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Leonard Julier Jolley (1914–1994)

Leonard Jolley, who was the University Librarian from 1959 to 1979, died on 22nd July. He was both a shy and a proud man, of fine intelligence and sensitivity who embodied – and was aware of – many contradictions in his life. He was born in 1914 and raised in the fen districts of Norfolk, near the town of Diss. The son of a lay reader, he grew up with a respect for books and a living knowledge of them, including the 'Good Book' itself. As a boy he was also a keen swimmer and runner and had a little boat in which he explored the various inland waters near his home. In later years, however, physical disability curtailed such activities and meant that he had to concentrate solely on matters of the mind and spirit.

Leonard was educated at the Coopers' Company School in London, and gained both his MA in English and German literature and his library qualifications at the University of London. After being Deputy Librarian at the University of Glasgow, he came to Perth in 1959 to take up the position of University Librarian at UWA. The Library had yet to reach its mature form, the Reid building was only a notional plan, and the main part of the collection was housed in the Winthrop Hall undercroft. Leonard presided over a rapid expansion of the Library's holdings, which happily coincided with the years in which considerable funds were directed to the tertiary education sector. He also oversaw the consolidation of the system of branch and departmental libraries, introduced one of the first reader education courses in the country, and acquired the University's first photocopying machine!

Much of what he was able to achieve for the Library in the academic community stemmed from his vigour and credibility as a scholar librarian. He believed that its collections should include more than what was needed to support the University's teaching programme, and he took a personal interest in obtaining material in the areas of fine art, theology, music and literature. One of his principles was that much which is discarded one day will be asked for in the future, so he was farsighted enough to gain and maintain the resources for remote storage whereby low-use but potentially relevant material waited to ultimately delight many a scholar.

While at UWA, Leonard served for some years as President of the Academic Staff Association, and helped a number of staff in situations where a president of more conventional background and turn of mind may not have been able to assist. He was a formidable figure in the University, not only ready to criticise another person's position but able to do so with appropriate Biblical allusions and classical references. It is said that the Library's Annual Report was always anticipated with much apprehension and fear, for Leonard did not hesitate to identify and decry slackness and failure around the University. Indeed, lest his opinions be disregarded, he visited the various departments and read his reports to the assembled malingerers and miscreants.

As well as tutoring in English literature, specialising in poets such as Traherne and Wordsworth, he had an abiding love of the German and Australian poets, in particular Rilke. In 1975 he organised a centenary exhibition in the Reid Library, which came to possess a comprehensive collection of works by and about Rilke. He also interested his friends and colleagues in forming the Friends of the Library to assist in purchasing items which otherwise could not be afforded.

(based on the funeral tributes by Ken Gasmier and Brian Dibble and used with permission)

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'Jolley, Leonard Julier (1914–1994)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 1 March 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


12 August, 1914
London, Middlesex, England


22 July, 1994 (aged 79)
Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Cause of Death


Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.