This week State Library of Queensland bids farewell to Sid Furber who is our longest serving staff member. In 1961, a fifteen and a half year old lad from Industrial High School was on a tour of the State Library bindery and doubled back to ask the man in charge for a job. He was just drawn to it instantly, and thought he would show interest then and there. Fifty four years later, Assistant Conservator Sid Furber is retiring.
Sid was the first apprentice book binder that State Library ever employed, and it was enormously interesting and rewarding for him. He became a tradesman after five years. His first pay slip was for the princely sum of five pounds, seventeen shillings and ten pence.
Sid remembers his daily jobs included putting together the library note pads, arranging books before they were sewn together, and applying glue to attach the buckram or leather to the book. The glue was boiled down on the spot, using horses’ hooves in a pot of hot water. Each day, the bindery staff donned white aprons. A set of brass letters and a range of decorative brass pattern rollers were imported from overseas and used for the decorative work on the books. The brass tools were heated on a gas stove, and using his fingers to test the heat, the brass tools were then applied to the leather or gold leaf. Working in the State Library bindery, on level 1 of William Street, Sid shared his workspace with ten or twelve others, including four bookbinders and a lady who used the sewing machine to sew the cleats. However, his most important task every day was to take the smoko and lunch orders and collect them from the shop down the road.
Once a tradesman, Sid became expert at “finishing”, including the use of gold tooling and lettering using 24 carat gold leaf. When State Library moved from William Street to South Bank, he had already worked for SLQ for more than a quarter of a century and he sadly farewelled his first workplace. At South Bank the new premises was so big that they joked that they would need roller skates to get around. Sid was introduced to new skills in conservation, including the use of computers, which he admits he could use with hesitant two finger typing. Sid loved to take tours and explain his craft to visitors. Now a grandfather of four, Sid is finally putting down his brass bookbinding tools and computer guided guillotines to enjoy his family and his interests.
Information Services Librarian, Christina Ealing-Godbold recently interviewed Sid to record his memories of his early days at State Library. This recording will be added to SLQ’s Oral History collection. Congratulations Sid on your retirement and thank you for your 54 years of service to the people of Queensland.