George Buick

William George Buick (1923-1990)  

Obituary in inCite vol. 12, no. 1, 11 Feb 1991, p. 5

George Buick died on 8 December 1990.

Born on 29 June 1923, he joined the staff of the State Library of South Australia as an attendant, passed his matriculation examinations and was transferred to a position of Library Assistant in the Country Lending Service. He enrolled at the University of Adelaide as a part-time student in Science, transferred to Arts towards the end of the degree, and graduated BA in 1955. In 1956 the award of a Carnegie Fellowship and a Fellowship from the University of Chicago enabled him to gain his MA from the Graduate Library School of that University. He returned to Adelaide and advanced quickly to become Deputy State Librarian until, in 1964, he was appointed Associate Librarian, Institute of Advanced Studies at the Australian National University.

The high-point of his career was his appointment as Foundation Librarian at the University of Papua New Guinea in 1966. Here his wide-ranging vision of a library which was not only for the academic community and would contain a national collection against the time when a National Library for the country could become a reality ensured that he would build much more than an academic library.

The professional examinations began in 1944. By the end of 1945 George had become one of the first matriculants to qualify as a professional. His commitment to the LAA was expressed in his service in executive positions in three Branches, in talks at meetings and in contributions to its journals. His book Population and Government Studies far the Provision of Public Libraries in South Australia was published by the Libraries Board in 1965. In 1971 he was awarded the Fellowship of the LAA 'as an experienced and inspiring librarian, scientist and dedicated educationalist'.

He set about building another new academic library and university when he became Foundation Librarian of Murdoch University in 1972.

After retirement in 1984 he concentrated on his first and abiding interest in malacology, the study of molluscs and their shells, working as a voluntary worker at the West Australian Museum. He built up his own great collection of molluscs and compiled a citation index of world mollusca.  Just before he died he had the joy of having two species of mollusca named after him. So much for the record. What of the man?

George had a happy and optimistic personality which helped him cope with dreadful crises in health with fortitude and determination. He was also fortunate in his family life with his wife, Barbara, his son, Roger and his daughter, Janet. These people were his best friends.

His enthusiasm for his profession knew no bounds and ranged from clay tablets to computer databases. He saw all libraries, all media, museums, galleries and collections as essentially contributing to one end - the increase in human knowledge, understanding and happiness.

He visited the world's libraries and museums and was at home in them as he was excited and happy on so many of the world's sea-shores. A naturalist, a librarian, a gardener, above all an asker of questions and lover of life in all its variety, George Buick recognised no boundaries between the past and the present, between nature and man, or between the arts and the sciences. Think about this man and remember him.

Jean P Whyte