Magyar Szó

"Documenting the life of the Hungarian community in New Zealand"
- Az új-zélandi magyar közösség lapja.

Issue 80 - July 2005

Presentation of the Paul Szentirmay Special Librarianship Scholarship

Made at the 2004 New Zealand Library Association annual conference

"A life of vision, a life of contribution". Paul, this remarkable man, touched the lives and hearts of many people during his lifetime. His life as a librarian - the profession that he chose which was to leave a lasting impression and impact on his life - is no exception.

He was 28 years old when he arrived in New Zealand and he gave 28 years of his life to librarianship. Paul left Hungary after the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. Without a word of English when he arrived, he studied English from a Hungarian-English dictionary during his first 18 months working as a cleaner and at the Government Printer, and by December 1958, he joined the National Library as a clerical assistant.

Paul, determined to make a new life in New Zealand, worked hard in his jobs and in his newly acquired language. In less than 15 months, he was accepted to study at the Library School and obtained his professional library qualification. He returned to the National Library as a library assistant, was promoted in February 1962 to acting librarian and worked there until November 1963.

Paul took a significant step in his career when he joined BP Oil as their librarian. That was the start of his special librarianship career, and for the following 6 years he introduced many new and innovative services. His pioneering work in BP, starting an information service for the organization, plus his activities in the New Zealand Library Association (NZLA), was well-noticed and Paul was invited to join the New Zealand Library School as a lecturer.

Paul had a formative influence as a lecturer on many who came into the profession at that time. He enjoyed the challenge of imparting and sharing the importance of information and knowledge - on how information has to be collected and indexed, before it can be disseminated. He shared his vision of success - the need to take on challenges in order to be innovative and to be "ahead of your time" - Paul was always ahead of his time.

In 1973, he was invited to take up the chief librarian position at the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR). Paul made his mark in DSIR - he introduced many new management techniques, including MBO (Management by Objectives) into his team in the libraries - sharing with them his vision and strategies of how successfully special libraries would function where there were well-defined objectives. His staff found his dedication and devotion to his work an inspiration. At DSIR Paul pioneered the innovative use of IT (Information Technology) in information management, the Vax network in those days was leading edge - minicomputers had just started to make their mark in Information Technology. It was another 15 years before a PC (Personal Computer) was to be at everyone's desk.

After 10 years in DSIR, Paul returned to the National Library as Director of Reference and Interloan Services and was promoted in 1985 to the Deputy National Librarian's position with special responsibility for ensuring the design and delivery of the new public access services at the new National Library building which opened in August 1987.

Paul was always a Hungarian - he was proud to be able to show the new book delivery system to the visiting Hungarian Ambassador - an idea which originated from visits by both the Deputy National Librarians to the National Széchényi Library of Hungary in Budapest.

Even after his retirement, Paul was a librarian at heart. He continued to build an extensive collection of Hungarian material - his consular library, the oral archives - he documented and indexed information he gathered in his 12 years as New Zealand's first Hungarian Honorary Consul-General. Some of those collections have been donated to the Alexander Turnbull Library for future researchers.

Paul retired from his career in libraries and the public service when he turned 60. He always thought he was too young to retire - he had so much more he could have contributed with his vision and his innovative approach. The year of his retirement, 1988, Paul was awarded the NZLA Fellowship after receiving his Associateship in 1969. He was "recognized for his involvement in the establishment of the Special Libraries Section (or SLIS today) and in extending the frontiers of special librarianship in New Zealand".

Throughout his life, Paul had a vision of synergy - that people, if they are given the opportunity, can work together and achieve tremendous results. He initiated many organizations and contributed to every facet of life and to the people he touched. Librarianship was no exception. He was the foundation Chairman of the Special Libraries Section, served on the NZLA Council in 1973-74, and when he saw the need to build strong ties between the community and the National Library, he initiated the National Library Society. In recognition of his contributions and achievements, Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa (LIANZA) [ - the professional body of the New Zealand library, information and knowledge sector] conferred a life membership on Paul in February 1989, and in 1999, the National Library Society also conferred honorary life membership on him.

SLIS did it in their own special way: on their 25th birthday they invited Paul to cut the cake at their celebration that evening.

For his work and services to librarianship and the Hungarian community, Paul was made Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen's Jubilee Honours in June 2002. Unfortunately Paul was not here to receive the honour bestowed on him. Alan Smith wrote a tribute to Paul on his contribution to librarianship (Library Life, July 2002), which was soon to be followed by the obituary, (September 2002).

Paul's aspiration for the knowledge society was embodied in his work and his many publications. He devoted his time and energy to making information accessible to people. Paul was always available to contribute to conferences and seminars - it showed his tireless energy to share with his peers, and his constant quest to leave an impact on those that may follow in his footsteps.

A Scholarship is launched in his name - so that Paul Szentirmay will always be remembered for his contribution to the profession. The scholarship will provide not just an opportunity, but inspiration for all of you in this very special profession to make your contribution to special librarianship and information service.

I would like to thank two special librarians who have helped in putting together this scholarship, Alan Smith and Kerrie Goold, both past colleagues of Paul, and LIANZA, especially Steven Lulich for getting the award approved by the LIANZA Council. Last but not least, my thanks to SLIS for helping launch the Paul Szentirmay Special Librarianship Scholarship.

Thiam Szentirmay

Magyar Szó Issue 80 - July 2005