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A personal insight into being a member of the Friends of the National Library
5 September 2016
I joined the Friends of the National Library at the time of its foundation in 1990. I was bewitched by the Library on my first visit to Canberra as a schoolboy in 1975. And, as a regular user since my move to Canberra 10 years later, it was only natural that I joined an organisation dedicated to supporting this great national institution. I am proud to have retained my original membership number of 58.
For me, membership of the Friends pays dividends well beyond the modest annual membership fee. The many and varied Friends activities on offer enable me to indulge my passion for books, libraries and Australian history and culture. Book launches are a special favourite of mine and my bookshelves are lined with signed copies of books purchased at these events.
The first Friends event I remember attending was the 1994 tribute to that doyen of the historians of Victoria, Professor Geoffrey Serle. I exchanged a few half-remembered words with him and he signed my copy of his ‘The Rush to be Rich’. Since then, I have met many other truly remarkable Australians who have come to the Library to impart their wisdom and experience through the Friends’ Kenneth Myer and Harold White lecture series, and the annual Celebrations all of us so enjoyed.
I owe an eternal debt of gratitude to former Friends Committee member Greg Cornwell who encouraged me to join the Friends Committee in 2006. Since then I have served a total of 7 years on the Committee, including 3 as Chair. In the latter role, I was immensely privileged to introduce Kenneth Myer lecturers Kerry O’Brien and Professors Ian Frazer and Julian Disney.
Being a member of the Friends Committee has given me a special insight into the workings of the National Library and enabled me to understand just a little of the work of individual staff members. I have always been struck by their professionalism, skill and passion in serving the needs of the Library’s many and varied users.
I have served at one time or another on each of the Friends 3 sub-committees, which focus respectively on events planning, finance and communications. In tight fiscal times, maintaining an attractive array of services and benefits for Friends members has not been without its challenges.
Friends’ achievements of which I have been particularly proud during my time on the Committee include the continued enhancement of the Friends newsletter, the increase in memberships to the current level of just under 2,000 and the very successful autumn and spring tours.
I am also pleased that the Friends has made a very real contribution to the ongoing work of the Library. A highlight for me has been the annual Friends Travelling Fellowship and Creative Arts Fellowship which provide wonderful opportunities to the recipients to further their careers. Other recent examples of the Friends support for the Library include the gift of two paintings for the Library’s reading room and support for the digitisation of the Canberra Times.
Perhaps the greatest lesson I have learned from my involvement with the Friends has been the tremendous attachment and loyalty of so many Australians to the wonderful national institution that is the National Library.
Like many others, I have found that my Friends membership has introduced me to a whole network of individuals with shared interests in the National Library and its work. I have formed many enduring and extremely rewarding friendships which focus on our shared commitment to the Library. All of us want to give something back to the Library and that is why we rejoin year after year. Encourage your friends to join the Library’s Friends; they won’t be disappointed.