My Library Hero: Dr. Alex Byrne

Today’s post was written by Kate Byrne one of the ILN co-founders and the Director of Technical Operations. 

Dr Alex Byrne

Dr Alex Byrne

Who is Dr. Alex Byrne? 

Dr. Alex Byrne is widely respected as one of the most accomplished senior librarians in Australia. He served as University Librarian at both the Northern Territory University and the University of Technology Sydney and in his most recent role as the State Librarian and Chief Executive of the State Library of New South Wales.

Alex has been an active and passionate international librarian and has made significant contributions via his work with the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA). He was the founding chair for the Committee on Freedom of Access to Information and Freedom of Expression (FAIFE) as well as serving on the IFLA governing board and as President of IFLA.

“Alex has a deep interest in the roles of memory institutions, and specifically the complexity of issues relating to Indigenous peoples and transmission of knowledge.  One of his significant achievements has been in focusing attention and leading discussion and action on Indigenous matters within Australia and at the highest levels of IFLA.” Source

Alex’s work in the industry in Australia was recognised in 2015 with the HCL Anderson Award from the Australian Library and Information Association in 2015, which published this excellent summary of his many achievements saving me from attempting to summarise them here.

Dr. Alex Byrne is also my dad.

Why Dr. Alex Byrne inspires me? 

Sharing my profession with my father has given me a front row seat to observe the truely remarkable contribution he has made to the profession. He has been a dedicated and passionate librarian for as long as I can remember, and has fulfilled a number of important and senior roles. However what continues to inspire me about Alex is his dedication to supporting people and to treating everyone equally and with the respect they deserve.

A good friend of mine once told me that the first time she  spoke to Alex she was a fairly early career librarian attending an event with lots of more senior colleagues. She was standing feeling like everyone knew everyone else and that she knew no-one when Alex came up,  introduced himself and started chatting.  She said “He was the only person in the room that wasn’t making me feel like there were more important people he wanted to talk to.” These tiny acts of kindness and respect are a symbol of a librarian of great integrity who believes deeply in libraries and librarianship.

Over the years I have heard from colleagues so many stories of the little ways they were supported or inspired by Alex and there has not been a single day when I have not been proud to be his daughter.

I don’t often speak publicly about my father, much less write about him, however this month marks his retirement from the profession. I’m so very proud of him and all he has achieved throughout his career. I wished to make an exception and mark this achievement with a small acknowledgement of how much he has given to both me and the profession.

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