Immelman, Rene Ferdinand Malan

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Immelman, Rene Ferdinand Malan

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Dr. Rene Ferdinand Malan Immelman B.A., M.A. (Cape Town), B.L.S. B (Columbia), F.S.A.L.A., was born in Somerset West in 1905. He was educated in Somerset West and the University of Cape Town, where he obtained the B.A. degree in 1926, with honours in history, German and Nederlands-Afrikaans. In 1927 he trained in the Education Faculty and then took a post at the Sterkstroom High School where he taught for over two years. In 1930 he returned to U.C.T. to do a masters degree in German which he gained the same year. In 1931 he joined the staff of the Library of Parliament and in UCT 1935 March 1935 he was appointed as sub-Librarian at the University of Cape Town. Formal training for Librarians was almost unknown in South Africa at that time, but Mr. Immelman was given special Columbia leave from August 1937 to November 1938. During this period 1937-38 he studied Librarianship at Columbia University, New York, and was awarded a Carnegie Visitors Grant. This enabled him to travel extensively in the U.S.A., Canada, Britain and Europe before returning to his post in the J.W. Jagger Library late in 1938. In 1939 he established the School of Librarianship at U.C.T. and in 1940 he was appointed University Librarian and Director of the School of Librarianship. He retired from these posts in 1970. When he became University Librarian, the J.W. Jagger Library was little more than a large College Library comprising about 110 000 volumes and a total of ten members of staff. When he left in 1970 he had built it into an internationally known research centre with over half a million books, many special collections, many rare books and a manuscripts department, which also housed part of the University Archives. He also established many branch libraries during this period. One of his first tasks as University Librarian was to overhaul its management and methods and routines. He succeeded in establishing a structure based on sound principles which proved more than adequate to cope with the rapid growth and development which followed over the 31 years he remained as head of the institution. During this period he was also very active, with his friend and colleague D.H. Varley, then Librarian of the South African Library, in the founding of the Cape Branch of the South African Library Association. Together they campaigned for free library services in the Cape Province and they established the Society for Book Distribution in 1939. He was a member of the Cape Provincial Library Advisory Committee and the Cape Libraries Extension Association. In 1943 he was appointed to the Commission on Adult Education, and in the 1960s to the government sponsored Library Advisory Board. Throughout his career he took an active part in all aspects of Library development and had a strong influence on it. His textbook, 'The foundation of Library management: organisation from the admin¬istrative angle' (Cape Town, 1947) was used in Library Schools in South Africa and in the U.S.A. and Canada. He wrote and published books and articles on many aspects of librarianship and historical subjects throughout his career. A bibliography of his published works up to January 1970 appears in ""Libraries and People essays offered to R.F.M. Immelman"" (C. Struik, 1970), copies still available from U.C.T. Libraries. After his retirement he worked for some years on the editorial staff of the Standard Encyclopaedia of Southern Africa. He served on many local and national commissions and committees and was invited to attend a great many international conferences and to serve on international library advisory boards. He was much respected by his colleagues in South Africa and abroad. He was also active as an historian and was a foundation member of the S.A. National Society, the Genealogical Society of South Africa and the Cape Town Historical Society, by which body he was awarded honorary life membership. He was a member of the Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns from 1946, Council of the Friends of the South African Library from 1953, Friends of the S.A. National Art Gallery, and of the Simonstown Historical Society, which he helped to organise. In 1974 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Potchefstroom for his efforts in helping to establish the library at that institution. The U.C.T. recently accorded him the signal honour of naming a newly completed library building after him. He married Ellen (Nellie) Bruce Richmond McGee on 6.1.1936 and had two daughters. He died in 1982.


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