come from Brighton) was approaching the desk, armed and ready like an English naval detachment about to board a neutral vessel.
The La Trobe Library, under Pat Reynolds, catered for many groups apart from authors, scholars and a growing band of students, secondary, tertiary and post-graduate. There were the obsessives, three sturdy bands who never wearied in pursuit of further information: the Eureka group; the Burke and Wills group; and the Kelly group. The last, alas, has gone from strength to strength, maintaining one strand of history as grievance; and this, flourishing in an institution nurtured by Sir Redmond Barry.
Over these paradoxes and varieties Pat Reynolds presided. Given the feelings of the Main Library (starved of funds and demoralised) it cannot have been easy for either library, or for the La Trobe Librarian. The varieties of response and the reasons for the feelings are too complicated to list here. But despite difficulties the La Trobe flourished, supported by the Friends (notably A.G.L. Shaw, Geoffrey Serle, S.R.C. Wood, General McNicoll and Mrs Douglas Carnegie), at that stage very much a bastion of established Melbourne.
Something of the flavour of the period may be suggested by an exchange which took place one afternoon between the sparky junior librarian, already mentioned, and a well-bred elderly man who turned out to be a descendant of a nineteenth-century Mayoral family and a former member of the Montevideo Jockey Club:
‘Are you right?’
‘Madam, you are not paid to ask my political views’.

John Arnold

My First encounter with the first La Trobe Librarian, Pat Reynolds, was early in 1975. My work as a Research Assistant at various universities meant that over 1973–74 I was a regular, almost daily, user of the La Trobe Library. One of my jobs was to read almost thirty years of the Brisbane Courier for a planned but as yet unpublished biography of the noted Queensland politician, Sir Thomas McIlwraith. I also did research in the library on a biographical register of Queensland parliamentarians that was published, while at the same time working on a commissioned history of a Melbourne golf club. So I felt that I had good knowledge of Australian history and its related research materials.
In 1975 my fractional appointment as a Research Assistant was reduced and I needed to look for another source of income. I thought: why not see if I could work behind the desk in the La Trobe Library rather than in front of it? While in the Library one day I decided to enquire about the possibility of a job; I walked out of front entrance to the Library and
down the steps to the public telephone booths, then at the corner of Swanston and Little Lonsdale Streets, and rang Miss Reynolds. I explained what I was interested in doing and made an appointment to see her a few days later. At the appointed time I made my way up the stairs in the then La Trobe Library to her office, which was located off the north-south passageway between the reader's ticket entrance to the first-floor reading room and the annulus linking the La Trobe wing with the Dome Reading Room. William Strutt's Black Thursday hung on the marble-faced wall diagonally opposite her door.
The office was relatively small. A painting of early Melbourne by Henry Burn hung on the wall, and in the shelves behind her desk I noticed a set of Ferguson's Bibliography of Australia. Miss Reynolds opened the conversation by asking if I was related to the bookseller Peter Arnold. When I said that he was my brother, she responded by saying that he was a member of the Friends of the La Trobe Library. I responded in turn by saying that so was I. It was, I reflected later, a great retort. For a brief second or two Miss Reynolds was on the back foot but she quickly gained her rightful ascendancy over the nervous young man in her office. She explained that jobs in the Library did come up and someone with my background would make a good applicant. She concluded the interview by saying she would let me know when the next job vacancy arose. I left the interview fairly confident that I would soon be working in the Library.
It happened very quickly. By May 1975 I was a Victorian public servant working in the La Trobe Library, State Library of Victoria. In those days it was possible to get a job in the Library without library qualifications. You were appointed as a Library Officer with the expectation that you would undertake the Graduate Diploma in Librarianship at RMIT across the road. This is what I did, taking the RMIT course over 1976–1978. But I really learnt my library skills on the job. Miss Reynolds had prepared a series of seven or eight exercises for new staff. Each one had 15 or so questions with a list of books from which the answers had to be found. This involved wandering around the stacks of both the La Trobe and general collections and finding the answer from the right book. It was very good training, as you got to know not only how to find information but also the layout of the complicated library stacks. How else would I have got to know about titles such as Croxford's Clerical Directory and Lloyd's Registrar of Shipping?
In its early years the La Trobe Library was run by Miss Reynolds, supported by Miss Kemp, the Manuscripts Librarian and Miss Reynolds' deputy, and Miss Young, the La Trobe Reference Librarian; with junior staff under them. Miss Kemp retired in 1974 and John Thompson was, at the instigation of Geoffrey Serle, appointed as her successor. He and others who joined the staff around the same time were part of the new breed of the younger baby-boom university graduates, who did their library training as a Graduate Diploma rather than through the registration exams conducted by the (then) Library Association of Australia. Others who followed Thompson included Ross Gibbs, Paul Macpherson and Tony Marshall. All were to go and play major roles in Australian librarianship, archives and

Leone Mills, photographer. Miss Patricia Reynolds, First Deputy La Trobe Librarian. 1965. Gelatin silver photograph. H27965. La Trobe Picture Collection.

records management; and all, like the author, did Miss Reynolds's training exercises.
Recognizing my interest in Australian books, Miss Reynolds asked me to prepare -‘curate’ was not in the library jargon then — an exhibition in the Irving Benson Hall. This was quite an honour for a relatively new member of staff. Her main and legitimate concern was whether her secretary could read my handwriting for typing the caption cards. Exhibitions were a major event in the library calendar. There was usually a formal opening attended by members of the Library Council and senior staff and members of the Friends of the La Trobe Library. In 1978 I was given a free hand in selecting and displaying the books, and I well recall Miss Reynolds coming into the hall on the morning of the opening day and finding me still trying to set up one of the larger cases with a copy of the John
Kirtley printed Heemskerck Shoals, with associated material from the Moir Collection. She had a worried look on her face, saying that you really should have the exhibition finished at least a couple of days before opening. But she turned and left the room, leaving me to finish putting together the last touches. Entitled ‘Celebrating Australian Books,’ the exhibition was opened by publisher Frank Eyre.
Miss Reynolds knew the (second) wife of author and bibliographer of Australian literature, Frederick Macartney. She arranged for me to give him a special viewing of the exhibition. Macartney was then in his late eighties. His wife brought him into the library and we had a good chat while he looked at the books. He told me that he had used the library in the previous century which, at the time, I found extraordinary.
Through the Lyceum Club, her university days and period as Ian Potter's personal assistant, and, I assume, helped by her father's social and business network, Miss Reynolds had her own very extensive network. She was friendly with or had known Marnie Bassett, Margareta Weber and Margaret Kiddle, author of Men of Yesterday, the wonderful history of pastoral settlement in the Western District that was published posthumously. I recall Miss Reynolds telling me that she and representatives of the publisher had selected the illustrations for the book. Brian Finemore, curator of Australian art at the National Gallery who was tragically bashed to death, was another friend. Leonard and Graham Joel, father and son art auctioneers, were also part of the network she used to help develop the La Trobe Library's collection.
We members of the new generation of staff called the attendants by their first name and occasionally socialized with them at their local watering hole, Ron Stout's City Court Hotel on the corner of Russell and La Trobe Streets. This was a place where Miss Reynolds would never have dreamed of ever entering. She called the attendants ‘Mr So-and-So’, pressing her intercom in her room to ask if Mr Tanner, the head La Trobe attendant, was there. She, perhaps understandably given her background, was not as confident in dealing with the men as she was with the qualified library staff but they would do anything for her.
In addition to staffing the reference desks, one of the jobs of the junior staff was to answer written enquiries from members of the public. These came from far and wide, and ranged from serious research leading to publication to family history to requests from children for help with their school projects. All the letters that went out were corrected and edited by Miss Young as the La Trobe Reference Librarian, then read by Pat Reynolds as La Trobe Librarian, before being typed and finally read by Miss Ramsay as the Chief Librarian,
before going into the post. They were always written in a formal style: ‘Dear Mr or Mrs’ and signed, ‘yours faithfully’. I recall on one occasion answering a school child's request for assistance and deciding to address the girl by her given name and also to end the letter with something like ‘Good luck with your project’. I think I wanted to show that the Library was not just a building or a collection of books but a place also with some humanity. The letter got to Miss Reynolds, who immediately crossed out the girl's name and wrote ‘Dear Miss so and so’. She then crossed out the ‘good luck with your project’ sentence for this was not Library style. But she must have had second thoughts, for the offending words were reinserted on my draft, and the typed letter came back for proofing with my original phrasing. I can just picture her sitting at her desk agonizing over whether to excise or restore my ‘offending’ text.
In 1980 I left the Library and spent an extended period in England. I mainly travelled but did some freelance research, including work for Pat Reynolds. I had by now been asked to call her ‘Pat’ rather than ‘Miss Reynolds’; and she was actually now Mrs J. E. Wilkie, having married shortly after she retired. I was able to find the uncatalogued papers of Edward Davey, I think her great-grandfather, and a copy of a scarce book he had written. Davey, amongst other things, had been involved in early experiments with electricity, and also designed the public gardens at Malmsbury in Victoria. Pat was delighted with the finds and, in addition to paying me for my labour, gave me a bottle of Scotch — good quality, as one would expect from her — when she came to collect the photocopies I brought back with me from England.
Having recently retired and also married, Miss Reynolds stayed away from the Library. She had devoted several decades of her life to the State Library, and in particular its Australian collections; she probably felt that, in addition to enough is enough, her presence would make it difficult for her successor, Kathleen Young.
For some fifteen years she was, in a sense, both the La Trobe Librarian and the La Trobe Library. She had worked tirelessly in assembling the Australian collection of books from the main collection in time for the opening of the La Trobe Library in September 1965, and then in overseeing the Library as it became known throughout the country and the world as a major Australiana research and collecting library. All those who today regularly use the La Trobe Collections of the State Library are in her debt. I am part of this very large group, but I also owe her a bit more as she helped kick-start my first career.