Pamela Erskine obituary | Libraries

My mother, Pamela Erskine, who died at the age of 87, was a career librarian and a shining example of the postwar belief that together people can make the world a better place.

Pamela was born in London to the Sound of Bow Bells to Thomas Bowell and his wife Mariam (nee Parsons) who was in housekeeping. She had a wartime childhood marked by frequent moves from home and school due to her father’s police career and bombed-out family homes. However, her break from school only convinced her of the importance of education and fair opportunities for everyone in all phases of life.

As a teenager she found work in the library service in South London and later used that experience to embark on a career as a children’s librarian, first in Lanarkshire and later in the town of Hawick on the Scottish borders. There she set up story lessons for children, made sure they were allowed to borrow more than one book, and organized visits from children’s authors.

Here she met Andrew Erskine, who also worked in the library service. They married in 1958. He later became a history teacher.

In the 1970s and 1980s Pamela also found a political voice as a union representative in the library service. She was a staunch critic of the effects of Thatcherite policies, particularly when they adversely affected the conditions of public sector staff or cuts in the library service budget. She was particularly concerned about the huge disparities in men’s and women’s pay and career development and became an excellent negotiator. During the same period Pamela returned to the Open University due to this experience. While balancing family life, work and study, she completed her studies in sociology in the 1980s.

After her retirement in 1989, Pamela moved to Edinburgh, a city where she could renew her love of art. She traveled a lot in Europe with Andrew. As age made traveling overseas harder, Pamela piqued her interest in gardening by taking on an assignment where she was instrumental in creating a strikingly beautiful and productive garden of vegetables, flowers and herbs.

Pamela was diagnosed with heart failure in her seventies. This was very well managed by a number of cardiologists, general practitioners, and district nurses so that she could continue to lead an active life.

Pamela is survived by Andrew, her sons Adam and me and their grandchildren Andrew, Joseph and Thomas.

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