Academic journal article African Research & Documentation

Tom French (1943-2008): A Tribute

Academic journal article African Research & Documentation

Tom French (1943-2008): A Tribute

Article excerpt

Tom was born and grew up in Worcester. He was a King's Scholar at the King's School there, won a state scholarship and an open exhibition to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, where he read Modern and Medieval Languages and developed his lifelong passion for linguistics. He then spent a year with the Herefordshire County Libraries, where, to his delight, his duties included driving the mobile library. In 1966 he went to the Postgraduate School of Librarianship at Sheffield University where he met fellow student Sonia. They married in 1969.

Tom was appointed to the University of Birmingham Library in 1967. Initially he was in charge of Reading Rooms - first Science, then Language and Literature - but in 1969 he was seconded to the automation team BLCMP (Birmingham Libraries Computer Mechanisation Project) working to develop computer applications to library processes. Automated cataloguing in the University Library began in 1972 and his colleagues still remember how, in training them, Tom's light-hearted technique was a lifeline in tackling the new mysteries of machine-readable cataloguing. In 1977 BLCMP became independent and Tom returned to the Library as Humanities Librarian, later adding Social Sciences. In 1990 he became Liaison Librarian in Humanities and amongst his other duties continued the development of the collections in West African, Canadian, Latin American, Japanese and German studies.

In 1996 Tom moved to the British Library as Head of Twentieth Century British (now Modern British) Collections. Major achievements of his tenure were close liaison with the Copyright Agent and the Standing Committee of Legal Deposit Libraries and the use of the Voluntary Deposit scheme to acquire microfilm. Colleagues in Northern Ireland remember with particular gratitude his support for the development of the Northern Ireland Publishing Resource, set up to collect local publications systematically. His own catholic view of collection development, which sometimes caused a flutter in the cataloguing department, inspired the acquisition of a football fanzine collection, and in 2001 he initiated a study of local UK publications. …

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