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Jean Primrose Whyte


The chronology – the ‘when?’ – is not difficult, but when we start to ask the more interesting questions of ‘why?’ and ‘who?’ and ‘how?’ the answers are not so readily found. Those which are readily found are not always convincing.1

I met Jean Whyte at Monash University in 1986. The Graduate School of Librarianship at Monash had been recommended to me as the best library school in Australia. At the time I was accepted as a student by the School I was living far from Monash (Clayton, Victoria), in Orroroo (east of Port Augusta, South Australia), a town of about 600 people, where some households had wood stoves, manual telephones and electricity generators; where there were thousands of sheep, kangaroos and emus; where children on stations were students of the School of the Air; where we drove on dirt roads and lived in the quiet beauty of the bush.

My first day at Monash. Concrete and bitumen. People everywhere. The modern, multi-storied Menzies Building. Electricity humming. Escalators. Corridors with dead walls. Graffiti. Rubbish. Computers. I found the School. Fourth Floor South. I went into Professor Whyte’s office. I met the formidable Professor Whyte.

I spoke of the contrast between Monash and Orroroo. Professor Whyte replied ‘I’m from north of Augusta …’

Oh take me back

Where the dust blows thick

Please take me back

For I’m home sick.2


1  Jean Whyte and David J. Jones. Uniting a Profession, 2007, 3.

2  Brian McMullin. ‘Yadlamalka girl shaped Australian librarianship’. The Age, April 18th–19th, 2003, 19

Jean Primrose Whyte

   by Coralie Elsenore Janis Jenkin