Obituary: Peter Havard-Williams

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Peter Havard-Williams was one of the foremost librarians and library educators of his generation. He played an important part in the development of librarianship in Britain and internationally over four decades.

Until 1945 librarianship had been little more than a "semi-profession", well characterised in the book by Havard-Williams's friend and colleague Philip Larkin, A Girl in Winter (1947). Havard-Williams worked tirelessly for the development of higher standards and full-time education for librarianship.

He seized the initiative in this respect when in 1964 he founded the School of Library and Information Studies at Queen's University, Belfast. He remained University Librarian while being also Director of the School. A spell as Dean and Professor in the Library School at Ottawa University in 1971-72 preceded his appointment to Loughborough.

As founding Professor and Head of Department of Loughborough University's Department of Library and Infor- mation Studies from 1972 to 1987, he developed undergraduate and postgraduate programmes which gave librarians in Britain the knowledge and practical skills necessary to thrive in an increasingly complex and technology-based profession.

Under his guidance, Loughborough became both a centre of excellence for research in library and information studies and an important force in the development of education for librarianship in Third World countries. Over 400 foreign students came from more than 60 countries. Many of the doctoral and master's programme students were supervised by Havard-Williams personally.

His appointment at Loughborough was the culmination of a career which began with degrees from his native Wales and then Oxford in French and Philosophy, interspersed with periods of military service and lecturing in further education. His command of the French language was a factor in the award in 1994 of the Cross of Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters of the Republic of France, a country and a culture with which he maintained close ties.

Appointments to senior posts in the University Libraries of Swansea and Liverpool led to his appointment in 1956 to the post of Librarian of Otago University, New Zealand. This gave Havard-Williams his first opportunity to plan a large library building, an exercise he later repeated at Queen's, Belfast, where he was University Librarian from 1961 to 1971.

For most people the age of 65 means retirement. Havard-Williams remained as active as ever. After two years as Consultant and Chief Librarian to the Council of Europe, in 1986-87, he was appointed to the post of Professor and Head of Department of Library and Information Studies at the University of Botswana in 1988. This allowed him to continue his commitment to the development of African librarianship. His indefatigable energy also showed itself when he volunteered for an "outward bound" course which I had been attempting to organise for newly appointed chief university librarians. Havard-Williams was by this time in his late sixties.

"PHW" or "Prof", as he was known to his friends, colleagues and students alike, invested in people. There can have been few who entered the library profession over the last 30 years who were not touched by him, whether personally, through his writings or through his students who themselves went on to teach and lead.

David M. Baker

Peter Havard-Williams, librarian: born 11 July 1922; Head of Department, Department of Library and Information Studies, Loughborough University 1972-87 (Emeritus); married 1964 Rosine Cousin (died 1973; two daughters), 1976 Eileen Cumming (one daughter); died Loughborough 16 August 1995.