Morris Miller’s ideas of the University and the Library were similar. He believed that their purpose was to extend learning into the community to improve society and the lives of people.

In 1912, Morris Miller published Libraries and Education, the first book about libraries published in Australia by a single author. In part the book was a reaction to the moribund environment of the Public Library of Victoria where Miller 'lived and worked amongst books but [where] the life had gone out of them'. Miller disliked the purely custodial approach to librarianship. In Libraries and Education, Miller expounds a vision of the public library as 'a living centre of learning, taking its place along with the school and university'.

In Libraries and Education he urges librarians in schools and universities to collaborate with teachers for the benefit of student learning. He believed that it was a fundamental role of the librarian to develop students’ 'bibliothecal knowledge' which he saw as 'positively indispensable to the best work' in universities. Today we use the term 'information literacy' to describe these indispensable skills of finding, evaluating and using information. The University of Tasmania has a policy that guides practice to embed information literacy into the curriculum.

Morris Miller worked at the Melbourne Public Library 1900 – 1912 when he was a central figure in the formation of the Library Association of Victoria in 1912. From 1913 - 1945 he was honourary Librarian of the Univeristy of Tasmania. He was a trustee of the Tasmanian Public Library from 1915 - 1943 and became chairman in 1923. He was a founder of the Library Association of Australia in 1928.

Morris Miller at his desk

Morris Miller and Censorship

An important responsibility of Libraries is to protect access to information that authorities and governments may deem inappropriate. We are experiencing threats to the free access to information in Australia today. Morris Miller, as trustee of the Tasmanian Library Board, demonstrated his opposition to censorship when he spoke out against the refusal of the Library to buy a book of Norman Lindsay pen drawings because of their 'obscenity'.
(Notes by Richard Dearden)

Norman Lindsay pen drawings
The pen drawings of Norman Lindsay, edited by Sydney Ure Smith & Bertram Stevens, Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1918. (Special number of Art in Australia)
When looking for copies of this publication in the University Library collections it was discovered that one of the two copies held had at some time in the past been 'censored' by removing all the illustration plates from
the volume.


The  Spirit of the Easth
Norman Lindsay - The Spirit of the Earth

The Procession
Norman Lindsay - The Procession



Morris Miller and Information Literacy

Morris Miller advocated explicit teaching of skills and knowledge by setting assignments that require students to explore subjects in libraries, which, 'if steadily continued, produces consciousness of becoming at home with large collections of books, and of the ability to use them'.

He goes on to say that scholars need to 'learn to handle a book intelligently, and gain, by practice, a ready survey of its contents, as well as a rapidity in judging of its value as a source of information'.

These approaches are similar to our current approach to teaching information literacy in the University of Tasmania and that is guided by the University’s Information Literacy Policy approved by Senate in 2004. In the policy, Information Literacy is defined as:
'[enabling] individuals to recognise when information is needed and to locate, evaluate and use information effectively. It is a prerequisite for lifelong learning.'
(Notes by Richard Dearden)



Morris Miller's ideas reflect current Tasmanian State Information Policy

'The accumulation of books is not the main pupose of the library, nor even the mechanical methods for their arrangements. These processes in themselves are only the means towards the continuous distribution and circulation of books amongst the people, with a view to elevate their life-ideals and render them efficient in their capacity as citizens'.

Miller’s view of the purpose of libraries in society anticipates the vision of the Tasmanian State Government’s information policy, Informing Tasmanians:

'Informing Tasmanians envisages a Tasmanian society that uses, values and has ready access to quality information as a vital resource in the pursuit of prosperity, quality of life, lifelong learning, informed decision making, and for the development of personal and community wellbeing'.
(Notes by Richard Dearden)



Morris Miller Home | Utas Library Home

Authorised by the University Librarian | © University of Tasmania ABN 30 764 374 782
CRICOS Provider Code 00586B | Copyright & Disclaimers | Accessibility | Site Feedback
Last updated 7 November, 2007