Elaine Baird joined the County Borough of Brighton library services in 1954, at a time when librarians were stern keepers of the peace. Colleagues of Miss Baird, as she was invariably known, remembered her as ‘tall, imposing and commanding respect’ and that she ‘epitomised how you expected a typical librarian to look, with her dress and bearing’. Scary, then.
More at home with books than people, she became a reference librarian in the late 60s. An obituary in the Library Association Record noted that ‘relationships with the Lending Library and with Brighton Museum and Royal Pavilion… were not always smooth’ and that ‘managing staff was not her forte’. That said, she was protective of her team. The same obituary recalled her administering Stone’s Ginger Wine in the midst of winter and how, when spotting a ‘suspect, bomb-like package’ in the library, she ‘hurled a Kompass directory at it, while telling her staff to duck behind the counter.’ A tactic, no doubt, learnt in her time in the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service).
She retired from the library in the early 80s, but never quite left public service. She joined Worthing Borough Council as a Conservative, and felt so strongly about the pot-holed streets that she opted to serve on the highways committee. Fitting, then, that her name should grace the front of a bus. Although she’d be furious about the state of the roads. She died in October 2008 aged 88.
With thanks to Wendy Barrett, Wendy Jackson, Alison Minns and the staff at Jubilee Library