Margreet Wijnstroom (1922-2018)
05 October 2018
It is with great sadness that IFLA notes the passing of our colleague and friend, former IFLA Secretary General Margreet Wijnstroom. Born 26 August 1922 in Bloemendaal, Netherlands, Margreet passed away at her home in Haarlem on 1 October 2018 at the age of 96.
From 1958 to 1970, Wijnstroom was General Secretary of the Centrale Vereniging voor Openbare Bibliotheken (VOB — Netherlands Central Association of Public Libraries). Active on IFLA Committees for many years, Margreet left the VOB to become IFLA Secretary General in 1971, a post she held until 1987. Not only was Margreet the first female IFLA Secretary General, she was also the first full-time Secretary General. She oversaw the move of IFLA Headquarters from the United Kingdom to the Netherlands in 1971 and over the course of the following 16 years she helped IFLA more than quadruple in size and strength.
Margreet’s real passion was to expand IFLA’s global engagement and to this end she gave particular attention to redefining librarianship in the developing world. Together with former President Else Granheim, Margreet was instrumental in establishing IFLA’s Action for Development through Libraries Programme (ALP), which continues today as the IFLA Library Development Programme (IFLA LDP), and has contributed significantly to improvements in libraries around the world.
During her tenure, Margreet worked to increase the size of IFLA’s membership, particularly in developing countries—which she wholeheartedly assisted to help reach their goals of self-determination and self-development through broader access to information. It was for this reason that the “Regional Library Development Fund”, which she helped establish in 1982 was renamed the “Margreet Wijnstroom Fund for Regional Library Development” after her retirement in 1987. Margreet selflessly donated 20,000 Dutch Guilders to the Fund which continues to this day. Its current objectives are to support library association’s work in African, Asian and Latin American countries, to involve library and information professionals from the developing world in IFLA’s professional groups and to support projects in these regions.
Margreet oversaw the establishment of several publications which still exist: De Gruyter’s IFLA Publications Series (1972), IFLA Annual, precursor to the IFLA Annual Report (1972), and IFLA Journal, which grew out of her own initiative (1974).
Following her retirement from IFLA in 1987, she stayed busy playing golf and writing six detective novels between 1990 and 2002. Margreet was awarded the honour of an Officer in the Order of Orange-Nassau.
Margreet’s death is a great loss to all of us who knew her, especially those in IFLA and the Dutch library and information community. She will be greatly missed, and our thoughts are with her family and friends.