Harold Leslie White

Sir Harold Leslie White CBE (14 June 1905 – 31 August 1992) was the Parliamentary Librarian of Australia from 1947 to 1960, and National Librarian from 1960 until his retirement in 1970.


White joined the staff of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library when he was 18 years old in 1923 at 18.[1] Four years later he became deputy librarian and went on to become Parliamentary Librarian in 1947, while simultaneously holding the title of National Librarian.[1]

National LibraryEdit

As Parliamentary Librarian and later National Librarian, he was known for his relentless advocacy of a separate home for the National Library of Australia, within the Parliamentary Triangle, Canberra. When Sir Robert Menzies retired as Prime Minister in 1966, he remarked that he "jolly well had to give Harold White the National Library to shut him up".[2]


White was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1962,[3] and knighted in the New Year's Honours of 1970.[4]

In 1983 the Library Association of Australia gave him an H.C.L. Anderson Award (awarded for outstanding service to the library profession).[5]


White was born in Numurkah, Victoria and educated at Invergordon Primary School and Wesley College, Melbourne.[6]

He was the father of four children:[7]

  • David Ogilvie White, Professor of Microbiology at the University of Melbourne (1967–94)
  • John White, formerly chief executive of the NSW Farmers' Association
  • Judith Robinson-Valéry (1933-2010), foundation professor of French and the head of the school of western European languages at the University of NSW and later the director of research at the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique in Paris
  • Katharine West, author and former visiting scholar in communication and public policy, University of Canberra.


  • Canberra: A Nation’s Capital (1954)[8]
  • The Australian Capital Territory as a region (1955)[9]
  • Canberra: A Centre of Learning (1955)[10]
  • The Development of the Commonwealth Archives Programme (1957)[11]


  1. ^ a b "Sir Harold White dies". The Canberra Times. 66 (20, 960). Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 1 September 1992. p. 2. Retrieved 23 May 2016 – via National Library of Australia.
  2. ^ Bev Miller, "The 75 Faces of Canberra: Shapers", The Canberra Times, 75th Anniversary Edition, 3 September 2001
  3. ^ It's an Honour: CBE. Retrieved 23 May 2014
  4. ^ It's an Honour: Knight Bachelor. Retrieved 23 May 2014
  5. ^ Peter Biskup, "A Belated Tribute to Sir Harold White", Australian Academic & Research Libraries, Volume 24, 1993, Issue 3, 1993.
  6. ^ Powell, Graeme, "White, Sir Harold Leslie (1905–1992)", Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, retrieved 21 May 2020
  7. ^ John Farquharson, Obituary: Sir Harold Leslie White, Obituaries Australia, anu.edu.au. Retrieved 7 February 2017.
  8. ^ White, Harold Leslie (1954). Canberra, a nation's capital. Sydney : Angus and Robertson.
  9. ^ White, Harold Leslie (1955). The Australian Capital Territory as a region. Sydney : Halstead Press.
  10. ^ White, Sir, Harold Leslie (1955). Canberra : a centre of learning. [Sydney : Halstead Press].
  11. ^ White, Sir, Harold Leslie (1957). The development of the Commonwealth archives programme. [Sydney? : s.n.]

Further readingEdit

  • White, Harold, Sir (1968) The National Library in the Australian community, Sydney : Library Association of Australia p. 286-292 : 1 ill. Offprint from the Australian library journal. (Oct. 1968) Speech delivered at the 22nd Annual Conference of CLA-ACB on 22 June 1967.
  • Francis West (n.d.), "Harold Leslie White (1903-1992"), Australian Academy of the Humanities.
  • "Sir Harold White", Australian Academic & Research Libraries (1993), Volume 24, Issue 3. A series of essays on White's life and work.

External linksEdit