Penrith City Librarians

Margaret Trask AM, BA, MLib, FLAA          (1928-2002)

Penrith Municipal Library              Chief Librarian 1948-1956; 1958-1963

Margaret Kinsella was born on 27 April 1928 at Camden, the youngest child of Henry and Mary Winifred (Price) Kinsella. Henry Kinsella was born in Baltinglass County Wicklow and had immigrated to NSW in the early 1900s. He enlisted in the AIF in 1915 and served at Gallipoli. He returned to Australia in 1916 and married Mary Winifred Price in 1917. The Kinsella family moved onto a soldier settlement farm near Wagga Wagga and later moved to Camden. They were living in Penrith by 1939. Margaret was educated Penrith Primary and Intermediate High School, completing her leaving certificate at Parramatta High School. She then went on to complete a BA in 1959 at the infant University of New England, and later completed a Master of Librarianship at the University of NSW.

Margaret was appointed Penrith Library’s first Chief Librarian in January 1948. She set out very quickly to establish Penrith Municipal Library under the auspices of the 1939 NSW Library Act. Working with the Council’s Library committee Margaret arranged for her training at the Public Library of NSW as well as all of the stock and shelving for the new Library in the School of Arts building in Castlereagh Street Penrith. The library opened on 22 April 1948 to much fanfare. Margaret also created a scrapbook of newspaper clippings and photographs to mark the library’s history. This tradition continues today. She established procedures for her growing number of staff and initially solely catalogued the books, processed them for the shelves and manned the service desk. Margaret produced many children’s activities in the library and campaigned for better facilities for the growing library. Members, book stock and the number of staff rapidly increased during the 1950s. Margaret Trask was at the fore looking for ways to improving the quality of Library services in Penrith.

Margaret married speech therapist William Eric Trask on 10 March 1951 at St Stephen the Martyr Anglican Church in Penrith. Local and family historian Ken Paskin wrote ‘Margaret had many friends and contributed to the history of the growth of Penrith from a town on the edge of the Metropolitan area to the City which stands apart in its own right’.

In October 1956, Margaret Trask resigned to take up a new position, librarian at the Australian Mutual Provident Society where she would implement a specialist library service. The Mayor commented at the time ‘She is not only very capable but very loyal to this council. She has managed the library in a most efficient manner and given great service to the public’. Margaret was succeeded by Joan Pearson. In September 1958, Joan informed the Council that she would be resigning in December. Upon hearing this, Margaret Trask applied for the position and was again appointed chief librarian. By the end of 1959, Margaret had completed her Bachelor of Arts.

In June 1960 Margaret Trask managed the move of over 6000 library books to their new premises in the old council chambers in Henry Street. She stated ‘I think people are beginning to realise we are here for their convenience, and are beginning to take advantage of all the facilities the library can offer them’. Following the biennial library association conference in Hobart in 1963, at which Margaret attended, she reported to council on the decision to establish local history sections within public libraries. The conference also recommended that chief librarians be appointed council archives officer. Penrith Council adopted this recommendation and appointed Margaret honorary archives officer. She also recommended the council purchase a photocopier for the library.

Although, Margaret worked tirelessly on the new library building project, it was the council’s decision to reduce the salary of the deputy librarian’s position that would see Margaret resign and leave in protest in December 1963. She stated their decision was ‘unrealistic and lacking of understanding of the place and purpose of the library in the community … This short-sighted policy makes it impossible for me to continue in my present position and maintain the standard of professional librarianship’. Margaret was appointed University Librarian at the University of NSW with the added responsibility of managing a new university library under construction. This would be the beginning of her stellar academic career in which she would become president of the Library Association of Australia and establish the innovative School of Library and Information Studies at Ku-ring-gai College of Advanced Education, one of the antecedent institutions of University of Technology Sydney.

At the memorial service in her honour in 2003 at the University of Technology Sydney she was remembered as ‘widely recognised as an outstanding leader in the profession of Library and Information Sciences. Her contributions in the development of the profession over the past 30-40 years have been seminal and have done much to raise its profile and to ensure its continuing relevance’. She is also well remembered and revered by Penrith Library staff who received their library training under her leadership.

Joan Pearson (1935-2019)

Penrith Municipal Library              1953-1958; Chief Librarian 1956-1958

Joan was the third and last child born to Edward William and Ida Rachel (Chaseling) Pearson on 19 June 1935 at Paddington. Before Joan was born her father worked as a construction supervisor on the building of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Later he worked in mechanics and was a teacher in farm mechanics at Yanco Agricultural High School. In 2002 Joan proudly represented her father in the official party to celebrate the Sydney Harbour Bridge’s 70th anniversary.

Joan attended a number of schools around NSW, receiving her leaving certificate at Parramatta. She was awarded a commonwealth scholarship which she forfeited owing to her father’s illness at that time. The family lived at Wentworthville. Joan was appointed a library assistant at Penrith Municipal Library in February 1953. She immediately commenced her studies at the Library School within the Public Library of NSW (now State Library of NSW) and after 12 months of practical experience, she received her library assistant certification. By March 1956 she was Deputy and Children’s Librarian. Joan was appointed Chief Librarian on 26 October 1956 upon Margaret Trask’s resignation. At the tenth anniversary celebrations in April 1958, Joan Pearson stated ‘We would like to bring to the people of Penrith the valuable possessions in this building. I am proud to be librarian of Penrith’.

Writing in the Nepean Times on 7 August 1958 Joan stated ‘Education is not an affair of childhood and youth, it is the business of whole life …books are as necessary for education as the electricity is for lighting of our homes …Libraries should offer children, young people, men and women, opportunity and encouragement to educate themselves continuously’.

In December 1958 Joan announced her intention to resign and to marry Erskine Park schoolteacher, Bill Burns. Bill lived next door to Joan’s boss, Margaret Trask who thought Joan and Bill would be a good match.  They finally met and were soon afterwards engaged. Joan married Harold William (Bill) Burns on 3 January 1959 at the Wentworthville Methodist Church. After they married Bill was transferred to Dubbo.

Joan and Bill moved around the state to various locations finally settling in Lambton near Newcastle. Joan’s church work was very important to her and she was honoured in 2005 with a certificate of appreciation for 50 years of with the Uniting Church as a lay preacher. Joan and Bill had 4 children and at the time of Joan’s passing, had many grandchildren and great grandchildren. Joan passed away on 1 April 2019, a week after her family received the news that Penrith City Library had honoured her in the naming of one of its new study rooms – The Joan Pearson Room.

Heather Murray                                              December 1963 – January 1964

Thomas Dash                                                  January 1964 – November 1968

Rex Whalan                                                     December 1968 – January 1974

Robyn Allen                                                     January 1974 – March 1977

Alan Flores                                                      March 1977 – March 1986


Graeme Pattingale                                         July 1986 – July 2001


Colin Stevenson                                               August 2001 – July 2016

colin stevenson

Sarah Dean                                                     August 2016 – to date

sarah dean