Monday, September 17, 2007


Session two for me at Going West Books & Writers Festival was so named to mark a forthcoming book from librarian, poet, book reviewer and author Iain Sharp. More about the book later.

Here we had three highly experienced librarians who between them are responsible for some of New Zealand’s greatest literary treasures and what entertainment they provided us in describing some of these treasures.

First up was Donald Kerr who for 14 years worked as the rare books librarian in the Grey Collection at Auckland City Library but is now at Otago University. A skilled and passionate speaker he spoke of the various major collections held in the South, both at the University Library and at the nearby Hocken Collection.

Then we listened to the rather droll Philip Rainer who is research manager at the Alexander Turnbull Library who outlined working life in the nation’s greatest treasure trove of books mentioning among other things the significant storage problems facing the Turnbull which continues to acquire books at a significant rate. He also gave us a potted history of the life of Alexander Turnbull, a bibliomaniac he called him, and of the very significant Katherine Mansfield held at the library.

The third in the trio was Iain Sharp who is manuscripts librarian in the Special Collections Department of Auckland City Libraries and who using a series of illustrations from his new book, Real Gold, gave us an insight into the treasures held in Auckland particularly of course the Grey Collection. There were some moments of great hilarity because the illustrations shown had been selected by his publisher, Sam Elworthy of Auckland University Press, (who by the way chaired the session very ably), and Sharp did not know in advance which illustrations were being shown.
These three speakers, so different in their presentations, had two things in common, the joy they have in their work and the passion they have for the treasures in their custody. I went away feeling inspired and uplifted.,

And that lead nicely into lunch eaten outside in the sun on a glorious Spring day in Titirangi.

This was followed by Bookman Beattie’s “Conversation with Owen Marshall” which I greatly enjoyed and seemed well received the audience which would have been in excess of 200.

Pic shows Bookman Beattie with Owen Marshall after their "conversation".

Footnote - Iain Sharp's book, Real Gold, is to be published by Auckland University Press in November and Bookman Beattie will be reviewing it at that time.

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