It was announced on Friday that Jan Fullerton the Director General of the National Library is about to retire after 11 years in that position and after 43 years at the Library.
Jan has been an excellent Director General by any standard and will be very sorely missed by her staff and the Australian and indeed international library world.
Jan throughout her managerial career has always supported her staff taking the lead and rising to the challenge of all new technologies to better serve the Library’s patrons. She created an atmosphere of creative endevour in the Library, that welcomed experimentation and was not afraid of the occasional mistake, and which brought out the best in her staff.
When so many libraries and other institutions waited to see how the Internet and other technologies would develop before making plans, Jan took action. A prime example of this was is in my field PANDORA. Where the Library initially had no idea at first of how to go about preserving the web, but chose rather than wait for a solution from elsewhere to take active steps and by doing, learn.
Another example is Trove, and before that LibrariesAustralia, both of these are and were tremendous successes. But they were successes because they were primarily built in-house. The Library under Jan trusted its staff to develop and build systems, rather than merely buying in solutions, that generally don’t fit the purpose. These systems as well as PictureAustralia have brought the NLA’s and other libraries collections to Australians wherever they are in what is the most dynamic growth of access to library material since the inception of public libraries.
On a personal level I know how Jan always supported her staff. I recall an occasion when I was standing near Jan for an official photograph with some other foreign and interstate librarians, when one of them made a slightly disparaging comment about the NLA’s photographer, and Jan immediately leapt to the defence of her staffer. It was good to hear this and I knew that from my own experience that she would defend and support all her staff in this way.
I hope that Jan also understood how much she was trusted and respected in turn by her staff.
I, and I am sure all the staff of the NLA, wish Jan a very happy retirement.