Thanks Mrs. Kidder!

Ida Kidder in Wickermobile Wickermobile parked in front of campus building Women with the

Fortunately, though we have written blog posts for all the women pictured in our “OSU Archives Celebrates International Women’s Day March 8th!” set in Flickr Commons, there are still a couple of important ladies worth mentioning… Who could exclude Mrs. Ida A. Kidder, the beloved first librarian at Oregon State College?

Larry Landis, University Archivist, wrote a great piece on the establishment of OSU’s Library for the OSU Alumni Association, which includes details on the coming of Kidder in 1908. It is worth the read to learn even more!

In 1899, when the first non-student college librarian, Arthur J. Stimpson, was appointed there were 3,000 books and 5,000 pamphlets and bulletins listed in the college catalog. During his two years as librarian, Stimpson adopted the Dewey decimal system for cataloging books and improved the system for loaning books. Lewis W. Oren and R. J. Nichols proceeded Stimpson, running the library from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and averaging a daily circulation of 25 books. And then came Ida Kidder! In July 1908, Kidder was appointed as OAC’s first professionally trained librarian; her arrival marked a period of unparalleled growth.

After her husband’s death, Kidder entered library school at the University of Illinois and received her degree in 1906 at the age of 51. Six months after assuming her position as head librarian, Kidder compiled a report for president William Jasper Kerr on the “present condition” of the college library. She noted 7,180 general and reference books, 5,000 government documents, and 10,000 pamphlets. At that time, the reading room was housed on the second floor of the Administration Building (Benton Hall) and could accommodate 108 students, while two other rooms held the library’s actual collection.

Kidder led a twelve year period of growth unmatched in the library’s history: the library’s holdings increased several fold, its staff increased from one position to nine, and Kidder both planned and oversaw the construction of a new 57,000 square-foot library building. This construction was well-timed, by 1912 the library occupied the entire second floor and chairs in the reading room were hard to come by!

The OAC Board of Regents successfully lobbied the 1917 Oregon Legislative Assembly for $158,000 to construct the new library building. Designed by Portland architect John V. Bennes, the building boasted space for the book collection, as well as a large reading room, library offices, three departments, and the college museum. The building was ready in the fall of 1918, and because of the wartime labor shortage, moving was a group effort. Faculty of all ranks and students all pitched in to move the library collection from the Administration Building to the new building, using a wooden causeway built between the buildings. The last books were moved in on October 30, 1918. Appropriately, it was named Kidder Hall in 1963.

During Kidder’s tenure, the library maintained a balanced general collection of books, but also developed notable collections in agriculture, home economics, and the history of horticulture. At the time of her death the library was a depository for federal publications, subscribed to several hundred periodicals, received the transactions of several hundred learned and technological societies, and maintained a large reference collection. And look where we are today …

Kidder experienced health problems later in her life and began using an electric cart (affectionately dubbed the Wickermobile) to get around on campus. You’ll see several shots of this cart at the top of this post. Ida Kidder died in Corvallis on February 28, 1920. We thank Ida Kidder for all her work!

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