Farewell to Bessie Head librarian

2011-09-01 00:00

PIETERMARITZBURG’S Bessie Head Library and the Msunduzi Municipality bid a heartfelt retirement farewell to dedicated and long serving library manager John Christopher Morrison, who served the Msunduzi community for 25 years.

The 65-year-old was showered with praises as his fellow colleagues described him as hardworking and a true public servant with a selfless approach.

He attended the University of Natal, obtaining his Bachelor of Arts in 1975 and his Higher Diploma in Library Science in 1978. In 1991 he attended the International Graduate School of Information Studies at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, where he obtained a diploma.

Natal Society Foundation secretary Pat McKenzie said he had a wonderful relationship with Morrison and, even though he is retiring, he does not see him sitting down because of the energy he possesses.

McKenzie said that during apartheid, the 27-time Comrades Marathon runner would hand over his medals to black runners who were not allowed to participate in the race, but who in Morrison’s eyes had “unofficially” qualified to do so.

Morrison still jogs regularly.

He told delegates that it has been fantastic working at the library for the people and working for democracy.

“I think libraries are the most democratic institutions in the world and over the past 200 years or so it has made a huge difference in the lives of the people,” Morrison added.

He told The Witness “it’s quite nice to hear positive things being said about you”.

However, he said there is still a lot that needs to be done at the municipality and South Africa.

“It’s sad to see 1 500 people queuing to get into the library to get books and others have to turn back because there’s no space and the library closes,” he added.

He said he wants to see underprivileged schools being equal to Model C schools.

“Rich people don’t come here because they can afford to start a book club, but the poor spend money on taxi fare. I’d like to see equal services and more branches being built across the municipality”.

Deputy municipal manager of community services Kwenza Khumalo said Morrison has a selfless approach and has a humane spirit.

“Morrison took this facility like it was his own house. He taught me how to look at another person as they appear and not focus on race,” Khumalo added.

Morrison advised young librarians who are starting out to put the public first and view the institution as a hospital because of the essential service they are providing to the society.

“The problem about the youngsters is that they think they are more important than the public.”

A colleague, Jenny Phoenix, said, “He has been a colleague for 25 years and quite frankly I found it very difficult to decide what to mention. He is one of the best reference librarians I have come across and has a phenomenal memory for obscure dates and facts.

“We will miss his enthusiasm, energy and devotion to the library.”

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