Goodbye Lydia

September 8th, 2021 By Chris Szekely

A farewell tribute to Lydia Wevers a longstanding and influential friend to the National Library. Lydia was decisive, articulate, a formidable advocate in the best sense. And kind. She will be greatly missed.

Today Lydia Wevers will be buried at Makara Cemetery, a private family ceremony, following her death on Saturday. Her death is a sad and significant marker for all that knew her; friends and family of course, but also a vast circle of professional colleagues and institutions whose lives and activities she touched. The Alexander Turnbull Library, a part of the National Library of New Zealand is one such institution.

A woman speaking from behind a lectern in a wood-lined room of the Grand Hall at Parliament.
Lydia delivering the Founder Lecture at Parliament’s Legislative Council Chamber in 2018. Photo: Mark Beatty

Lydia had a longstanding and influential relationship with the National Library. As a government-appointed Trustee in the early 2000’s she had a hand in re-writing parts of the National Library Act (2003) which saw the dissolution of the Trustees and establishment of two statutory advisory groups: LIAC and the Kaitiaki Guardians of the Alexander Turnbull Library. Lydia was appointed the inaugural Chair of the Guardians, and in that capacity was on the interview panel that led to my appointment in 2007.

View from the back of the Grand Hall, full with people seated in rows with an aisle down the middle showing red carpeting.
Lydia Wevers delivers the Turnbull Founder Lecture in Parliament’s Legislative Council Chamber, 2018. Photo: Mark Beatty

As Chief Librarian I valued Lydia’s wise counsel, and always respected her opinion. Even on occasions where we disagreed. That the Turnbull continues to perform its role as one of New Zealand’s pre-eminent research libraries is due in no small part to Lydia’s influence, at least in the time of our current generation.

As one of New Zealand’s leading academics, a Professor Emerita at Victoria University and former Director of the Stout Centre, she was deeply invested in how the history of reading in New Zealand helped shape social history and culture. This was the topic of the Founder Lecture, she delivered at Parliament’s Legislative Council Chamber when the Turnbull centenary programme kicked off in 2018.

Group photo of four people smiling at the camera outside the door to the Grand Hall.
L to R: Penny Griffith, Alastair Bisley, Dr Lydia Wevers, and Rachel Underwood, then President of The Friends of the Turnbull Library. Photo: Mark Beatty

At the time of the 2018 centenary lecture, hosted by the Friends of the Turnbull Library, Rachel Underwood was then FoTL president. Says Rachel:

Lydia gave so much in so many vital ways, always with such grace. As President of the Friends of the Turnbull Library I valued enormously her support and wise advice. Lydia’s leadership in the National Library and the Alexander Turnbull Library made a huge difference at a crucial time and was influential in achieving a new National Library Act with the establishment of the Guardians of the Turnbull.

As the inaugural Chair of the Guardians Lydia’s oversight was important for suitable protection of Turnbull collections when earthquake problems caused the Turnbull to change location. Lydia was always clear about the purpose of a research library.

We were honoured that Lydia gave the annual Founder Lecture at Parliament on the centennial of Alexander Turnbull’s death.

In the coming days there will be many tributes attesting to Lydia’s sharp intellect and prodigious research and publication record. Lydia was decisive, articulate, a formidable advocate in the best sense. And kind.

I will miss her greatly, as will her many friends at the Alexander Turnbull Library and wider library whanau.

Larger group photo from inside a gallery with seven people looking happy and relaxed for the camera.
Lydia (in green) with Turnbull colleagues at the opening of the Pūkana exhibition at Aratoi, Masterton, May 2021. Photo: Mark Beatty

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Gaylene Preston
9 September 2021 9:24am

Lydia will be greatly missed. Thank you for the beautiful tribute. Our paths did not cross often, but when they did the experience for me was rich and rewarding. Sympathy to her family and to the many who worked with her.
Moe mai a e te gangsters. Haere atu ra.

David Maskill
8 September 2021 1:19pm

Lovely tribute Chris