The Philosophy of a Public Librarian.

We get all sorts here – and people are all right if you treat them alright.

William Henry Brown

These words were the advice of the Chief Librarian of the Public Library of Queensland in June 1946.

1946 'TRUTH TO TELL', Truth (Brisbane, Qld. : 1900 - 1954), 23 June, p. 28., viewed 23 Feb 2021,

While undertaking a house history enquiry and looking for information on a house in Toowong, I found that the owner was a William Henry Brown.  Who was he?  William Henry Brown of Markwell street, Toowong, was the Chief Public Librarian, between 1917 and 1946, retiring a few years later.

“The Truth” newspaper felt compelled to write a poem to celebrate this information –

Beneath some pundits words and looks
The public’s beaten down and cowed
But here we hear a man of books
Speak volumes for the common crowd.

1946 'TRUTH TO TELL', Truth (Brisbane, Qld. : 1900 - 1954), 23 June, p. 28., viewed 23 Feb 2021,

Beginning as a second assistant librarian in 1901, William Henry Brown oversaw the building of the collections to over 70,000 items and staff from just 5 to 30 upon his retirement in 1949.  The son of Thomas Henry and Sarah Brown, William Henry lived with his family in Miskin Street as a young man.  His father, Thomas H Brown was the overseer of the Toowong cemetery. In 1910, William Henry married Daisy Helen Bailey and built a new house close by in Markwell Street, Toowong.

1927 'The Mirror of Truth', Truth (Brisbane, Qld. : 1900 - 1954), 30 October, p. 12., viewed 23 Feb 2021,

1949 'LIBRARY CHIEF ASSISTED MANY', Brisbane Telegraph (Qld. : 1948 - 1954), 20 December, p. 22. (CITY FINAL), viewed 17 Mar 2021,

Public Library of Queensland, William Street in 1933. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Negative number 42831.

In 1947, the newly created role of State Librarian of Queensland was undertaken by Mr J.L.Stapleton, replacing the role of Chief Public Librarian. You can see Mr Brown on our list of our State Librarians.  Mr Brown retired a few years later.  William Henry Brown was a great advocate for the building of a new modern library to house the collections of the Public Library of Queensland, then located in the old Queensland Museum building in William Street.

Today, State Library of Queensland operates many services out of the purpose-built building on South Bank, with more than 3 million items and more than 300 staff.  William Henry Brown would indeed be amazed!

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