Reception held in memory of former Geography librarian

Joan's map of Sheffield

Family, friends and former colleagues of the late Joan Chibnall gathered on 24 May 2019 in the newly refurbished Wolfson Suite in Western Bank Library to celebrate Joan’s generosity in remembering the University Library in her Will. Over afternoon tea, they were able to share their memories of Joan and hear from Anne Horn, Director of Library Services & University Librarian.

Joan had been the Geography Librarian and map curator for over 30 years, until her retirement in 1989, a job that her sister Cicely confirmed that she absolutely loved. With a degree in Geography, an MSc and a Diploma in Librarianship, Joan’s academic background and her passion for maps made her uniquely qualified for her role. In their obituary of Joan, Professor Paul White, former Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Michael Hannon, former University Librarian wrote, “Joan had the interests of her library and map users at heart. She was a great and supportive colleague and remained a friend to all those who worked with her. Former students have fond recollections of her, remarking on her somewhat stentorian calls of ‘please can you keep the noise down — this is a library’, delivered with a twinkle in her eye.”

Joan ChibnallAnne Horn spoke about the impact that Joan’s generous gift was already having for students. The Wolfson Suite had no longer been fit for purpose and was overdue for refurbishment. There had been nowhere in Western Bank library for students to meet or work together, and Joan’s gift, together with a grant made possible through other philanthropic donations, had allowed the space to be brought up to date. Students now have access to both physical and digital equipment and geography-related software packages such as Digimap, as well as a space for forums and film showings. Anne described the day that the finishing touches were being made to the Suite, saying that students were in the room even before the furniture was set up, they were so keen to use the new space.

Anne had prepared a small display of maps of Sheffield, some dating from the 18th century, together with a globe that Joan had donated to the Library on her retirement and which had been lovingly kept ever since, as well as a book about the Geography Department by Professor Paul White in which Joan featured.

Joan’s sister Cicely said how much she had loved the opportunity to see the Wolfson Suite and to hear from Joan’s former colleagues how highly valued Joan’s contribution had been as a member of staff and how fondly she was remembered.

The University are very grateful to Joan for her foresight and generosity to leave a gift in her Will to support education and to help the next generation of geographers.

A special thank you must go to the staff at the Library, Michael Hannon and Paul White for their help and support in connecting the University with so many of Joan’s friends, family and colleagues.

If you are interested in leaving a gift in your Will to the University, please visit the Legacies webpage or contact our Legacy Officer, David Meadows on 0114 222 1073 or

The Department of Geography has an internationally-recognised record of academic research by staff with wide-ranging interests in both human and physical geography.

Geography at Sheffield is ranked within the top 15 UK departments following the results of the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF 2014) and among the top 50 in the world (QS University Rankings 2019).

We are one of the largest departments in the country in terms of undergraduate numbers, and places on courses are amongst the most-sought-after in the UK.

To find out more about studying Geography at The University of Sheffield, please visit our course pages.

Undergraduate Postgraduate Book an open day