Bernard Palmer Correspondence

Scope and Content

The archive contains a selection of the correspondence of Bernard Palmer, relating to the period he spent as Education Officer of the Library Association. The letters mainly concern issues of librarianship within the UK, and are written to fellow librarians and officers of the Library Association. Many of the letters also discuss the activities of the emminent Indian librarian, Professor S R Ranganathan. The archive contains a substantial series of correspondence between Palmer and Ranganathan, along with letters written by Ranganathan and by his critic Girja Kumar to Douglas Foskett, Palmer's close friend and colleague, which were added to the archive at a later date.

Administrative / Biographical History

Bernard Palmer entered the library profession in 1927, when he was appointed Junior Assistant at Acton Library. By 1937, he had become Deputy Borough Librarian, and he set about re-classifying and cataloguing the library. During those years he studied on his own time for Library Association examinations, and took advantage of various correspondence courses, but it wasn't until 1935 that he actually became a fellow of the Library Association. It was this struggle for qualification that convinced him of the need in Britain for full-time librarianship education available for all, beyond the naturally limited scope of the nation's one library school, the University of London School of Librarianship.

In 1940, Palmer began lecturing to students at Spring Grove Polytechnic, Isleworth. But his work was interuppted by a call up to the RAF. His period in the service was spent mainly in India, and whilst stationed at Madras he met S R Ranganathan, the emminent Indian librarian. They struck up both a professional and personal relationship, and kept in touch until Ranganathan's death in 1972. Palmer maintained his links with India throughout his luife, and returned in 1965, at the invitation of the Indian Council of Cultural Relations, to undertake a lecture tour.

On his return to Britain after the war, Palmer was appointed Education Officer at the Library Association. He began his work at a point of great change in librarianship education, when new schools were being established to cater for returning servicemen. He work relentlessly for library education, and later encouraged a transfer of many of the Library Association's responsibilities to the actual schools. He believed that the Association should take on more of a watching brief, ensuring that standards remained high, but leaving the actual teaching and examing work to the schools.

Palmer received an honorary Master of Library Science from Queen's University, Belfast in 1973. He retired the following year, and died in 1979.

Access Information

The papers may be consulted through application by e-mail to: or by post to: Aberystwyth University, Archives, Information Services, Llandinam Building, Penglais, Aberystwyth, SY23 3DB. Tel: 01970 628593.


This archive is held at the Thomas Parry Library, Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth.

Description compiled by Rhian Phillips, Archives Hub project archivist, with reference to The Library Association Record , vol.81 (1979).

Other Finding Aids

Basic finding aid available on request from Archives staff.