David Menhennet

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

David Menhennet CB (4 December 1928 – 5 February 2016) was a British librarian. As librarian at the House of Commons Library from 1976 to 1991,[1] he oversaw a period of modernisation and other improvements to the library,[2] transforming the library into a modern research facility.[3]


Early life and education[edit]

Menhennet was born in Redruth, Cornwall,[2] the son of William and Everill Menhennet.[3] He attended Truro School on a scholarship and excelled in languages,[3] going on to graduate with a first in French and German from Oriel College, Oxford.[2][3] He then moved to Queen's College to study for a D.Phil. in 18th-century French literature.[3]

House of Commons career[edit]

He became a clerk in the Commons Library in 1954.[2] When given responsibility for the research area in 1964 he introduced a system of comprehensive daily briefings for MPs,[2][3] and he was promoted to Deputy Librarian in 1967.[3] When Speaker George Thomas appointed him 10th Librarian of the Commons Library in 1976,[1][3] he began a process of modernisation.[2] He set up the Public Information Office (now the House of Commons Information Office) in 1978,[3] and electronic publication began the same year, when the Library contributed to the Prestel viewdata system, which at one time had 90,000 subscribers.[3] Computerisation of the Library's information systems began in 1979 with the creation of the Parliamentary On-Line Information System (POLIS).[3] He also established a service for schools.[3] The new systems introduced by Menhennet enabled MPs to find and check information far more easily, and were used particularly often by Gordon Brown and Tony Blair while in opposition.[2][3]

Menhennet hosted international conferences at Westminster, and also acted as an adviser to other parliaments.[3] His last reform was to ban smoking in the library.[2][3]

Other activities[edit]

In 1964 Menhennet was a founder member of the Study of Parliament Group, and also chaired the British Library's Advisory Committee on Bibliographic Services from 1986 to 1992.[3] He also wrote a number of books about Parliament.[3] After his retirement in 1991 he was a visiting research fellow at Goldsmith's College.[3]

Menhennet was a life Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a freeman of the City of London and a liveryman of the Stationer's Company.[3] He was appointed Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) in the Queen's 1991 Birthday Honours.[3]

Personal life[edit]

David Menhennet married Audrey Holmes in 1954. He died on 5 February 2016, survived by Audrey and their two sons.[3]


  • 1967: Parliament in Perspective (with John Palmer)
  • 1972: Erskine May’s Private Journal 1857-82
  • 1991: The House of Commons Library: A History

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Factsheet G18: The House of Commons Library" (PDF). parliament.uk. House of Commons Information Office. Retrieved 13 February 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Been and gone: the refugee behind television's famous pigs". BBC News. 3 March 2016. Retrieved 13 February 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u "David Menhennet, commons librarian: Obituary". The Daily Telegraph. 25 February 2016. Retrieved 13 February 2017.