Maurice B. Line

Born: June 23, 1928 | Bedford, GB
Died: September 21, 2010

Maurice B. Line discusses his education and early career, including his bachelor's and master's degrees in Classics from Oxford University and his first job as a library trainee at Oxford's Bodleian Library. Line also discusses his various library positions and some of his notable accomplishments: assisting in the creation of the first automated acquisition system in Britain, directing INFROSS (a study of social scientists' information requirements) and DISISS (a study on designs of information systems). Additionally, Line speaks about the constraints of working in the public sector, as well as the importance of technology in making libraries more accessible to users. 

Access This Interview

The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.


Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0205
No. of pages: 38
Minutes: 92

Interview Sessions

W. Boyd Rayward
27 June 2000
Harrowgate, England

Abstract of Interview

Maurice B. Line’s interview begins with a discussion of his education and early career. After high school, Line received a scholarship to attend Oxford University and major in Classics. He began his long career in library institutions at the Bodleian Library as a library trainee. He then moved on to the University of Glasgow as an assistant librarian. While there, he was one of the first to conduct library system studies regarding student’s attitudes towards the library. Line brought his interest in library systems to Southampton University where Beres Bland, the head librarian at Southampton, gave Line the freedom to develop his abilities and focus his ideas about information science. As deputy librarian at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, Line helped create the first automated acquisition system in Britain. When he became a librarian at Bath University, he directed the study of social scientists’ information requirements, named INFROSS, and a further study on the designs of information systems, named DISISS. In 1985, Line became the director general of Science Technology and Industry at the British Library. Line discusses the constraints of working in the public sector, and his desire to create easy access to library collections internationally. In conclusion, he describes the potential obstacles to the international library system in the future, and the importance of technology in making libraries more accessible to users.


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1950 University of Oxford BA
1954 University of Oxford MA

Professional Experience

University of Oxford

1950 to 1951
Trainee, Bodleian Library

University of Glasgow

1951 to 1953
Library Assistant

University of Southampton

1954 to 1965

University of Newcastle upon Tyne

1965 to 1968
Deputy Librarian

University of Bath

1968 to 1971

National Central Library

1971 to 1973

British Library

1974 to 1985
Director General, Lending Division
1985 to 1988
Director General, Science Technology and Industry

University of Sheffield

1977 to 2001
Professor Associate

Loughborough University

1985 to 1991
External Professor
1988 to 2001
Independent Consultant


Year(s) Award

DLitt., Heriot-Watt University


Honorary Fellow, Library Association


DSc, Southampton University


Fellow of Birmingham Polytechnic


Companion, Chartered Management Institute


IFLA medal


President, Library Association

Table of Contents

Early Education and Career

Winning a scholarship in Classics to Oxford University. Dealing with a speech impediment. As sub-librarian at Southampton University. Conducting library system studies. As librarian at Bath University. Establishing UKLON. Conducting the INFROSS studies. The DISISS studies. Discussion of gaps in journal coverage.

Leaving Bath University

Working at the Boston Spa while at Bath University. Watching people's careers develop. Donald J. Urquhart's personality. Urquhart's influence on the Boston Spa. The "online revolution. " UK MEDLARS. Establishing the NLST. Competition between libraries. The value of online systems.

Working at the British Library

Influential coworkers. Harry Hookway. Lord David Eccles. Frederick Dainton. Opinion of Margaret Thatcher. The creation of the British Library. International relationships between libraries. Successes of the UAP. Connections with the IFLA. The merger of LA and IIS.

Libraries and their Future

Access versus holdings. The future of libraries in higher education. The effect of immigration, global warming, and the world water shortage on libraries. The constraints of the public sector. Information for profit. Public libraries versus academic libraries.

Modern Library Systems

The effect of new technology on libraries. Seeing students as customers. Views on religion. User-oriented information services.


About the Interviewer

W. Boyd Rayward

W. Boyd Rayward is a research professor in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Chamapaign. He turned to librarianship after graduating in English literature from the University of Sydney. He received his PhD from the Graduate Library School at the University of Chicago in 1973. He has held positions in the University of Chicago (where he became Dean of the Graduate Library School). He served as professor and head of the School of Information Library and Archive Studies and Dean of the University's Faculty of Professional Studies at the University of New South Wales in Sydney where he is now professor emeritus. He has published two books related to Paul Otlet, Belgian documentalist and internationalist, and a great many articles on history of national and international schemes for the organization and dissemination of information.