Newsletter No. 51 (July 2007)

Retirement of CP Tang

Andrew Gosling

Former Chief Librarian (1985-2003),

Asian Collections, National Library of Australia

When CP Tang retired in June this year he had worked at the National Library of Australia for more than a quarter of a century. Almost the whole of his career related to East Asian collections and services. As Wan Wong and others have written in this Newsletter he played a unique and outstanding role in the development and continuation of the National CJK Service. It is no exaggeration to describe him as the backbone of CJK. Without him the service would not have flourished as it did for so many years.

CP’s earlier career in Asian Collections at the National Library during the 1980s and early 1990s may be less well known, and it is on this period that I will concentrate my remarks. CP came to the Library with a very strong background in Chinese studies. He obtained his Bachelor of Arts from the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 1968, majoring in Chinese history and literature. Further research on Chinese history gained him a Master of Arts degree from the Australian National University in 1976. CP started working in the National Library’s Chinese Unit early in 1982 as a part-time Clerical Assistant 2, but was soon promoted through the ranks. While working he also completed his Graduate Diploma in Librarianship at what is now the University of Canberra in 1985 and became one of the Chinese Librarians.

During more than a decade in Asian Collections, CP made a major contribution to the Chinese collections and services. It was an exciting era, as the National Library’s Chinese language holdings more than doubled during the 1980s. CP was heavily involved in selection, cataloguing, reference and promoting the collections. During several periods he led the Chinese Unit. His dedication was greatly appreciated by senior staff including Mr Sing-Wu (Sidney) Wang, Chief Librarian until his retirement late in 1985 and myself as Sidney’s successor in charge of the East Asian collections.

CP was an outstanding reference librarian. His background in Chinese studies, deep knowledge and helpfulness were greatly appreciated by scholars and other readers. Many years after he moved to the National CJK Service in the mid-1990s readers were still asking specifically for CP to assist them with reference queries.

CP’s cheerful, helpful and authoritative style of working was also much admired by the staff of the Chinese Unit, Asian Collections as a whole and other areas of the Library. One particular episode springs to mind. During the mid-1980s Asian Collections faced a storage crisis as its holdings grew beyond the capacity of the building. It was decided to move parts of the Chinese collection to a warehouse. This was not the purpose-built structure currently used by the Library but a basic store which was cold in winter, hot in summer and was said to contain mice and more venomous creatures. CP happily took on the task of organiser, taking a team of staff out to the warehouse and reshelving material there under pretty trying conditions. The move was completed efficiently and the staff remained cheerful, due very much to CP’s leadership. I joined in the move a few times, and recall that at the end of a tiring morning’s work we all revived over lunch at a local Chinese restaurant.

I must also thank CP for his dedicated service as Secretary and Treasurer of EALRGA over many years. CP together with Susan Prentice and Susan MacDougall were on the EALRGA committee from the late 1980s to 2003 (Susan Prentice remains a committee member to the present). When I joined them as EALRGA President from 1997 to 2003, I was most impressed by the way they all worked together as a cheerful and effective team. CP was an essential part of that group.

As others have said it is hard to imagine the National Library or East Asian librarianship in Australia without CP. I wish him the long and happy retirement he certainly deserves after all his hard work and dedication, and success with whatever new ventures he undertakes.

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