The Sky's the Limit at the Valley Library ...
The OSU Libraries has had a wonderful history of wonderful leaders! With the retirement of OSU Libraries and Press director Karyle Butcher, we are poised to appoint a new leader soon, soon, soon. Being an archivist at a university means looking forward to new opportunities, but always doing it with an eye pointed toward the past …
A trestle was between library and Admin building -- Library book trucks were used to move.
So I’m giving myself an excuse to write a post on the history of University Librarians at OSU — even those who worked here when this wasn’t a university and wasn’t called OSU. But naming conventions are a topic for another day.
The beginnings of the Oregon State University Library are imprecise, unclear, and undistinguished. The most certain and obvious things in the first three decades of its existence are that there was not much of it, and that what there was was administratively neglected. Financial support during many, perhaps most, of the earliest years was at or near to zero. There was, nevertheless, from the beginning, institutional awareness of the need for a Library (The Library of Oregon State University, Carlson, pg 1).
In 1870, Professor Joseph Emery elected “librarian” of the college, yes he was “elected.” Six years later the Oregon Legislative Assembly, yes people who were “elected,” appropriated $1,000 to purchase books; this move was the first official show of legislative support for a college library. However, the first “official” college library was likely that of the Adelphian Literary Society, which had acquired the Corvallis Library Association’s Library in 1880. Signing for the receipt of the Association Library was L. S. Stock, “Librarian,” presumably a member of the Adelphian Society (The Library of Oregon State University, Carlson, pg 4).
Ten years later, that would be 1890 for those of you keeping track, the Adelphians transferred their 605-volume library to the college.
For the next eight years it was, however, to continue to be entirely student operated. Even though now the property of and under the care of the college, the pattern of haphazard management persisted. A student Librarian was simply handed the keys and told he was in charge. Sometimes there was not even contact with or instructions from the previous Librarian. The selected student Librarians, usually young people who needed work to finance themselves, seemed to be universally well meaning and conscientious. Some of them were outstanding but without indoctrination or leadership it was obvious that the Library would suffer (The Library of Oregon State University, Carlson, pg 5-6).
That same year, May Warren was hired as the first paid student worker for the Library, but she was only on staff for a year and was replaced by Miss Lois Stewart, who was in turn replaced by Willard Wallace Smith. Smith was on staff (as the staff) for three years! He claimed to be the first librarian since he “attacked his responsibilitieswith more vigor and imagination than might have been expected of a student” (The Library of Oregon State University, Carlson, pg 6). Smith was succeeded by Esther Simmons, and then Robert Golden, and then Lionel Johnson.
Johnson and his assistant, Fanny Getty, observed that
It seems that in rainy weather, the Library was the onlyconvenient place for lovers to meet, though they were not allowed to talk above a whisper. It was very common to find cooing couples hidden away behind racks of books, and my policy was not to interfere with them unnecessarily (The Library of Oregon State University, Carlson, pg 9).
Arthur Stimpson, fresh from the Spanish American War, took over the helm and considered the first full-time, nonstudent librarian. When Stimpson was appointed, the collection had grown to 3000 volumes and 500 pamphlets and bulletins. Though he was not a professional librarian, he nonetheless acted as a worthy leader at the end of the 19th century as the college worked to meet the needs of a growing student body. Stimpson had varied interests and involvements, playing on the football team and acting as a contributor to the Barometer.
Football Team, 1897
Calrson reports that Stimpson resigned in 1901 to accept a position in the Railway Service and he was succeeded by Lewis W. Oren.
Lewis was not, however, quite a full-time Librarian as he was also required to teach algebra and arithmetic (The Library of Oregon State University, Carlson, pg 13).
R. J. Nichols, a native Oregonian, followed Oren. Nichols was the first librarian not educated at OAC, earning his degree from Willamette University. His was to be the longest tenure to date, from 1902-1908.
The20th century saw a new era of professionalism for the college librarians. As Carlson says,
There came in the sunnier of 1908 to direct the Library, as its first professional Librarian, Ida Angeline Kidder. This was the turning point,a major milepost. From then on things would be different, very different (The Library of Oregon State University, Carlson, pg 17).
Ida Kidder was appointed as the first professionally trained librarian in 1908 and worked as the University Librarian until her death in 1920. Kidder received a degree in librarianship from the University of Illinois in 1906, shortly before her 50th birthday, and she was an essential force in the development of the library collection and its role for students, faculty, and the campus community. Her tenure is impressive and she was a beloved figure on campus, often seen travelling around campus in a cart, named the “Wickermobile,” and earning her the nickname “Mother Kidder.”
Ida Kidder in Wickermobile
In twelve years she increased library collection 8-fold and in her 2nd year offered a “library practice” course required of all freshmen. One of the highlights of her career was the building of a 57,000 square foot Library Building (now Kidder Hall) that was completed in September of 1918.
When Kidder passed in 1920, Lucy M. Lewis began her 25 years as the head of the Library. During her term, she oversaw the move to centralize the library, initiating and supervising library programs, establishing a browsing room and student personal library, and seeing the establishment of the Friends of the Library.
Lucy M. Lewis was the University Librarian from 1920-1945.
During this time period the Library grew from 41,248 volumes, a budget of $23,409, 8 staff members to 111,196 volumes, $48,486 for a budget, 17 staff members, and saw the start of several big projects. For instance in 1924, Lewis was instrumental in making OSC one of two land grant colleges in the entire country to participate in a nation-wide preparation of a National Union List of Serials. This was a project to list and record the holdings of cooperating libraries with an end goal of producing a list that could be shared among libraries to complete their own serials collections; it seems simple to us in our fancy social media and WWW life, but back then this sort of list was a fabulous and unique thing! The next ambitious project, in 1930, called for the reclassification of the Library’s collection from Dewey Decimal to Library of Congress — again, not a small task but one that would move the Library into a new era of professionalism and improve access for users. Finally, in 1934, Lewis planned a room for Mary McDonald’s donated collection of 3,000 volumes.
Beginning in 1932, Mary J. L. McDonald made the then largest donation of books to the library when she donated volumes worth just over $10,000. She donated a total of over 1,000 items that included a complete works of Abraham Lincoln valued at $4,800. (The Valley Library, Wikipedia)
Lewis was elected president of the Pacific NW Library Association in 1936 and received an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Library Science in June 1945.
William H. Carlson served as the University Librarian of OSU from 1945 to 1965. He was quite active in research on library topics, publishing a number of articles and reviews on topics in library science such as post-war library planning and resources in Western libraries. At the same time, he also pursued an interest in Scandinavian studies, owing partly to his own Swedish ancestry. His tenure is full of important milestones for our current program, with his hiring of Harriet Moore as the first full-time archivist in 1961 and the construction of the Kerr Library (now the Valley Library) in 1963. Retiring from the OSU Library in 1965, Carlson continued to be involved in library research, serving as a consultant on a survey of Oregon Institutional Libraries from 1966 to 1967. Carlson also completed a history of the OSU Library during his retirement, which was later submitted to The Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science in 1977.
Kerr Library construction, 1962
In August 1965 Rodney Waldron replaced Carlson, bringing the library into an “age of automation.” He added a system analyst to library staff and oversaw the installation of LOLITA (Library Online Information Text Access), a TWX multipurpose instrument that searched a number of databases, and LIRS (Library Information Retrieval Service). During his time as University Librarian, the total library budget reached over $1.5 million, with $600,000 for books compared to the $216,000 allocated in 1966. The holdings also hit the 1 million volume mark and, accordingly, the library acquired two additional floors for library expansion.
Photo shows Rodney Waldron with the new portable microfilm reader.
In the same year as Waldron’s departure, in 1984, Melvin R. George took over as director of the library, which at that time had a $4.5 million annual budget and 72 employees. George served as University Librarian until 1996. In 1986, a room was added to the library to accommodate a donation from alumnus Linus Pauling, which consisted of his papers and two Nobel Prizes. You know how much we all love Linus…
Linus Pauling Honored at Oregon State Agricultural College
Karyle Butcher served as University Librarian from 1996 until 2010, an era that saw the Libraries earning a strong reputation as an innovative and user-centered organization.
“Under her leadership, the library transformed itself from a traditional university repository of books and journals to a campus information hub nationally recognized for its leadership in digital collections and for using the Internet to break down barriers that have historically limited public access to knowledge and learning. She oversaw completion of the $47 million Valley Library building project in the mid-1990s, and in the early days of the Internet, integrated information technology services into the library…
Among the Library’s many and more recent innovations under Butcher: In conjunction with the Institute for Natural Resources and the OSU College of Forestry, creation of the vast Oregon Explorer digital library; the launch of ScholarsArchive, which makes peer-reviewed journal material readily available to all online; participation in Flickr Commons, which makes historically important digital photography collections from some of the world’s leading libraries available via the popular Flickr.com website; and leading the OSU Press to unprecedented success in recent years, even as other academic publishing houses were shuttering.”
See the article “Head of OSU Valley Library and OSU Press to Step Down” for much more on Butcher and the library she helped create. We miss her wit and fancy socks.
Karyle Butcher hands out cookies for the 10th Anniversary Celebration of The Valley Library Remodel: Cookies in the Quad!
So here we are, ready for a new leader and all the inspiration that change can bring!
Want to do more research on the Library? Check out the History of the Library Research Guide.