Gordon Richardson

Gordon Dalyell Richardson O.B.E.

Obituary published in the Sydney Morning Herald, 2012

Gordon Dalyell Richardson O.B.E.  Died at Canberra on June 11, 2012, aged 94 years, late of The Grange, Deakin, ACT, sometime of Inverness, Scotland, formerly Principal Librarian and Principal Archivist, NSW, and Mitchell Librarian, loving and loved husband of the late Ruth Helen Robertson and previously of the late Yvonne Lockhart Spence, loving father of Lindsay (Mrs King), Gordon and Jennifer (Mrs Fish), grandfather of nine and great-grandfather of ten.   

From Australia’s Library & Information Services – an Encyclopaedia of Practice and Practitioners (ALIAS), 1991. Ed Harrison Bryan, vol. 3 pp.23-24:

Born and educated in New South Wales, G.  D. Richardson, State archivist, State librarian and leading figure in the library profession in Australia, joined the staff of the then Public Library of New South Wales in 1934. He worked in various sections of the Library before enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force at the beginning of World War II.  He was taken prisoner of war by the Japanese but returned to the Library in 1945. He took a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Sydney and then, while working in the Mitchell Library (the world-renowned Australian and Pacific research collection) completed a Master of Arts thesis on the archives of the New South Wales Colonial Secretary which for the next twenty years was the only significant source of information about this major  record group. Later, while still Principal Librarian, he was appointed as the State's first Principal Archivist.

Richardson never lost his interest in and respect for Australian history, and served as both Dixson Librarian and later Mitchell Librarian. He also had extensive service in the General Reference Library and in the acquisition department. He became Deputy Principal Librarian in 1954 (to John Metcalfe), and Principal Librarian and Executive member of the Library Board of New South Wales in 1959. He retired in 1973.

During his time as Principal Librarian,  he made major contributions to the Australian Advisory Council on Bibliographical Services (AACOBS) and the Library  Association of Australia (LAA) of which he was national President in 1 967-68. He represented the Library on the Council of the National Trust of Australia (New South Wales),  and was a judge of the Miles Franklin Literary Award and a councillor of the Royal Australian Historical Society.

Richardson never lost his military bearing and manner. Library staff remember him as a great codifier of rules and regulations (which were embodied in a comprehensive set of 'general orders').  Nonetheless, he brought administrative order to a library whose staff had grown from less than a hundred before the War to well over four hundred by the 1960s.  He saw the beginnings of library  automation: the computerised serials control system developed during his time broke new ground and lasted for fifteen years, but the computer­ based catalogue came well after his retirement. It is typical of Richardson, in every respect a modest man, that after thirteen years as the head of the Library, he chose to retire early at fifty-six.

He was awarded an OBE in 1971 and was made a Foundation Fellow of the LAA in 1963.        

R. F. DOUST