Muriel Anderson succeeded Willi Steiner as Librarian in January 1982 and retired in March 1991. Previously she had worked as the Librarian at the Incorporated Law Society of Northern Ireland and in 1959 she joined the staff of IALS as Head of the Periodicals Section. From 1960 she played a major role in the management of IALS Library as Deputy Librarian to both Howard Drake and Willi Steiner. She died in June 2006 after displaying considerable courage when faced with the onset of motor neurone disease.
Muriel had an unshakeable commitment and loyalty to IALS Library and its staff. "Although her natural modesty would not have allowed her to say so, Muriel played a vital management role in a library which is probably the most significant legal research library in Britain…steering it through dangerous waters, re-housing it in a new building, overseeing a dramatic expansion of the library and the large-scale adoption of new technology, and putting in place a new staff structure to enable the long term development by the Institute.."1
She was a very efficient library administrator. As Deputy Librarian, "she was responsible for much of the planning of the library in Charles Clore House; it can in fact be said that the library, as it gradually took shape, was largely her creation."2
She was also an excellent manager who continued to develop IALS Library as a successful and highly valued world-class institution, managed locally by senior librarians who understood the complex needs of law researchers. As Librarian, "when the Institute Library was under threat of losing its identity and being amalgamated with the declining University of London Library, Muriel together with Sir Jack Jacob, Director of the Institute, organised the successful campaign to overturn the proposals."3
Muriel Anderson was one of the first in UK law librarianship to see the benefits of automation both for legal information retrieval by researchers and for the management of library processes. Under her guidance and encouragement, IALS was one of the first law libraries in the UK to subscribe to Lexis and Eurolex, and, among a number of local automation projects, it also implemented a microcomputer-based acquisitions system.
Muriel was a great achiever throughout her life. She was justifiably proud of being one of only five women in her year to be admitted to the joint honours degree course in French and German at Queen's University, Belfast. She was a warm and modest person who had a beaming smile and a great capacity to put people at their ease. She continued to cultivate the friendly, family atmosphere of IALS, taking a personal and professional interest in her staff and taking care to canvass their views before making major decisions.
In her youth she had excelled at sport, particularly tennis and hockey, although a serious knee injury had stopped her from being selected for the national hockey team. In retirement she moved to Bath and bought and decorated a beautiful house. She took great pleasure in inviting her many friends and former colleagues to stay and was keen to hear their news and to entertain them with her delicious cooking and drives around the locality.
She found time to be one of the leading law librarians in the UK and overseas and acquired many outside professional commitments and numerous friends. She was appointed for several months to the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies in 1977-1978 to help advise on the setting up of their new library. She served as Secretary to the British Library Working Party on Provision for Law from 1980-82. She was Chair of the British and Irish Association of Law Librarians (BIALL) for 1988-1989, and awarded the honorary post of Vice President after her retirement. She was also Vice President of the International Association of Law Libraries (IALL) from 1983 to 1986.
Author of a number of articles on law librarianship including the chapter on accommodation in the first edition of the Manual of law librarianship, edited by Elizabeth M. Moys; London, Andre Deutsch for BIALL, 1976.
1 Winterton, Jules. Muriel Anderson: an appreciation. Legal Information Management, vol.7, 2007, p.4-5.
2 Steiner, Willi. Muriel Anderson - a profile. The Law Librarian, vol.22, no.2, August 1991. p.111.