Ian Francis McLaren (1912–2000) was born in Launceston, Tasmania, and was educated at Caulfield Grammar School and the University of Melbourne. He was a chartered accountant with Flack & Flack in Melbourne from 1930 to 1936 and the secretary of Davies Coop (New South Wales) Ltd in 1940–42. He served in the Royal Australian Navy in 1942–45. He was a partner in the accountancy firm of Harris and McLaren from 1945 to 1965. He was elected to the Victorian Legislative Assembly as an independent in 1945, but was defeated in 1947. He was re-elected in 1965, as the Liberal candidate for the seat of Caulfield, and remained a Member until 1979. From 1973 to 1979 he was Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees.

McLaren served on an extraordinary number of boards and committees. He was president or chairman of the Youth Hostels Association of Victoria (1947–49), Caulfield Technical College Council (1951–52), the Victorian Good Neighbour Council (1955–58), the Royal Victorian Historical Society (1956–58), the Australian Young Men’s Christian Association (1957–63), the Australian Wool Testing Authority (1964–65) and the Book Collectors Society of Australia (1965). He was also a member of the Melbourne University Council (1977–79) and the History Advisory Council of Victoria (1975–83).

McLaren was one of the great Australian book collectors of his generation. Like his friend Sir John Ferguson, his collecting was closely linked to his passion for bibliography. In 1958 he listed 32 bibliographies and checklists that he had compiled on subjects ranging from local histories, church histories, aviation and Australian Aborigines to the writings of Henry Lawson, Charles Barrett and Walter Murdoch. Ultimately, he published about 50 bibliographies. He began book collecting in 1946 and by 1963 his collection totalled about 25 000 items. Its strengths included voyages and exploration, crime and punishment, political affairs, Australian Aborigines, transport, poetry, New Guinea, parliamentary papers and Henry Lawson. The largest single group was local histories, which he acquired over a period of 15 years not only from booksellers but from hundreds of local government authorities, local institutions and voluntary organisations.


The collection of local histories, church histories, business histories and organisational histories was purchased from McLaren in 1965.


At the time of acquisition, the McLaren Collection numbered about 5000 items. Subsequently, many of the 600 books were incorporated in the Australian Collection and duplicates were discarded. The collection currently consists of 3464 items arranged in the following groupings:

  • Local histories (2148 items)
  • Church histories (838 items)
  • Business histories (298 items)
  • Organisation histories (99 items)
  • School histories (81 items)

Most of the items are pamphlets and booklets. In addition, there are issues of magazines, newspaper supplements, reprints, parliamentary papers (Victorian), newspaper cuttings, maps and typescripts. The coverage is national, with the greatest strength being in Victorian publications. Of the 127 boxes of local histories, 50 relate to Victoria, followed by New South Wales (34), South Australia (15), Queensland (10), Tasmania (seven), Western Australia (six), Australian Capital Territory (four) and Northern Territory (one).


The McLaren Collection is kept together as a formed collection within the Australian Collection. The order created by Ian McLaren has been maintained. Each grouping is arranged by state and then alphabetically by place or name of the body. The items have been catalogued individually and the call numbers have the following prefixes: MCL HIST (local histories), MCL CHU, MCL BUS, MCL ORG and MCL SCH.

The local histories have all been microfilmed. The call numbers of the microfiche copies have the prefix mc N 1870.

Related Collection

McLaren’s library, totalling about 35 000 volumes, was acquired by the Baillieu Library at the University of Melbourne in 1976.


Adams, John D., Obituary of Ian McLaren, Victorian Historical Journal, vol. 71 (1), 2000, pp. 52–3.

Cranfield, Mark, Oral history interview with Ian McLaren, 1986–87, ORAL TRC 1969.

Sayers, Stuart, Putting a Library to the Most Effective Use, The Age, 26 January 1963, p. 18.

Thompson, Lindsay, Obituary of Ian McLaren, The Age, 6 June 2000, ‘Today magazine’, p. 7.