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Nina Evans interviewed by Stephanie Kenna

Evans, Nina (speaker, female; interviewee)
2015-02-20, 2015-02-25, 2015-03-06, 2015-03-25


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  • Title:
    Nina Evans interviewed by Stephanie Kenna
  • Contributor: Evans, Nina; Kenna, Stephanie
  • Other Titles:
    Collection title: British Library staff oral history interviews

  • Rights: British Library
  • Place Name: The British Library
  • Description:
    Track 1 [63:15] [Session one: 20 February 2015] Nina Evans [N.E.], born Nina Jenkins, Sutton, Surrey, 1936. Comments on family names; older sister, Myra; mother, Florence Ella; younger brother, John Phillip; paternal grandmother living Stoke Newington; father, Ivor Phillip, born Battersea; deceased paternal grandfather from Swyddffynon, near Ystrad Meurig, Aberystwyth; mother born near Ironbridge, Shropshire; her family; [03:29] paternal grandfather’s pharmacy in Sloane Street, then Stoke Newington; his battle with tuberculosis; father’s undetected tuberculosis; parents’ occupations: mother, in service, then nurse in London; father, travel agent; his work before the war; mentions New York, Foreign Office, Southern Africa; war service in Royal Engineers; work after the war; mentions King of Siam. [07:02] Describes earliest memories; house in Morden; wartime memories; V2 bomb; evacuation to Birmingham; [11:38] story about ‘Lolly the Bat’ [by Elizabeth Castonier, [1944]; moving to Newport, Monmouthshire; then Worksop, Nottinghamshire; sister falling into canal; return home. [14:35] Comments on importance of books; buying books; father sending H.A. Guerber’s ‘Myths of Greece and Rome’ [1907] from Dodecanese during war; using local public library. [17:25] Comments about wartime food; fussy eating habits; mentions blackcurrant purée; American tinned stew; spinach; Popeye. Comments on sugar; mentions Sharp’s toffees; stories about stealing sugar; mentions Cadbury’s Blended Chocolate; Dutch-made Rademaker Hopjes. [21:57] Comments on mother’s health during and after pregnancy; not understanding; sister’s role; coping in severe winter of 1947; sister’s hold over parents; mother’s last illness; sister disposing of her things. [25:41] Comments on looking after father; father marrying former secretary; father at 78; reactions of family to the marriage; reflections on the marriage; father’s death in Derby; [30:04] telling siblings; sister on holiday in U.S.A. for son’s graduation, Stanford University; brother on holiday in Hungary; argument with brother. [32:16] Comments on leisure activities; mentions outings to Surbiton Lagoon and Hampton Court; Campaigners and Junos: Christian versions of Girl Guides and Brownies. Describes Campaigners’ activities; mentions holiday at Fairlight Glen, near Hastings. [35:35] Comments on church and Sunday School; father’s attitude; Campaigners’ uniforms; playing drums; holiday in Isle of Man; memory of fuchsias. Comments on becoming Sunday School teacher; baking and icing colourful cakes; mother’s Greek dancing; baby-sitting; cooking father’s supper; mentions Hovis bread. [40:48] Comments on joining sister at secondary school, Ursuline Convent in Wimbledon; treatment by other girls; dislike of swimming; school dinners; opting out of religious activities; other girls from junior school at Wimbledon High School; school friend, Susan Vere; her family. [45:17] Reflections on school days; reading school prize copy of Charles Dickens’ ‘Hard Times’ at University of the Third Age [U.3.A.] book group. Comments on religion; father’s baptism before marriage; occasional attendance at church. [48:50] Comments on occasional family holidays; mentions sister nursing at Princess Louise Hospital, Westminster; holidays in Cliftonville, Margate; Isle of Wight; holiday memories. Mentions leaving school at 15; wanting to work in library. [51:42] Memories of junior school; further memories of secondary school; being the only non-Catholic; singing lessons; remembering Latin prayers in Rome; [55:57] all-round interests; father’s Sunday and Christmas quizzes. Comments on leaving school; not getting Surrey County Council grant for School of Librarianship, Prince of Wales Road, Camden; job at Wandsworth Public Libraries, 1952; mentions [Edmund V.] Corbett, Borough Librarian; Mr Smith, his Deputy; starting wages. [59:08] Reflections on family finances; mother’s secrecy; story about going to Balham Branch; mentions Mr Goring.

    Track 2 [28:11] Comments on O levels; teaching brother Latin; birthdays; Christmas. [02:43] Comments on library interview; training; mentions visits to bindery; Harrods’ Lending Library; Barbara Cartland; based at Earlsfield Library; Mr Roberts, Branch Librarian; lifelong friend, Margaret, 1952. Comments on Inter-Library Loans [I.L.L.]; loan collection of Moon books for Blind; mentions Braille; comments on newspaper reading room; mentions ‘Amateur Photographer’; library users from Wandsworth Common, near Earlsfield; [William] Max[well] Robertson, B.B.C. [sports commentator]. [06:25] Further comments on I.L.L.; mentions B.N.B., 'British National Bibliography', 1950-; ‘The Bookseller’; comments on junior assistants, mentions Patrick Hamilton; N.E.’s nickname; senior assistants. [09:37] Mentions move to Tooting Branch; crush on W.G. Smith, Branch Librarian; describes own role. Comments on Library Association [L.A.] Entrance Examination, 1954; wanting to be a famous librarian; mentions Marion Wildenhart, L.A. Fellow. [12:26] Comments on failing first part of L.A. Associate examination; library qualifications; work environment; mentions equal pay. [17:18] Story about wearing mother’s coat; financial hardship; living at home until marriage; working late nights in Finsbury. Comments on pay arrangements; robbery of British Museum [B.M.] Pay Office; banking with National Provincial [now NatWest] Bank near B.M. from 1974. [22:22] Comments on journeys to work in Wandsworth; applying for job in Finsbury, now Islington, Library Service, 1955; journey to work; mentions the Angel, Skinner Street; describes library building designed by James Duff Brown [J.D.B.]; [25:19] reserve stock; compares with public libraries today; J.D.B.’s embossing machine; often being late for work; working late nights.

    Track 3 [41:04] [Session two: 25 February 2015] Further comments on family holidays; mentions Shanklin, Isle of Wight; St Peter Port, Guernsey; further comments on Sunday School outings; mentions Littlehampton; California in England [former Butlin’s Holiday Camp, Wokingham]; Saturday cinema; air raid sirens; father’s pre-war wages; father’s chess; mother’s flower paintings. [04:12] Further comments on Finsbury Public Library; mentions Northampton College of Technology, later College of Advanced Technology, now City University; describes J.D.B.’s Safe Guarded Open Access system; Brown issue system; new Photocharging issue system; effect on eyesight. [08:10] Further comments on working late nights; working hours; Clerkenwell Branch; staff facilities; Exmouth Market; Italian café, Brivati's; lunches; mentions Heinz Sandwich Spread. [12:15] Further comments on L.A. examinations; marrying Northampton College lecturer [Lionel Evans, L.E.], 1957; living Brixton; working in Children’s Library, Lambeth Central Library; mentions Janet Hill, Children’s Librarian; story about borrowing books. [15:30] Mentions [Kenneth Roy] McColvin, Borough Librarian; Herne Hill Branch. Comments on L.E.’s decision to move to Islington; N.E.’s interview at Institute of Classical Studies; job at British Non-Ferrous Metals Research Association; pregnancy; developing pneumonia; difficult birth. [19:31] Comments on difficult marriage; husband’s career; chemistry and metallurgy lecturer; previously with Jeremy Fry, Bath; subsequently educational technologist; parallel career as chef; George Perry Smith’s Hole in the Wall restaurant, Bath; The Chef [later The Singing Chef], Connaught Street, off Edgware Road. [23:17] Comments on L.E.’s secondment to University of Science and Technology [now Kwame Nkrumah University], Kumasi, Ghana, 1961; second difficult pregnancy; sailing to Africa after birth of daughter, Frances [F.E.]; story about losing son, David [D.E.]. [27:35] Comments on ex-patriot life; unhappiness; coping with servants; Salifu, Amidu and Agnes; children’s lives; describes bungalow. Further comments on ex-patriot life; shopping; black market; mentions [Kwame] Nkrumah; Lebanese and Danish supermarkets; Ideal Milk; Nestlé; daughter’s diet. [32:47] Story about Queen’s visit, 1961; comments on disastrous trip to Volta Dam; N.E.’s delight at home leave; L.E. staying behind; accident on way to airport. [36:16] Sister’s wedding; F.E’s subsequent malaria; mentions St Pancras Hospital for Tropical Diseases; mother-in-law’s health as excuse to remain; flying back by British Airways from Heathrow, winter 1962. [39:55] Comments on new part-time University Library job; mentions Bliss classification system.

    Track 4 [19:08] Comments on L.E.; born Wanstead; Wanstead Grammar School; period in Germany; haemophiliac; war work for I.C.I. [Imperial Chemical Industries]; reprises subsequent career. Comments on children’s names: D.E., born 1959; F.E., born 1961; names generally. [04:48] Comments on driving; mentions Humber Super Snipe; Jowett Javelin. Mentions L.E.’s father, financial journalist on 'The Scotsman’; retiring to Rochford, near Southend; after his death mother lived with N.E. and L.E.; drawbacks; further comments on driving; [07:58] driving in West Africa; cars; mentions Borgward; Mercedes; N.S.U. [N.S.U. Motorenwerke, subsumed in Audi]; driving on Takoradi Road. [10:01] Comments on secretarial job, Haemophilia Society, Southwark Bridge Road [1960-1]; leaving Ghana, 1963; differing views about future; becoming housewife; buying house, Aberdeen Road, Islington, 1966; [13:54] developing glandular fever; L.E.’s affair with N.E.’s best friend; going home to mother; having no legal rights; aunts providing flat; working at National Central Library [N.C.L.] and family pharmacy; [16:28] going back home; staying for the children; keeping N.C.L job which led to British Library [B.L.]; parents.

    Track 5 [32:32] [Session three: 6 March 2015] Comments on L.E. wanting to buy restaurant; Delia Smith [D.S.] and L.E.; D.S. babysitting. Comments on cooking at home; L.E.’s dinner parties; N.E.’s pastries; mentions Fortnum and Mason. [03:03] Comments on children’s cooking; childhood cooking; reprises mother’s Greek dancing evenings; mentions Margaret Morris dancing; Hovis bread. Comments about childhood house; pre-war development round Morden Underground Station; photograph of N.E. and house, 1936. [07:07] Comments on N.C.L. interview; part-time terms; mentions Sidney [P.] Filon [S.F.], N.C.L. Librarian; comments on part-time working advantages; sorting catalogue cards; adding information from outlier libraries to N.C.L. catalogue. [10:30] Describes Berghoeffer filing system; mentions N.C.L. providing I.L.L. service for humanities; National Lending Library for Science and Technology, Boston Spa; Donald Urquhart, founder; I.L.L. today. [12:52] Comments on N.C.L. part-timers; mentions Miss Symington, formerly ‘Church Times’ librarian; Andrew Phillips [A.P.]; filing Cyrillic; working in other departments; London Union Catalogue; Berghoeffer Catalogue; London and South East Region Catalogue; taking children to work; Hilda Cuthell. [16:40] Comments on full-time staff unfriendliness; Royal Garden Party invitation. Mentions N.C.L. in Store Street, off Tottenham Court Road; previously Chaucer House [Malet Place]; describes I.L.L. operation. [20:25] Comments on office accommodation; convenience of part-time working; full-time staff; mentions Alex Allardyce, manager; S.F.; [Ian] Gibb [I.G.], Deputy Librarian; Jane Garnett; Olive Sutcliffe. [23:46] Mentions N.C.L. becoming part of B.L., 1973; working in Science Reference Library [S.R.L.], Whiteley’s, Bayswater; lack of part-time B.L. posts; N.C.L. views of B.L.; being refused part-time job, Department of Printed Books; comments about Lawrence Wood, Keeper of Printed Books, later working part-time; mentions Eighteenth Century [now English] Short Title Catalogue; reflections on not qualifying. [27:05] Comments on S.R.L. staff; further comments on N.C.L.; family holidays; mentions France; Italy; Yugoslavia; Brixham; Weymouth.

    Track 6 [31:03] Comments on reading and books; mentions Enid Blyton; Chalet School books [by Elinor Brent-Dyer]; comments on using Kindle; childhood books. [04:05] Comments on poetry; mentions ‘The Highwayman’ [by Alfred Noyes]; Edgar Allan Poe; ‘Lepanto’ [by G.K. Chesterton]; Fibonacci numbers; Periodic Table. Comments on family reading habits; arrangement of books; mentions D.S. Comments on donating books to Oxfam; favourite books; mentions detective novelist, Thomas Perry; Amazon. [08:22] Comments on parents’ reactions to library career; mother’s favourite books; mentions historical novelist, Jean Plaidy; the Tudors; father’s books. Comments on Christmas quizzes; mentions Alleyn’s School [Dulwich]. [10:55] Comments on getting Bayswater post; mentions I.G.; comments on moving to catalogue amendments [C.A.], B.M. building; mentions Frank [Fletcher] of C.A.; Frank Francis, B.M. Director; De Beauvoir Estate [Hackney]; comments on new role; laid down volumes of [General] Catalogue [of Printed Books] [traditionally abbreviated to G.K.]; mentions Reading Room; Title Room; [14:07] needing full-time job, 1977; promoted E.O. [Executive Officer]; mentions A.P., Assistant Keeper to I.G. [now Head of Divisional Office, responsible for administration]; comments on new role; mentions A.P.’s Newspaper Library report. Further comments on Bayswater Clerical Officer role; interviews generally; E.O. promotion board; based Divisional Office [D.O.]. [18:01] Discusses D.O. staffing; mentions Mr Wheelan, S.E.O [Senior Executive Officer]. Further comments on catalogue amendments; Room A1; mentions S.O.G.A.T. [Society of Graphical and Allied Trades]; Mansell, publisher of G.K.; describes work; questions memory; mentions P.R. Harris [P.H., Deputy Keeper of Printed Books]; his books [‘The Reading Room', 1976; ‘The Library of the British Museum’, 1991]. [21:28] Describes D.O.; mentions Kings Library; Antonio Panizzi; Don[ovan] Richnell [D.R.], first Director General [D.G., Reference Division]; A.P.; I.G.; further comments on E.O. role; mentions Geoffrey Marrison [Keeper of Oriental Manuscipts and Printed Books]; describes offices; mentions D.R.; I.G. [25:45] Comments on colleagues; shyness; [29:14] driving to work; trade union membership; mentions P.C.S. [Public and Commercial Services Union].

    Track 7 [39:27] [Session four: 25 March 2015] Reprises E.O. role in D.O.; mentions I.G.; A.P.; mother-in-law’s death; comments on divorce. Comments on next role as H.E.O. responsible for accommodation; B.M. locksmiths; asbestos problems. [04:20] Mentions Mr Macdonald; Bob Carr; P.S.A. [Property Services Agency] meetings, St Christopher House [Southwark Street]; B.M. Trustee meetings; minute taking. Story about flood in book stacks; mentions Nicolas Barker [Head of Conservation]; King Edward Building; going beneath Reading Room. [07:00] Comments on P.S.A.; visit of Surésh Dhargalkar, P.S.A. head; mentions Christine Hall, Department of Manuscripts. Comments on visiting other B.L. buildings: National Sound Archive, formerly British Institute of Recorded Sound, Exhibition Road; India Office Library, Blackfriars; Micawber Street; Woolwich [Arsenal]; Blythe [House], Hammersmith; Science Reference Library, Chancery Lane. [11:37] Comments on B.M. electricians; learning on the job; inspecting B.M. roof; mentions Alex Wilson, D.R.’s successor. [14:07] Describes next role as Placer; mentions E.O.s Henry Okeyemi, Paul Brown; comments on learning placing history from P.H.; staff management in D.O.; hymn-singing cleaner; [18:02] difficult cleaner; E.O. management course, Sunningdale. Comments on becoming Superintendent of Reading Room; mentions predecessor, Derek Edwards. [21:21] Comments on first day; Senior Library Assistant [S.L.A.] and Library Assistant [L.A.] grades; dealing with unionised staff; enjoyment of role; dealing with readers; reader eating raw garlic; [25:44] reader with Clérambault’s Syndrome; mentions Readers' Typing Room; Michael Smethurst [D.G., Humanities and Social Sciences]; reader urinating in waste bin; reader marking books. [29:42] Comments on Eric Partridge [E.P., lexicographer]; Peter Fryer [P.F., author of 'Private Case - Public Scandal’, 1966]; Private Case books; [A.D.] Harvey [writer]; Hugh Thomas [H.T., historian, Baron Thomas of Swynnerton]; opposition to B.L. move to St Pancras; mentions [B.L. Regular Readers Group]. [33.26] Comments on original plans for new B.L.; mentions Bloomsbury; Great Russell Street; St George’s, Bloomsbury; Camden Council; Lina Jeger [M.P. for Holborn and St Pancras South, later Baroness Jeger of St Pancras]; final location of B.L. in Somers Town; E.P.; P.F.; persuading H.T. to support move; N.E.'s mention in Hansard; invitation to House of Lords; [37:00] construction and funding difficulties; mentions Margaret Thatcher; [Office of Arts and Libraries]; land to the north; Conservation [Centre].

    Track 8 [39.17] Further comments about readers: Doris Fletcher helping Italian students; mentions Pisa; Margaret Jaquess reading books about cats; mentions Mr Madison; wheelchair reader; Vincent Brome. Comments on strength of P.C.S.; P.C.S. opposition to change; overtime working. [04:17] Comments on disappearance of Superintendent role; reading room management at St Pancras; how announcement made; mentions Alan Purvey; A.P.; comments on subsequent stress-related illness. [07:14] Comments on becoming Readers’ Advisor; moving to St Pancras; helping readers with disabilities; describes Kurzweil [Reading Machine for the Blind]; mentions Dr Fred Reid, reader from Birmingham; story about helping blind Japanese viola player; comments on Mr Madison in Science [Reading Room] 1. [12:15] Comments on wearing trousers to work; reflections on Superintendent role. Comments on daughter’s medical career; son’s career as chef; mentions Gambia; Robert Maxwell’s [R.M.] yacht, Lady Ghislaine; comments on R.M. and life on board; mentions Frank Sinatra; Gergory Peck; Antibes; Sardinia; The Dome [restaurant], Hampstead. [16:29] Compares new B.L. with B.M.; comments on lack of space; collections at Boston Spa; readers’ changing habits; desire to re-visit Boston Spa. [20:11] Comments on retrospective conversion of G.K.; mentions A.P.; Triple I [or III, Information International, Inc.], California; O.C.R. [Optical Character Recognition]; Philippines; Rose List. Comments on using computers; mentions Frances Lill. Comments on retiring, 2001; Lynne Brindley; no pension for part-time working; mentions Carol Meads; Reader Admissions; teaching security staff. [25:04] Comments on retirement; holidays; mentions Spain; France; Italy; comments on U.3.A., Islington. Further comments on working with unions; breaking rules to help reader; mentions [William H. Masters and Virginia E. Johnson ‘Human Sexual Response’, 1966]; reprimand; Theresa Mowah. [30:09] Describes incident which led to leaving the trade union. Comments on compulsory self-management course following reprimand; unhappiness of experience; mentions Sunningdale; [35:13] further comments on shyness. Comments on membership of Friends of the B.L. [F.B.L.]; organising visits to libraries and archives; mentions Linnaean Society; Kew Herbarium; [National] Art Library, Victoria and Albert Museum; being F.B.L. Council member; love of B.L.

  • Notes:
    Recording: 2015-02-20, 2015-02-25, 2015-03-06, 2015-03-25;
    - Evans, Nina (speaker, female; interviewee);
    - Kenna, Stephanie (speaker, female; interviewer)
    Recording Notes: audio files 8 WAV 16 bit 48 kHz 2-channel
    Access restrictions: none

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