Jock McEldowney

Geoffrey Alley, Librarian: His Life and Work

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The biography of a remarkable New Zealander, G.T. (Geoffrey) Alley, who was our first National Librarian, between 1964 and 1967, after many years as Director of the National Library Service.

This is a full personal biography, which includes important material on the Alley family –– including older brother Rewi Alley, of China fame –– and Geoffrey Alley’'s rugby career, during which represented Southland during a farming stint in the early 1920s, and was an All Black between 1926 and 1928, playing 19 matches.

The central part of the book traces the development of New Zealand'’s national library system, from the intervention of the Carnegie Corporation in the 1930s to the establishment of the National Library of New Zealand, under Alley as the first national librarian, in the 1960s; from the beginning of Alley’s career running a WEA travelling library scheme in Canterbury initiated by Professor James Shelley at the beginning of the 1930s, through the establishment of the Country Library Service, headed by Alley, the School Library Service, wartime library services, a national library school and the National Library Centre. Other significant figures, such as Shelley, John Barr, Alister McIntosh, Clifford Collins, Archie Dunningham, John Harris, Stuart Perry, and Graham Bagnall receive due attention.

It is also a major work of public history, recording how the present library networks in this country evolved in their social and political contexts.

Published with the support of the G.T. Alley Trust and the National Library Society members.

'The book is written with an ease (and dry wit) that lightens the details it has to traverse, and the scholarship is impeccable. A book to return to.' —John Cochrane, NZ Listener

'A work of scholarship, insight, and a lasting contribution to the cultural history of New Zealand.' —Rowena Cullen, Australian Academic & Research Libraries

W.J. (Jock) McEldowney (1921–2015) was educated in Christchurch (St Andrew’s College and Canterbury University College) and in the New Zealand Library School. He worked in the National Library Service for fifteen years, and was then University of Otago Librarian from 1961 to 1987.

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