Mary Ronnie was an astute and capable leader in the library world.
Active in the profession, she started work at Dunedin Public Library when she was fifteen years old and became the Dunedin City Librarian in the 1960s, later Auckland City Librarian, the first woman to be a National Librarian (1976-1981), she later taught at Monash University in the Graduate Department of Librarianship, Archives and Records from 1989 to 1992, and in her retirement she was an active LIANZA Murihiku committee member and writer.
Mary was a New Zealand Library Association (now LIANZA) president from 1973 to 1974.
She wrote the Dunedin Public Library centenary publication in 2008 ‘Freedom to Read’ in her 80s for which she received the John Harris Award. Mary became a LIANZA Fellow in 1975 and was made an Honorary Life Member in 1986 in recognition of her distinguished service to the association.
Mary was a crusader for libraries, believing they needed to be made more attractive to all sectors of the community and she had no time for the librarian who hid behind a desk and piles of books.
She used these words on the centenary of LIANZA in 2010 using a comment from her presidential address in 1974: “It seemed clear then, and still does, that “unless the librarian is accepted as an authoritative professional figure, freedom to act will be restricted to the most trivial matters rather than extended to areas where knowledge and experience have outlet”.
And a word of warning from a Luddite – don’t get too firmly behind a computer screen or your muscles might atrophy. People are better understood when visible and audible. Energy is still essential.”
Mary Ronnie will be remembered as a pioneer in the library world.
I wanted to paint the picture of these strong characteristics of her leadership that I experienced at Dunedin Public Library because they are evident throughout her career. Along with dedication – total dedication and love for the role and the people she worked with.”