Maurice Line, 1928-2010

October 21, 2010

A leading figure in the world of librarianship has died.

Maurice Line was born in Bedford on 21 June 1928 and educated at Bedford School before studying classics at Exeter College, Oxford.

He embarked on his career as a trainee at the University of Oxford's Bodleian Library in 1950 and began to steadily ascend the library ladder: as library assistant at the University of Glasgow (1951-53), sub-librarian at the University of Southampton (1954-65) and deputy librarian at Newcastle University (1965-68).

His appointment as librarian at the University of Bath led to Mr Line's close involvement with what became the British Library (the creation of which was recommended in a 1971 White Paper). He directed a study into the scope for automated data processing in 1971, served as librarian at the National Central Library from 1971 to 1973 and was a member of the organising committee planning the new national library.

When the National Central Library was incorporated into the British Library in 1973, Mr Line was appointed deputy director general of the lending division. He was quickly promoted to director general, a position he held from 1974 to 1985. He then became director general for science, technology and industry, his final role before he retired in 1988.

Although very much a practising librarian, Mr Line was also well known for his prolific and wide-ranging writings on the subject. Much of this work is notable for its humour and willingness to challenge professional orthodoxies, reflected in titles such as On the Construction and Care of White Elephants (about catalogues), Ignoring the User: How, When and Why and The Bonfire of the Author's Vanity.

In retirement, Mr Line was in great demand as a consultant specialising in the management of change and advised national libraries and other organisations in many parts of the world. He was also honoured with the presidency of the Library Association in 1990.

"As a rather junior member of staff from the mid-1970s into the mid-1980s," recalled Dame Lynne Brindley, chief executive of the British Library, "I was fortunate to watch and learn from this towering figure at work.

"Maurice stood for access for all. He championed the underdog. He sought to make us better leaders, to believe in and empower our staff. He believed in evidence-based policy and practice. He urged us to be flexible, to take risks, to innovate, to have fun and to live life with zest and humanity."

Mr Line died of Parkinson's disease on 21 September 2010 and is survived by his wife (and sometimes co-editor) Joyce, a son and a daughter.

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