Farewell to Dr Alex Byrne (Part 1)

Photo credit: Dianne Garvan, UTS Library.
Last night UTS formally farewelled Alex Byrne as outgoing University Librarian. It was a wonderful function held in the University Chancellery with attendees including former Chancellor Sir Gerard Brennan, Emeritus Professor Brian Low, former Deputy Vice Chancellor (Administration) Robyn Kemmis, Alex’s partner Sue Hearn and daughter Kate Byrne.
The function was hosted by Professor Shirley Alexander, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Teaching, Learning & Equity) and Vice President and speeches thanking Alex for his contribution to UTS were delivered by Professor Ross Milbourne, Vice-Chancellor and President of UTS and Professor Jill McKeogh, Dean of the Law Faculty. Professor Theo Van Leeuwen, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences sang an Adieu for Alex to the tune of My Favorite Things.
Given Alex’s long and strong commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture it was fitting that the evening was kicked off with an acknowledgement of the traditional owners of the land on which the UTS campus sits by Joan Tranter (Equity and Diversity Coordinator & Manager: Indigenous/Cultural Diversity at UTS).
I spoke on behalf of all staff of the Library and here it is, I think a fitting final post for #blogjune:

All of us in the UTS Library will miss Alex’s integrity, consultative leadership, forward thinking, his commitment to scholarship at UTS and his focus on excellence in library service.

His vision and leadership leaves behind a lasting legacy that has taken UTS Library from mediocrity to extraordinary. We are now recognised as a clear leader in service design, digital library services and e-Scholarship. His inspirational future vision will be realised by the new Library that is now being planned for the centre of the UTS campus, driven by new technologies that open up the library spaces for people and deliver fast and relevant services in both the physical and virtual worlds.

Beyond UTS, Alex is widely respected as one of the most accomplished senior librarians internationally and he has contributed much as both a Board Member and President of the International Federation of Library Associations. Alex has also had strategic leadership with a number of significant national projects such as his role in shaping the direction of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Data Archive and earlier work on developing protocols for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Library and Information Resource Network. He has also contributed substantially to the growth of cooperative/collaborative arrangements to share collections between different universities like Bonus+.
Alex is also recognised by those who have been fortunate enough to work closely with him as a man of multiple talents and wisdom in so many fields, from literature and the arts to politics, history and languages. He is into everything. He makes his own bookends and he is sketching and print-making at the moment. He meets up with someone he studied French with once a month to practice his French conversation skills. He made ‘from Russia with Love’ for our edible books day. He regularly attends plays, operas, and musical performances. He has friends from all walks of life from countries all around the world, including a best friend who is Polish. He is an intellectual who understands deep conversations about philosophy, politics, literature, religion, history, as well as someone you can sit down and have a beer with.
He is a particularly generous leader who genuinely trusts his staff and is not afraid of having some fun at work. He often told us to push our initiatives even further than we had suggested to him: he encouraged us to “push it over the edge”, unlocking our imagination and giving us the freedom to experiment and truly innovate.
His has been a very humane and consultative style of leadership and he is respected as a sound decision maker, but a fair, honest and open judge. Alex is passionately committed to equity, accessibility, fairness for all and an open form of management.
We will miss his intellect, wit and wisdom in so many fields but all of his colleagues in the Library wish him the very best as State Librarian for NSW.

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