Lives of the fellows

Leonard Maslin Payne

b.21 February 1911 d.11 June 2000
MBE(1972) ALA(1935) FLA(1946) Hon FRCP(1976)

Leonard Payne was librarian of the Royal College of Physicians from 1950 to 1976, effectively establishing the modern library service. He was born in Caversham, Reading, the son of Alfred Payne, a joiner, and educated at Reading Grammar School. He began his library career in Reading public libraries in 1928, first as a junior assistant and then as a senior assistant. Ten years later, in 1938, he became a reference librarian at Edmonton public libraries.

He was appointed to the College in February 1950. At first, he was given the title ‘assistant librarian’, as, by tradition, he was the assistant to the Harveian Librarian, the College Officer in charge of the library. A change in the bye-laws in 1959 finally enabled him to be called ‘librarian’. During his time at the College, he set up an information support service and created a collection of medical history with a biographical bias. In 1964 he was responsible for organising the transfer of 50,000 books, manuscripts and archives from the Trafalgar Square site to the new Regent’s Park building. As a testament to this efficiency, only a very few of the accession records carry the words “missing since 1964”.

He had a considerable knowledge of the history of books and their production, and regularly mounted themed exhibitions of the College’s valuable collection of ancient books. He also understood the need for the special care and organisation of the manuscripts and College archives, and in 1970 received approval for the appointment of a trained archivist.

He treated all his staff with politeness and as a chief was unfussy – expecting and allowing his subordinates to get on with the job.

Outside the College, he was a consultant librarian at the Institute of Neurology (from 1964 to 1972), and was also chairman of the library committee at the Royal College of Nursing.

From 1948 to 1963 he was visiting lecturer in the department of librarianship at North-Western Polytechnic, and also an occasional lecturer for Aslib (the Association for Information Management) and the Royal College of Nursing. He became a fellow of the Library Association in 1946. He was chairman of the medical section of the Association from 1963 to 1964, and then chairman of the hospital libraries subcommittee of the medical section from 1965 to 1967.

He wrote and edited several books on librarianship, including Guide to reference material, edited with A J Walford (Library Association, London, 1959), A select list of reference books and bibliographies for the use of students preparing for…examinations of the Library Association (North-Western Polytechnic Department of Librarianship, London, 1951) and Reference books and bibliographies, a union list, written with J M Harries (Association of Assistant Librarians, London, 1957). He also contributed to the Journal of the College, to the College Commentary, the BMJ, Lancet, British Book News and Library Association Record. He was appointed MBE in 1972 and was elected as an honorary FRCP on his retirement.

He was a practising Methodist and held various offices in the churches he attended, in Reading, Friern Barnet and Harpenden. He was on the advisory committee for the Methodist archives.

He married Joyce Emma Poulter in October 1942. They had a son and a daughter, who qualified MB BS in April 1974.

RCP editor
Geoffrey Davenport

[College Commentary September/October 2000, p.4]

(Volume XII, page web)

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