Born in Glasgow in 1941, Brian was brought up in Helensburgh and educated at Hermitage Academy. He later graduated from the Open University. From an early age, he immersed himself in books and, after briefly flirting with a career selling books, he found his true vocation in the public library service.
Starting behind the counter at Dumbarton Library, Brian rose to be Dumbarton's deputy district librarian. Appointed district librarian in 1983 in Midlothian, he relished the modernisation task, introducing a publications programme, refurbishing libraries, extending opening hours, and restructuring staff. In the words of a local councillor: "Mr Osborne is fizzing with good ideas."
Moving to Strathkelvin in 1989 as chief officer, Libraries and Museums, he was responsible for creating the bright, modern, and spacious Kirkintilloch library.
From his days at Midlothian, Brian was involved in professional associations, first through the Central Scotland Training Group, then as the Scottish Library Association's publications officer, and ultimately as president of the SLA in 1992. Early retirement freed him to immerse himself in researching and writing about the literary life of Scotland.
Brian published three contrasting biographies: Braxfield: The Hanging Judge?, The Ingenious Mr Bell and The Last of the Chiefs. He collaborated with Ronnie Armstrong on several Scottish literary anthologies, including editing, introducing and annotating many of the works of Neil Munro. He was also a regular contributor of articles to a number of journals, particularly The Scots Magazine.
He co-wrote two plays with Ronnie Armstrong, which were staged at The Byre Theatre, St Andrews, and at Perth Theatre. His final full-length work - a study of the Home Guard in Scotland - is to be published in the spring.
In his presidential address to the Scottish Library Association, Brian lamented that both as a profession and as individuals, librarians play too small a role in the book world in Scotland, something he could never be accused of. From his earliest days, he was active within the Scottish Book Marketing Group; served on the Scottish Arts Council literature committee and on the committee of the Society of Authors in Scotland. He had recently been appointed the vice-chair at Publishing Scotland, the new guise for the Scottish Publishers' Association.
Brian was an elder and devoted member of his local church, St Columba's, Kirkintilloch, where he was active in the affairs of the congregation and edited the church magazine. The values he brought from the church were evident in everything that he undertook.
His energetic personality, humour, wit and intelligence will be missed by his many friends.
Brian has been interred in Uzbekistan. He is survived by his father.