Conservation DistList Archives [Date] [Subject] [Author] [SEARCH]

Subject: A death

A death

From: Lydia Preiss <lpreiss>
Date: Tuesday, August 15, 2006
We were greatly saddened to hear of the death of one of Australia's
leading shapers of library preservation, Wendy Smith, in Western
Australia in early August 2006.

Wendy commenced work in the Conservation Section of the National
Library of Australia in the early 1980s, having graduated from the
Canberra College of Advanced Education's Conservation of Cultural
Materials course. From that time on, Wendy made a lengthy and
profound contribution to the development of library preservation in
Australia, as a preservation manager, teacher and writer.

Wendy played a key role in implementing what was then a new approach
to library conservation in this country, adapting the ideas of
'preservation' emerging particularly in American library circles and
applying them to Australian conditions. This meant a new emphasis on
collection management rather than a narrow focus on treatment of
individual objects; it meant the development of library-wide policy
rather than just treatment specifications; it meant enlisting the
enthusiasm and care of staff throughout the library in looking after
collections rather than looking to a small army of elite,
white-coated specialists behind locked doors to do it all; it meant
identifying priorities for a range of different approaches, based on
a recognition that library collections required action if they were
to serve their intended purpose.

Wendy contributed to the development of this new approach which was
being fostered by Ian Cook and Jan Lyall in the National Library of
Australia, and became a tireless practitioner and advocate in her
role as a manager in the Library, and in her subsequent roles as a
conservation educator, consultant, writer and presenter.

Those roles took Wendy to some interesting places, reflecting both
her quiet but determined drive, and the respect which her knowledge
and experience justly earned.

In the early 1990s, Wendy pursued a new career in preservation
education, leaving the National Library to take up an appointment as
lecturer in paper conservation and library and archives preservation
at the University of Canberra. Prior to this, Wendy had mapped out a
comprehensive training course in library preservation, with special
funding from the International Federation of Library Associations
(IFLA)--a course which really came to life with the possibility of
online delivery through the World Wide Web. (In 1997, Wendy worked
with the University of New South Wales to adapt her IFLA-funded
course into a new Preservation Administration course delivered
through the University's School of Information, Library and Archive
Studies--sadly now just part of Australia's library and archive
education history.)

Wendy's interest and skills as a teacher also took her to the
Pacific and a number of South East Asian countries in the mid-1990s
and beyond, to present library preservation workshops.

Ever open-minded to change, Wendy returned to the National Library
in 1996 to lead the early establishment of an experimental Web
archiving program, which would later become the PANDORA archive of
Australian online publications--one of the NLA's great achievements
in addressing the challenge of digital information content. Working
with staff from IT, collecting, cataloguing, preservation and
management areas of the Library, Wendy oversaw the development of
business process models that have guided the development of the
archive over the succeeding decade.

(In fact, this apparent switch from traditional paper conservation
to being 'hands-on' with digital issues had already been
foreshadowed, when Wendy received a substantial research grant from
the Council for the Advancement of University Teaching, to develop a
digital database of conservation learning materials developed over
more than 15 years by the Canberra conservation course.)

Wendy Smith left the National Library--for the second and last
time--in the late 1990s. However, she remained an important
influence in library preservation, working as a consultant to the
Community Heritage Grants scheme (which provides funding to help
preserve nationally significant collections in the care of small
community organisations); preparing widely-used and cited
information resources such as glossaries; writing papers on subjects
ranging from preservation of newspapers to the inadequacies of Web
archiving programs in capturing a full record of information from
the Australian wine industry.

In 2000, Wendy spent three months working as a volunteer at the
National Library of Laos, advising on preservation, and a month at
the Library of the University of the Southern Philippines. In the
first years of the new millennium she enrolled as a doctoral
candidate in the preservation of information at Charles Sturt
University under Ross Harvey.

Wendy and her husband Mike moved to Western Australia shortly before
Wendy's death so they could be near other members of their family.
Wendy's battle with cancer was conducted with much of the quiet
resoluteness--and good humour--that she brought to her professional
life, and many former colleagues were surprised to learn that she
had been so seriously ill, and shocked at her passing.

Lydia Preiss
Senior Conservator
Preservation Services Branch
National Library of Australia

                  Conservation DistList Instance 20:9
                Distributed: Wednesday, August 23, 2006
                        Message Id: cdl-20-9-001
Received on Tuesday, 15 August, 2006

[Search all CoOL documents]