Brenda Moon: University librarian who had a clear vision of the transformative effects of digitisation

In 1980 Brenda Elizabeth Moon was appointed chief librarian of the University of Edinburgh, so becoming the first woman to hold such a post in Scotland, and one of the first in a major UK research library.

In her 16 years in the role, she was a pioneer, bringing the library into the late 20th century, with a clear vision of the transformative influence digitisation would have on libraries.

But for Moon, libraries were above all about collections. At Edinburgh she re-invigorated the special collections, paving the way for the service the library now provides which incorporate many sorts of objects: books, manuscripts, archives, museum objects and art works. She brought major collections to Edinburgh University Library, including the papers of modern Scottish poets such as George Mackay Brown, Norman MacCaig and Hugh MacDiarmid, materials on WH Auden, the Arthur Koestler collection and the Corson-Sir Walter Scott collection.

Brenda Moon was born on 1931 in Newcastle-under-Lyme, educated in Birmingham, and went to St Hilda's College, Oxford to read Greats. She worked as a librarian in the university libraries of Sheffield, Hull and Edinburgh. In Hull, at the Brynmor Jones Library, she served under Philip Larkin, who wrote a poem "The daily things we do" which he laid on her desk in February 1979 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the library's opening. He had also written, at her behest, a poem about libraries, "New eyes each year", which was produced on the Hull handpress for the same occasion.



[Private poem]

The daily things we do

For money or for fun

Can disappear like dew

Or harden and live on.

Strange reciprocity:

The circumstance we cause

In time gives rise to us,

Becomes our memory.



[Public poem]

New eyes each year

Find old books here,

And new books, too,

Old eyes renew;

So youth and age

Like ink and page

In this house join,

Minting new coin.

Moon had a very personal style, and she wanted to provide the best possible library service to a wide range of users. Tam Dalyell, the former Rector of the University of Edinburgh, confirmed how valuable was her contribution to all staff, researchers and students who asked for her help.

Brenda cared for her library staff – they were her family, and many remember with affection the interest she showed in their careers and private lives. At meetings with her, there was always a treat to make the decision-making easier – scones and lemon cakes stand out in my memory; Moon needed little sleep, and baked early in the morning.

Moon was an active member of several library organisations, both Scottish and international, and was a co-founder of CURL (Consortium of University Research Libraries, now RLUK), set up to address the specific issues of larger research libraries. In these organisations she participated fully, helping to turn them from what could have been gentlemen's dining clubs into meaningful professional organisations. She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE), and subsequently became the curator of the RSE from 2002-2005.

Moon was also an author, specialising in woman travellers. She gained her MPhil in 1987 from Leeds University with a thesis on Marianne North, and later her PhD from the University of Hull on Amelia Edwards. This was subsequently published as More Usefully Employed: Amelia B Edwards, writer, traveller, and campaigner for Ancient Egypt (2006).

Like these women, Brenda Moon was a great traveller, often to European countries, largely driven by her interest in botany, and she became an accomplished photographer of flowers. She was very generous as a hostess, and I spent many evenings in her house, or her delightful garden, seeing photographs of her most recent trip. In retirement, she travelled widely with her very dear sister, Mary. After the recent diagnosis of a brain tumour, Mary spent all her time with Brenda, reading poetry to her and talking of their lives and travels together.

Brenda Elizabeth Moon, librarian: born Newcastle-under-Lyme 11 April 1931; Librarian to the University of Edinburgh 1980-1996; died Edinburgh 7 March 2011.

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little