This is the second 'Our History' article to mark Launceston Library's 50th anniversary.
It started like a fire sale.
After two weeks of no library services while the last of the books were transferred from the old Mechanics, there was a rush when the Northern Regional Library (NRL) opened its doors on July 2, 1971.
Within seconds borrowers were ten deep at the returns and loans counters, and a sizeable crowd came in just to look.
After a few months staff and clients had settled in, and by the official October opening were enjoying the advantages a modern building and professional facilities provided.
The NRL was most fortunate to have Phil Leonard as its Librarian in Charge who brought an unusual set of skills to the position.
Previously he had owned a large farm in the highlands of Kenya but, with his family, left it due to the unsettled political situation.
In Tasmania he started with a short stint in a shearing shed, then packed apples on a Legana orchard, then took a job as a relief Bookmobile driver at the public library.
He was a great reader, and encouraged by City Librarian Wal Sutherland, he undertook studies in librarianship part-time in Hobart and by correspondence.
When he took over after Wal's retirement in 1970, he was the first in the role to be professionally qualified.
He was a remarkably astute leader, and had the gift of making people feel at ease. His warmth and geniality were appreciated both by staff and the public.
Former staff spoke of the way he created a collaborative, cheerful atmosphere, generating an enthusiasm for providing the best of service to the public.
He went around work stations greeting all staff at the start of each day, and got to know them and their families. He ensured there were fresh flowers on counters and desks at the start and middle of every week.
He established a lively, welcoming atmosphere at the library, organised for a piano to be placed in the foyer and held regular concerts there.
An artist was appointed a member of staff to mount displays and make the whole space visually attractive.
In his 12 years as Northern Regional Librarian Phil Leonard established strong links between the library and the community, civic leaders, business people and the media, especially Michael Courtney of The Examiner.
Library events were publicised by newspaper reports and there were regular columns in The Examiner written by staff members.
He founded the Northern Areas Regional Group of the Library Association (now ALIA) and initiated the National Book Council in Launceston.
One important link with the old Mechanics was retained. The Local Studies Collection was given a special place on the second floor, with blackwood glass-fronted cases, Mechanics' Institute furnishings dating back to the 1860s and Robert Dowling's fine portrait of Sir Richard Dry on the wall.
In the early 1990s it was named the Phil Leonard Room in his honour.
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