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Professor Ia McIlwaine

We are very sorry to announce that Professor Ia McIlwaine, Emeritus Professor of Library and Information Studies in the Department of Information Studies died on 24 August 2019 after a long illness.

Ia joined UCL in 1963 and became Director of the School of Library, Archive and Information Studies at UCL (now DIS) from 1995 to 2001.

She is fondly remembered by both staff and graduates around the world. She is survived by her husband of 53 years, John, and daughter, Anne.

Professor Ia McIlwaine

Emeritus Professor Ia McIlwaine

Professor Ia McIlwaine was born Ia Cecilia Thorold on 20 April 1935, the daughter of an Anglican clergyman.  Her unusual Christian name, which often caused confusion for correspondents, is Cornish in origin, the nominative form of what we may be more familiar with in the place name St. Ives.

She was a pupil at Bath High School, and, after leaving school, read Classics at Bedford College, London.  In 1957-58 she studied for the Graduate Diploma in Librarianship at UCL, the beginning of a long and distinguished association with the College.  After a five year period as Assistant Librarian with Westminster City Libraries, during which time she was awarded Fellowship of the Library Association, she was appointed to the post of Lecturer in the School of Library & Archive Studies at UCL.  This was in part to teach classification and indexing, the subject field which would become her primary research area.

She progressed steadily through the academic ranks, being promoted to Senior Lecturer in 1985 and Reader in Classification and Indexing 1995, at which time she also took on the Directorship of the School, by then the School of Library, Archive & Information Studies.  In 1997 she was honoured with a Chair of Library & Information Studies.  Her academic work was primarily focused on classification, but she had a broader interest in subject work and bibliography generally, and in bibliographic control. In addition to authorship in her own right, she had some reputation as an editor of works on these topics, and was series editor for Saur’s (later de Gruyter) substantial Guides to information sources. She was President of the International Society for Knowledge Organization, the primary international research community, from 2001-2005, and in 1993 took over as Editor-in-Chief of the Universal Decimal Classification, leading a major programme of revision of this large international system.

Alongside her work in classification and knowledge organization she retained her interest in the classics.  Her PhD, published as Herculaneum: a guide to printed sources, was also carried out at UCL while she was a member of staff, and was awarded the prestigious Dunn & Wilson prize.  This interest was picked up again in retirement, when she produced a supplement to her thesis for a new publication from Bibliopolis for Centro Internazionale per lo studio dei papiri ercolanesi.  For this scholarly work she was elected to a Fellowship of the Society of Antiquaries, an honour which particularly pleased her.

In addition to her academic work, Ia was a powerful advocate for the profession at both national and international level.  In 1998 she was recipient of the Library Association Centenary Medal, one of a hundred members of the Association so honoured, for her ‘services to the profession’, largely an acknowledgement of a long career spent in education for librarianship. She had a longstanding commitment to the International Federation of Library Associations, and served on its Governing Board from 1993-2003, chairing the IFLA Professional Committee from 2001-2003.  She was also a member and office holder in the Section for Classification and Indexing and the Division of Knowledge Management, and in 2005 was awarded the IFLA Medal, ‘for distinguished services to IFLA’.

Much of this activity continued into her early years of retirement, but her time was increasingly spent at the family cottage in Norfolk, and later at a larger house where she could indulge her love of gardening.  In 1966 she had married her fellow lecturer, John McIlwaine, who was her colleague and her companion for 53 years, until her death in August 2019.  He survives her, together with their daughter Anne who followed her parents into the world of libraries.

Ia was tireless in her work for the School, for the College, and for the wider world of librarianship, never shirking a difficult situation, and always going the extra mile.  It was often her personal involvement and attention to detail that ensured the success of any number of activities, both at home and abroad.  She was a formidable administrator, and a great enabler of younger colleagues and associates who widely acknowledge the role she played in encouraging and advancing their roles in the profession.  Her part in the international scene can hardly be exaggerated, and she will be much missed by friends and colleagues across the globe.

Emeritus Professor Vanda Broughton