IAML’s President and Secretary General meet our most senior member Eric Cooper

The following post is by Pia Shekhter, IAML Secretary General:

On Thursday before the mid-year Board meeting in February 2014, IAML’s President Barbara Dobbs Mackenzie and I travelled to Farnham - an hour's train journey away to the south west of London. The reason for our trip was an appointment with Eric Cooper, who is possibly IAML’s most senior member. He will be 90 years old next  year and was present at the 1951 meeting to form the UK Branch and the first meeting of the membership at Bristol in 1953! We spent a lovely afternoon together with him and his wife Kathleen. Eric Cooper - 2

We were also accompanied by Ruth Hellen and her husband Bob, who are long-term friends of the couple. Ruth Hellen, previously  President of the UK Branch and Vice President of the international IAML Board,  worked with Eric Cooper at the Enfield public library for many years.

Eric Cooper has met “the founding fathers” of IAML, for example Fedorov, (IAML’s first Secretary General;-)!, so Barbara and I were anxious to learn much about IAML’s history. We were indeed given some “inside information” and amusing anecdotes. But it turned out that Eric Cooper was more interested in the future of IAML! Matters such as outreach, advocacy and the importance of public service/public libraries have always been close to his heart and continue to strongly engage him. Both Barbara and I were inspired and challenged by the discussion. Eric Cooper’s views are very much in line with the ongoing process of the restructuring of our Association. With his permission I include some of the thoughts he has expressed to IAML’s President:

“I was most heartened to learn of the proposed IAML reforms. We lobbied for reforms in the  70s but were rebuffed. The "founding fathers" were excellent people with great expertise; some were my friends too, but although well intentioned they failed to get the overall task ahead into sharp focus, particularly with regard to public libraries. Even as the world was undergoing tremendous changes to storage and retrieval of all information, too many were yearning for a world already beyond recall. At long last needed reforms are now proceeding to do away with those ripples from the past.

To some members of our profession future change may seem distant and unimportant in relation to their daily routine. Awareness of change and its significance will be essential.

Competition for seats at the overcrowded "high table" will be great. Music Librarians will find it difficult to find a place there with little to trade. Maybe the larger research centres and universities will maintain some influence but public service and charitable libraries will find it hard to maintain services for the wider public seeking to make and enjoy music. As time passes your Policies will prove crucial and need to be promoted now in every possible way.”

 Eric Cooper - 1


Thanks for the report of Barbara and Pia's visit to Eric Cooper. It is wonderful to see him looking so well and continuing to be constant  and forthright in his support and defence of public service in its broadest sense. His memories are a great link to IAML's origins and early development, and I'm sure that our newly-appointed Historian will be thinking of mining that excellent resource before too long. Oral history anyone?

What a surprise to see this article, as his vice-president of the Public Libraries Commission of IAML in the late 70's, early '80's I was almost sure Eric was no longer in the land of the living, his health being very poorly in those years. Hope he's still with us and wishing him well. I'm long retired now, but can be contacted at elvankaam@hotmail.com


English French German Italian Portuguese Russian Spanish