Life story

Life story: Dorothea Brown, first woman to be appointed municipal librarian in Christchurch

In 1957, 18-year-old Dorothea Brown boarded a Dutch-flagged ship on her own to embark on the long voyage from the Netherlands to New Zealand.

Twenty-nine years later, she became the first woman to be appointed City Librarian in Christchurch, where she oversaw the amalgamation of city libraries, and then became the first woman to head a department in Christchurch City Council.

Sue Sutherland, who served as Brown’s Assistant City Librarian for eight years, described Brown as “very, very passionate about the role libraries play in a society.”

“She was a pretty wonderful woman,” Sutherland said. “If you were going with a proposal, you had to be pretty sure your facts because she was always up to date with the information.”

READ MORE:
* Proposed closure of the Christchurch Mobile Library, another loss for the elderly
* 170 jobs secured as part of $ 58.8 million investment in New Zealand libraries
* The changing faces of libraries

Brown was born on August 13, 1938 in The Hague, the Netherlands, to parents Christiaan and Catharina Jongejans. She was one of three sisters and two brothers.

Born during the war, her family then moved about 65 kilometers inland to Utrecht where they attended a local high school.

An article published by the Christchurch City Library after an interview with Brown in 2009 detailed how she took a language course, including Latin and Greek, as well as history and math, all designed to prepare students at the university.

His family could not afford to continue their education and Brown was faced with the choice of working in an office or moving to Aotearoa, according to the article.

“New Zealand looked more fun,” she said in the interview.

In 1957, she embarked on a long sea voyage aboard a Dutch-flagged passenger ship, the MS Sibajak.

Brown pictured right with Gábor Tóth's parents on the morning of May 13, 1957, just hours after arriving in New Zealand aboard the Dutch-flagged passenger ship, MS Sibajak.

Provided

Brown pictured right with Gábor Tóth’s parents on the morning of May 13, 1957, just hours after arriving in New Zealand aboard the Dutch-flagged passenger ship, MS Sibajak.

Gábor Tóth, whose parents were on the same ship, said it was the main vessel used for the migrant assistance program between New Zealand and the Netherlands in the 1950s.

The ship arrived just before midnight on May 12.

Sutherland said Brown “went out on her own” but had a married sister in Christchurch who got Brown her first job in a soil testing lab.

According to the 2009 article, Brown was fired after a few months, but was encouraged to work in the library because of her language skills. In May 1958, she began her career as a librarian at the Canterbury Public Library.

After five years, Brown became a senior library assistant and earned the New Zealand Library Certificate, according to the article.

Over the next few years she married Ed Brown, a Scotsman, and in 1961 they returned to visit their home country.

The couple lived in a three-story house perched on a hill in Lyttelton. Brown’s husband died in 1998 and Brown continued to live in their house until it was sold last year. Her niece Katinka Visser recalled that the house was always “chock full of books”.

Brown remained in her role as city librarian until she became the council's director of human resources in 1994. Pictured above, December 16, 1992.

John Kirk Anderson / Stuff

Brown remained in her role as city librarian until she became the council’s director of human resources in 1994. Pictured above, December 16, 1992.

Brown has worked in various libraries, including Invercargill, Palmerston North, and the University of Canterbury.

During this period she became increasingly active in the New Zealand Library Association, which continued her years of work in Waimairi where she was appointed Waimairi District Librarian in 1976.

This was before the local government merged in 1989, and she “oversaw these libraries when Waimairi was a truly rural district,” Sutherland said.

In 1982 Brown became president of the local branch of the New Zealand Library Association, attended regular board meetings and was responsible for Bishopdale, Fendalton and Redwood libraries. In 1986, she was appointed Christchurch City Librarian.,

Sutherland said there was strong pressure for the user to pay for libraries at the time and Brown was “very active in articulating the case against fees for libraries.”

Brown firmly believed that libraries were of social use, she said.

“She was someone who had a lot of influence on the development of libraries in Christchurch, and she oversaw the merging of the libraries into one library system and that was a pretty big job.”

“Christchurch's first female city librarian, Dorothea Brown, at the library's central information desk.”  June 24, 1987. Digitized from The Press photographic archives.

Photographer / Staff

“Christchurch’s first female municipal librarian, Dorothea Brown, at the central library information desk.” June 24, 1987. Digitized from The Press photographic archives.

Visser said his aunt was “tough” and it took “a certain type of person to do the things she did”.

The then new board commissioned a report from accounting firm KPMG, eager to examine spending on the library system, he said in the 2009 article.

“The library was required to provide information to the consultants but had no other input to the initial report which recommended that the library could achieve savings of up to $ 1 million.”

Sutherland said when the report came out it was “full of inaccuracies” and Brown “really went to separate it,” disagreeing with many of the report’s findings.

“She fought her corner and she always did it with knowledge and data that just proved they had no idea what was going on at all,” Sutherland said.

This led to the report not being implemented at the time.

Brown pictured with her two sisters, Juliana Logan on the left, Cath Shaw in the middle and Brown on the right.

Provided

Brown pictured with her two sisters, Juliana Logan on the left, Cath Shaw in the middle and Brown on the right.

The post-merger period saw an increase in demand for library services and in 2009 Brown recalled his “life being consumed by budgets”.

Sutherland said Brown saw an opportunity in the council’s new 10-year plans to “really strengthen the infrastructure of Christchurch libraries”.

“She made this plan to build and replace some of the older and smaller libraries, and although all of this was not achieved during her tenure as library director, without that kind of forethought, many libraries in Christchurch that we take for granted would not have happened.

The genesis of libraries like New Brighton and Upper Riccarton was “in this original plan that Dorothea had put in place, so it really had an impact,” Sutherland said.

In 1994, Brown joined the board after winning his bid for the position of director of human resources. She held the position for nine years before retiring in 2003.

Sutherland said Brown was “always concerned with the welfare and improvement of the workforce to actually develop people’s skills and abilities.”

Dorothea Brown pictured third from left with parents of Gábor Tóth (far right) on the morning of May 13, 1957.

Provided

Dorothea Brown pictured third from left with Gábor Tóth’s parents (far right) on the morning of May 13, 1957.

Visser said her aunt never “let people walk on her,” but she was generous with her time, giving people career advice.

She continued to serve on school boards and helped schools budget even after her retirement.

Visser said Brown enjoys cruises, which she has done a lot, especially around Antarctica, America and Australia.

She too “loved her cats.”

“Her cats were everything to her, she desperately wanted to go on all these cruises, but she always wrote to me saying ‘I have to come back now, I miss my cats so much’.”

Reviewing his career in his 2009 interview, Brown said discovering librarianship as a vocation was the biggest part.

“She acknowledged the support and mentorship she received from John Stringleman, Shirley Shea, Jean Wright and Brian Gilberthorpe,” he said.

“What I liked about the idea of ​​the public library and what I needed to come to New Zealand to learn was the concept of contributing to democracy and contributing to learning for all. world, ”she said at the time.

Sutherland remembered Brown as having a great sense of humor and “fun to be around”.

“She has always been interested in helping people develop their skills and knowledge, no matter what role she held. She was passionate about the role libraries play in a society, both in learning, reading and literacy, but also in cultural benefits. they also bring.

Brown passed away peacefully at Burwood Hospital on September 30, aged 83.

She is survived by her two sisters and her niece.


Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *