Pirjo Rayner retiring after 34 years, Amanda Ward appointed Librarian-Archivist

Ms Pirjo Rayner retires on 30 June after over 34 years of dedicated service as the Librarian of St Mark’s College. She will be succeeded by Ms Amanda Ward, who has qualifications and professional experience in both libraries and archives, and who is also managing the College’s extensive Archives.

A Sundowner event to thank and farewell Pirjo will be held in the Library on Friday 4 August from 5pm to 6.30pm, and all alumni and friends of the College, as well as current students and staff, are warmly invited. RSVP here.

Pirjo commenced as a part-time Librarian at St Mark’s in early 1989. She had previously worked for 13 years in the State Library of South Australia, including in what became the Mortlock Library of South Australiana.

Over the last 34 years she has cheerfully helped innumerable students, as well as Old Collegians, colleagues, and others. With great enthusiasm, she has led successive stages of modernisation of the Library, culminating in the move in 2015 from its old location above the Grenfell Price Dining Hall to the purpose-built Academic Centre in the East Wing (opened in 2015). A “Learning Commons” was developed in 2019 where the old Library had been, and Pirjo has since taken responsibility for this as part of the Librarian’s role.

Many developments over these years have been guided by surveys of students’ library usage and needs, the most recent of which was held earlier this year. Technological change has led to many improvements, including automation of the catalogue and of the loan system, including the introduction of QR codes for borrowing books, and the development of wireless internet access in the Academic Centre and the Learning Commons.

Pirjo’s thoughtful and forward-looking expansion of the Library holdings has always been mindful of the needs of students. This expansion has benefited immensely from the many generous donations of books, to the great advantage of our students. A large proportion of the College’s holdings has been donated. As well as new and recent books, this includes almost all of the College’s significant Rare Book Collection, and most of the holdings in the St Mark’s Collection which Pirjo has developed – a collection devoted to publications by or about the College and its students, past and present.

In both the old and the new Library, Pirjo has overseen the development of rare book display cases, and has helped to prepare the way for two rare book cabinets which will be installed later this year – including one in memory of Dr Richard Watson, who chaired the Library Sub-committee for many years and was amongst the Library’s most significant donors.

As well as developing valuable links with external experts, Pirjo has encouraged interest in and support for the Library through various events, such as Library Sundowners, and the publication of Library newsletters.

Throughout more than a third of a century of conscientious service to St Mark’s, Pirjo has brought her very special qualities to this crucial part of the life of our residential academic community. She has been a warm and inviting presence in the Library. We are deeply grateful, and she will be much missed.

All members of the St Mark’s community are welcome at the Library Sundowner on Friday 4 August to thank and farewell her.

Pirjo will be succeeded as Librarian by Amanda Ward, who has already taken on responsibility for the Archives, and who will be both Librarian and Archivist from 1 July. Currently Amanda is eagerly taking on increasing responsibility for the Library, with encouragement and assistance from Pirjo.

In December 2022, Amanda succeeded Mrs Monica Smith, who had served at the College as part-time Archival Clerk (and before that in the Office) since 1999. Monica retired in December, after 23 years of dedicated and diligent service, and was warmly thanked for all that she contributed to the College, including through her encyclopaedic knowledge of the College’s Archives and history.

Through sustained hard work and careful attention to detail, Monica developed the College Archive as a carefully organised and protected repository of documents which is of immense value to the College. With much work underway in preparation for the College’s Centenary in 2025, the value of the Archives has perhaps never been more evident.

Amanda Ward has a Bachelor of Applied Science (Information and Library Studies) from Curtin University, and a Graduate Diploma of Information and Systems Management from Monash University.

After a ten-year period in public libraries, Amanda worked as a Librarian at the Parliamentary Library of South Australia, and for four and a half years as Librarian, Archivist, and Information Manager at Adelaide Zoo. She has also worked as a Business Analyst at the University of Western Australia.

Amanda’s professional interests include unearthing and preserving history through archives, storytelling for community and individual wellbeing, harnessing technology to make resources more accessible and enjoyable, storytelling through data visualisation, and helping others develop a passion for reading.

Amanda has already contributed a great deal at St Mark’s, including helping with two important current projects – carrying forward Pirjo’s vision for new rare book cabinets, and the movement of the Archives from Walkley Cottage to the Library stacks.

These and other projects are benefitting from a comprehensive review of the Library and Archives undertaken earlier this year by Dr Rachel Buxton and Dr Katrina Stats, with significant input from Pirjo and Amanda and drawing on this year’s survey of student usage and needs.

As we warmly welcome Amanda Ward to her new roles, the College is profoundly grateful for the work of Pirjo Rayner since 1989 and Monica Smith from 1999 to 2022. We wish both Monica and Pirjo all the very best in their retirements.

For details of the Sundowner on 4 August to farewell Pirjo, please click here.

Top photo: Amanda Ward and Pirjo Rayner in the Academic Centre, May 2023.

Photos below: Ms Pirjo Rayner, Mrs Monica Smith, Ms Amanda Ward