6. James Sykes Battye (1871-1954), librarian
James Battye was born in Geelong, Victoria and educated at Geelong College and the University of Melbourne. He was awarded a B.A. in 1889, and an LL.B in 1893. He came to WA in 1894 on his appointment as Chief Librarian of the new Victoria Public Library in Perth.
The public library, museum and art gallery were administered as one institution and Battye served as general secretary from 1912 until his death in 1954 aged 82 years. He personally selected the library’s impressive and wide-ranging book stock. By 1911 there were over 100,000 volumes in the library. However, finance for the public institutions was limited and as a result the quality of the initial purchases was not maintained.
Battye established a Public Records Committee in 1923 to ensure the preservation of valuable government records. In 1945 he persuaded the government to establish a State Archives within the library.
Battye published three important volumes on the history of the state, Cyclopaedia of Western Australia (1912-13); History of the North-West of Australia (1915) and Western Australia: A History (1924).
He was a founding member of the Western Australian Historical Society in 1926 and Chairman of the 1929 Centenary Celebration Committee. Battye was Secretary of the Wesley Church Trust; President of the Children’s Hospital Board; Chairman of Governors of Hale School and Honorary Secretary of the Victoria Institute for the Blind.
He was active in the establishment of the University of Western Australia, and was a member of the first Senate and Chancellor from 1937 to 1943. He was committed to Masonry, and was appointed Grand Master from 1936 to 1951. He claimed life tenure on his position at the library.
It is a fitting memorial that the J. S. Battye Library of West Australian History (part of the State Library of Western Australia) was named in his honour in 1956.