Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Tribute to Therese

 With deep sadness I share the news that our former colleague  at the NSW Parliamentary Library passed away few days ago. 

Some people’s souls shine so brightly, burn so intensely, that their flame goes out too soon.  Such it seems is the case with  Georgette Therese Papadopoulo, TP, who was still young as she was only 70. 

For Therese, Marlene and me our common parliamentary privilege began in 1982 at the Library, where we played a part in facilitating democracy.

Therese inspired great loyalty and affection among library staff. She took great interest in the people she worked with, getting to know them, sharing their concerns and offering useful advice when asked. She offered to babysit my two daughters no matter how busy she happened to be.

“Whether it be an ancient quote, a long-lost recipe, or the need to find an obscure reference in Government Gazette, Therese, aka Theresa aka TP, could find it. She was thorough, meticulous and dogged in her efforts. It paid off. There was always a positive result.

To these days well catalogued shelves of government publications  which Therese organised  are lining the back walls and side aisles in the parliamentary library.

Therese, a member of the library staff for over two decades, is remembered for the grace and intelligence with which she approached her work, as well as for her wide-ranging creativity and irrepressible sense of humor.  

She had a gift. When she talked with you, she made you feel like you were the most important person in the world, and for her, in that moment, you were. She loved people, with all her heart, and it was real. She didn’t do it to make people feel that way, she did it because it was who she was. After a movie, with her best friend Robyn, or a dinner at Rose Bay one was able to share any problems with TP she was there for so many of us …

We all loved her.

While Therese looked like the stereotypical librarian, with her glasses, sensible shoes and tidy long black hair, she was known for her salty Armenian Egyptian Greek story telling  and an insightful wit.

The NSW Parliamentary Library is not open to the public, yet we serve the people of the state by providing library services to enable Parliament. Established in 1840, it is one of the oldest continuously running libraries in Australia. Classified as a ‘special library’, we house a bespoke collection that reflects key subject areas relating to the Parliament of NSW. In addition to our rare, valuable and historic items, we capture contemporary news articles, media releases and government publications and store them for generations to come in our digital archive. Our service mission is, ‘For every question, an answer you can trust,’ and we took our responsibility as stewards of this mighty collection with earnest.

Dr Cope a rare leader in the library 📚 fields 

Parliament NSW

What should we conclude from the continuing and unexpected decline of Australian state parliamentary libraries? Are we not seeing inevitable changes, perhaps long overdue, now taking place? One conclusion, however, seems unavoidable: the parliamentary libraries as a class, despite all efforts to demonstrate the contrary, in reality remain merely useful and non-essential add-ons to their parliaments. Are they, to use a biblical phrase, simply a ‘non-continuing city’? But, as the quotation continues, should we not rather seek the city to come? Are such observations worth a further word?

The reform of parliament, a highly ambiguous concept, is of ancient lineage and resurfaces periodically. Is it likely that the reform of parliament is needed before we can seriously consider the renewal of parliamentary libraries? This seems a rather forlorn prospect and a doomed expectation. But, on a more cheerful note, we might ask whether the community of parliamentary librarians, that is, those professionals who still, despite all, believe in the value of their type of librarianship, can find a voice to articulate publicly a case for their calling? Can they demonstrate that parliamentary librarianship has values and a vision capable of providing a bridge to the future?

As individual parliamentary libraries their scope for action is simply too dependent on their own institution which may have already shown itself more responsive to other priorities. If this observation is correct, hope may lie in collective action, perhaps taking various forms over an extended period. Is a creative response possible to what may be in essence an existential crisis?

Have the parliamentary librarians the intellectual power and the vision to articulate the convincing strategies and goals that seem necessary? Can alternatives be offered? Can indeed the goodwill of those who ultimately will decide the future and fate of the parliamentary libraries be secured for the larger benefits potentially available to all? These are big issues raising fundamental questions which might apply to librarianship in general. Is there the pool of professional expertise available for this task?

This paper argues that we have to abandon the non-continuing city which is, as it were, passing away before our eyes. Whilst a digital future may seem the obvious choice, we must acknowledge that this is but a partial solution. Technology is an instrument to be used and exploited in ever new forms and sophistication, but we need something that is an enduring value, capable of growth and elaboration. That may well be in our time a bridge too far.

A new discourse on values and visions is what is required, and this clearly calls for fresh ideas and formulations. The discourse is wide open and will not be followed up here. Is it possible for the state parliamentary librarians collectively to discover a range of values and a vision to guide their efforts, and perhaps to create strength of purpose? Who knows whether there is more than one new city to be discovered?

No Continuing City, or the City to Come? Observations on Parliament and its Library

 Dr Cope the Father of the Mother of Parliamentary Libraries in Australia 📚 

PS: Obituaries can reveal much about the way a profession is conceived and structured in the popular imagination. This article examines obituaries of librarians in the New York Times between 1977 and 2002 to determine how librarians were presented to the general public by a major newspaper. Although librarianship is a female‐intensive profession, 63.4 percent of the obituaries chronicled the lives of male librarians. Although public and school librarians outnumber their academic counterparts, obituaries focused on academic librarians. 

Far from creating a stereotypical portrait of librarians as shy, dour, dowdy, and sheltered individuals, the emphasis on large‐scale achievements in the obituaries produces an image of librarianship as a glamorous profession. Some librarians are presented as sleuths and detectives who amassed large collections. They contributed to the progress of scholarly research with extensive publications. 

Many others had connections to prominent people, making the most of these social networks in their work. Librarians were also players on the global stage, founding libraries abroad and developing international guidelines that led to institutional progress. 

Emphasis on large‐scale accomplishment, however, tends to obscure the contributions of librarians who daily perform countless small and caring acts that, summed together, positively affect the lives of ordinary individuals.

NSW’s longest serving treasurer and Labor heavyweight Michael Egan – who helped deliver the Sydney Olympics and bring down significant government debt – has died, aged 75.