Edward Huck Tee LIM (1936 - 2022)
University Librarian (1988 - 2002)
Librarians have been described as teachers without a classroom. It is a sentiment that would have resonated with Edward Lim, University Librarian of Monash, who throughout his career, was committed to education.
Amidst the non-stop onslaught of global information, he brought order to chaos, and wisdom and culture to the stream of students pouring through the doors of the campus libraries. Like a natural intelligence operator, he possessed the necessary skills of curiosity, wide-ranging knowledge, organisation and analytical aptitude in abundance.
When Lim arrived at Monash in 1988, the library had 1,300,000 volumes. By the time he left 14 years later, he headed one of Australia’s largest University libraries with a collection of more than two million. He managed an eye-watering $20 million budget and a staff of 300 in six branches, on four campuses.
Lim, who has died aged 85, was widely recognised as an outstanding librarian, who developed a productive relationship with the various departments. His chief interests were in the areas of library administration, library automation and teaching. In recognition of his distinguished service, he was awarded the honorary title Professorial Fellow in the Department of Librarianship, Archives and Records in 1995.
Edward Huck Tee Lim was born in Georgetown, Penang, in 1936, the third of five children. His father, Lim Teik Hun, was a doctor from a prominent Taiwanese family who chose to teach at a local high school instead. His mother, Ruth Tong Yeok Hoe, was from the Fujian Province in China and ran a Mandarin School.
In 1941, with the threat of the Japanese invasion looming, the family moved to Singapore. He graduated BA (Hons) majoring in history and economics from the University of Malaya in Singapore in 1960.
Afterwards Lim worked as a library assistant at the University of Malaya before heading to Australia on a scholarship to undertake a Graduate Diploma in Librarianship at the University of New South Wales, graduating in 1963. That same year he married Pearly Ooi Paik Kim with whom he had two sons, Wen Ts’ai and Wen Kwang.
In 1964 he returned to the University of Malaya as assistant librarian whilst his wife worked as a statistician at the Rubber Research Institute in Kuala Lumpur.
In 1969 Lim was made Foundation Chief Librarian at the Universiti Sains Malaysia, a newly established university in Penang, where he built one of the biggest and most innovative libraries in the region which broke new ground in library automation. In 1985 he went to the University of Canberra, Australia, to study for his Graduate Diploma in Information Systems.
A Fellow of the Library Association (UK) (now the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) and a Member of the Australian and Library and Information Association (ALIA), Lim consulted for UNESCO, notably at the Consortium of National Libraries and Documentation Centres, Southeast Asia, on the development of a computerised regional bibliography of selected Southeast Asian imprints (1980-1984) and to the governments of Barbados and Pakistan.
He was editor of the Malaysian Library Journal (1972-1983) and President of the Library Association of Malaysia (1978-1980). He also contributed to international seminars and conferences and had more than 50 publications to his credit, including The Barefoot Librarian and Libraries in West Malaysia and Singapore: A short history.
Upon his retirement in 2002, he continued working for La Trobe University as Assistant Project Director of the Australian Academic and Research Libraries Network (AARLIN) until 2007, and teaching at Monash University.
Soft-spoken and polite, he quietly fuelled the imagination of thousands in the region through the windows he opened to the world.
Edward Lim was born on 23 November 1936. He died on 9 October 2022.
Edited version of article published in The Insider, 6 February 2023.