James Gerard Soorley
Redmond Barry Award citation 2003
James (Jim) Soorley’s term as lord mayor of Brisbane City Council was characterised by his sensitivity to the needs of the community. Between 1991 and 2002 the Brisbane City Council Library Service was one of many key areas with a community focus to benefit from new, upgraded, and or expanded infrastructure motivation, marketing and promotion. Jim's passion for public libraries complemented services such as those relating to public transport, suburban precincts, and making the Brisbane River a feature of that city's life.
Jim demonstrated his commitment to improving the Brisbane City Library Service early in his mayoralty when he commissioned a review of the library's services. The review findings were less than impressive - with the library service labeled as Australia's worst metropolitan public library service. In response, the Council' began a decade of reform, backed by generous funding allocations - and just as importantly - Jim Soorley's committed support and belief in the value of libraries. Ten years later, with new buildings, new services, and innovative practices, the library service is seen as one of the best in Australia - if not the world.
Jim is a man of vision who saw the big picture and delivered policies and resources to implement those visions. He recognised, placed trust in and supported people who could delivery on his goals. He could reconcile competing interest groups and mobilise them as allies.
As a leader with an innate social conscience, Jim Soorley put his philosophy into practice with a sense of principle and purpose. He ensured that public library services would be available to all - he wanted the whole population of the City of Brisbane to have easy access to high-quality library services.
In the last few years of his office, Jim continued his commitment to the public library service by providing funding for many innovative programs. The One Book, One Brisbane initiative, for example, allowed the library service to promote the enjoyment of reading, engage the community and attract new members to the library service.
More than just an elected figurehead, Jim was a consistent and outgoing advocate of city library services throughout his decade as lord mayor of the City of Brisbane. He has given outstanding service to the community of library users and the library profession through the Brisbane City Council Library Service. He has set a high standard for local government public library services to the community. The benefits of his excellent contribution and leadership will live on well into the future and stand as testimony to what can be achieved in public office, and to which others should aspire.
Jim Soorley is a most-deserving winner of the Redmond Barry Award.