Alan Douglas Gillies was born in Northcote in 1911. He was a teacher for 12 years. During the Second World War we was in the Intelligence Corps where he spend time translating captured Japanese documents. In an interview he said it was ‘fairly routine stuff’ but it ruined his eyesight. After the war he worked at the State Library and then took a post to be the Chief Librarian of the City of Northcote in 1950. He oversaw the opening of the St Georges Road Northcote library (the shopfront in 1951 and a purpose built library in1957), the Clyde Street Thornbury library (1955) and the Arthur Street Fairfield library (1962).
In 1966, Gillies was involved in helping set up a school library at Northcote Technical school by donating 250 fiction and non-fiction books. He spoke out against censorship stating, “You can’t censor what people think.” He was passionate about how the collection was utilised. He encouraged parents to borrow from the junior non-fiction section as he believed the habit of reading will be carried through to adulthood. Gillies believed there is an “unquestionably strong relationship” between reading and both written and oral expression and spelling. He also ensured there were ample books in community languages available for migrants. Throughout his 26 year career he oversaw the changes in Australian literature, noting in 1966 that Australian books are not longer, “merely about pioneering life, or travel in the outback.” He saw the influence of television as a “sociological tragedy – when one considers what could be done with it.” He would use Library Week to advocate for the benefits of Reading.
He retired in 1976 and was succeeded by Mrs. Shirley Donaldson.
Libraries are being invaded: children accept a challenge in Library Week (1958, May 7). Northcote Leader, p. 3.
‘No obscene things, only obscene minds’ (1970, September 23). Northcote Leader, p. 2.
Northcote N.Z. – That’s one for the book (1975, February 18). Northcote Leader, p. 2.
Our books cover everything now (1966, November 16). Northcote Leader, p. 3.
School appreciates city library's assisstance (1966, March 2). Northcote Leader, p. 1.
Schools visit Northcote library (1959, April 22). Northcote Leader, p. 10.
Speech declines, as fewer books read (1967, June 7) Northcote Leader, p. 2.