Woman Fanning, Pauline

Bibliographer and Librarian
Alternative Names
  • Dixon, Pauline

Written by Caitlin Stone and Nikki Henningham, The University of Melbourne

Pauline Fanning (née Dixon) was born in Hobart in 1915. She was educated at St Michael's Collegiate School and taught at the school before enrolling in an arts degree at the University of Tasmania. In 1936, she moved to Canberra to join the National Library as a trainee cataloguer.

In 1941 she married Bill Fanning and, in accordance with the law of the day, had to leave her library post. During World War II, however, she was allowed to return to work to help ease the labour shortage. In 1945, she was put in charge of the Australian collection. Among the major acquisitions to the library that Fanning helped to secure were the John Ferguson and the Rex Nan Kivell Collections. She also worked on the Bibliography of Australia and the Australian Encyclopedia.

Fanning's roles included Chief Librarian, Australian Reference (1966-1972); Principal Librarian, Australian Reference (1972-1975) and Director, Australian National Humanities Library (1975-1980). Her work was recognised through an Order of the British Empire - Member (Civil) (1969), an honorary Master of Arts from the Australian National University (1976) and an Imperial Service Order (1977).

Fanning retired in 1980 but continued to work on projects such as the Australian National Dictionary. She died in Canberra in 2012. According to the Director-General of the National Library of Australia (2013) she was owed a huge debt of gratitude by that institution. 'She was one of its pioneers, one of its leaders,' said Anne-Marie Schwirtlich. 'The library's collections, services, rigour, reach, values and culture were shaped in no small part by her and scholars and staff continue to be the beneficiaries.'(Hopman, 'Librarian's Lasting Legacy').

Archival Resources

National Library of Australia Manuscript Collection

  • Papers of Pauline Fanning, 1839 - 2011, MS 9864; National Library of Australia Manuscript Collection. Details

National Library of Australia Oral History Collection

  • Pauline Fanning interviewed by Alec Bolton, 16 February 1988 - 26 February 1988, ORAL TRC 2248; National Library of Australia Oral History Collection. Details

Published Resources

Journal Articles

  • Powell, Graeme, 'Obituary: Pauline Fanning 1915-2012', Australian Academic and Research Libraries, vol. 43, no. 3, 2012, pp. 249-50. Details

Online Resources

See also

Digital Resources

Pauline Fanning interviewed by Alec Bolton
16 February 1988 - 26 February 1988
National Library of Australia
National Library of Australia Oral History Collection