World Libraries

The Pioneers: Peter Havard-Williams

Two members of the TWL Advisory Board died recently, David Cornelius and Peter Havard-Williams. I knew David only slightly, from IFLA conferences, so it will be good to have a personal tribute to him by his colleague A. A. Alemna; we expect that memoir to appear in the next issue. Ghana, and libraries of all developing countries, were enriched by his talents and dedication, and are poorer now without him.

I knew Peter Havard-Williams rather well, considering that we usually occupied separate continents. We met, if I remember correctly, in 1970 in Moscow as members of a panel in an IFLA program about international library education. We had opposing views: I was promoting the idea of an international library school with multinational sponsorship; he found that concept impractical if not wrong-headed. He invited me to Ottawa, where he headed the library school, to present my ideas on the international school, and the concept was closely examined by students and staff. It seems that Peter was right, as things have turned out; there is no such school, although the international summer school in Aberystwyth (opening in 1973) has offered some of the elements. And the school in Botswana-of which more in a moment-may come closest to the ideal I had in mind. While I taught in Aber for three summers, Peter had gone on to Loughborough, creating a library school that attracted a wide international clientele. In various encounters I learned to see through his facade. He often appeared to be dour, but was ever prepared to laugh; he seemed sometimes brusque, but was always ready to extend a kind hand. He was invariably busy, but gave himself the hobby-in his Who's Who sketch-of "idling." That biographical outline in Who's Who reveals a man of renaissance aspect, with academic qualifications in music, French, and philosophy as well as librarianship. He directed the simultaneous translations at IFLA meetings (while serving as Vice President), and later he was an organist in Gaborone. He moved from the comforts of English academe to the uncertainties of Botswana in 1988, and became such a force in African library education that he was honored with a special issue of the African Journal of Library, Archives &. Information Science. In an interview printed in that issue, Peter reviewed his many African consultancies. His influence has been continental as well as national; Botswana school has in fact become an international training ground, with students from 17 nations.

Both of us started as musicians, and I think were able as a result to sustain a continued counterpoint of ideas. He did not like the IFLA Standards for Library Schools, which I helped to design, and later when he moved to Botswana he disagreed with me on which aspects of western librarianship were appropriate for import into Africa. He was a keen critic of TWL (condemning one issue as "bitty") and a demanding referee of articles sent to him for review.

Once he sent me an article himself, which I shamelessly revised and returned for his consideration; he accepted the new version and proposed we should be its co-authors. It came out in Alexandria, a monument to the power of counterpoint, which is invariably grounded in harmony.

Peter taught at Rosary College two summers, and we had some good talks. But those months are less vivid than the encounters of two decades before, when we were trying to fix library education, each in his own way, each with a grumbling tolerance for the other's views. My only photo of him shows us together on a beach in Britain, he in his dark suit, frowning for the camera, putting together in his mind the quirky joke he would tell when the picture taking was over.

© 1996 Guy A. Marco


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