Robert Sharman

Robert Charles Sharman (1928-2018)  

Taken from: Bryan, Harrison (Ed). (1988). Australia’s library, information and archives services – an encyclopaedia of practice and practitioners, vol. 3, pp. 37,39.

Robert Sharman, State archivist and State librarian, was born and educated in Tasmania (BA, University of Tasmania, 1949).  Appointed Tasmania's first State Archivist in 1949, be secured the Certificate of Training in Librarianship of the Public Library of New South Wales (see State Library of New South Wales) and later the Registration Certificate of the Library Association of Australia (LAA).  After ten years devoted to laying the foundation for an efficient Tasmanian State archives, he moved to Queensland in 1959 to repeat the exercise as that State's first archivist. In 1970 and 1971 he headed what was to become the Archives of Business and Labour at the Australian National University.

In 1972 he made the transition to librarianship, serving as Assistant State Librarian in the State Library of South Australia until 1976, when he was appointed to the position of State Librarian of Western Australia on the retirement of F. A. Sharr, the first incumbent of that office. His period in Western Australia was marked by the achievement of nominal 100 percent cover of public library services (i.e. the commitment of every local authority in the State to library provision) and by the design and completion of the standard-setting Alexander Library Building.

Sharman has been notably active in each of his successive professions. As an archivist whose formal qualifications, inevitably for that time, were in librarianship, he played a particularly important role (especially on the LAA's Board of Examiners (1960-1970)) in assisting in the development of archives, first as a speciality in Australian librarianship and ultimately as a profession in its own right. He was foundation Secretary of the Tasmanian Historical Research Association and Editor for fifteen years (1960-1975) of Archives and Manuscripts. While State Archivist of Queensland, he established and edited Quill, the official organ of the Queensland Branch of the LAA. He was President of the Branch from 1966-1967.  In 1971 and 1972 he was President of the LAA, the only practising archivist ever to achieve that distinction.

As State Librarian he took a leading part on the State Libraries Council and in the work of the Australian Advisory Council on Bibliographical Services (AACOBS), being elected to the Standing Committee of the latter body in 1976 and serving as Chairman of it from 1981 to 1984.  He was made a Foundation Fellow of the LAA in 1963.


Margaret Allen, State Librarian and CEO of the State Library of Western Australia,  email to colleagues on 3 September, 2018:

With sadness I acknowledge the death of former State Librarian, Robert Sharman on 28 August in Hobart, Tasmania.

Tasmanian-born Robert Sharman served as State Librarian from 1976 until 1988, following appointments as Archives Officer at the Australian National University and Assistant State Librarian at the State Library of South Australia. Initially trained as an archivist, Robert always considered the preservation of historical records to be of vital importance.  Robert was awarded the honour of Fellow of the Library Board of Western Australia, served as President of the Library Association of Australia (now ALIA) in 1971-2 and was awarded a Fellow of the Association in 1964.

Significant developments were made under Sharman's direction as State Librarian. These include the construction of the building we work in, the Alexander Library Building, and the relocation of Library staff and collections from many buildings and annexes throughout the city to this new home in 1985.

Sharman also oversaw the realisation of his predecessor, Ali Sharr's ultimate goal of creating a public library within every Western Australian local government authority. Today there are 232 public libraries in 140 local governments across the State thanks largely to the vision of Sharr and Sharman and the hard work and dedication of people working in local government and at the State Library.

While only a few staff will remember working for Robert Sharman, we can be reminded of his legacy each time we come to work in this building and each time we visit a public library.  Bob has remained a supporter of SLWA and the work we do often dropping into say hello when he visited Perth.

Vale Robert Sharman.