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Our History

Brief History of the Library

The State Library of Oregon was established as the Oregon Library Commission in 1905 and today provides information services to over 37,000 state government employees. The State Library also circulates library materials in digital and Braille format to approximately 5,200 print-disabled Oregonians and provides grants and assistance to help develop and improve library services, and to foster greater cooperation among all of Oregon's libraries.
 
Since its founding, the State Library has been governed by an independent Board. The present board consists of nine members from different areas throughout the state who are appointed by the governor to serve four-year terms.

State Library Timeline

1905: House Bill 6 establishing the Oregon Library Commission is introduced by Congressman Linthicum in the 23rd Legislative Assembly and is first read January 10. The Bill passes the House on January 21 and the Senate on February 3. 

Cornelia Marvin becomes the Secretary of the Oregon Library Commission with a salary of $1,200 a year.


1907: The Legislature passes a law requiring the state printer to give the State Librarian bound copies of state publications, to be distributed to selected Oregon libraries marking the beginning of the Oregon Documents​ Depository Program.

1913: The Legislature passes a bill to create the Supreme Court Library (formerly known as the State Library) and renames the Oregon Library Commission the Oregon State Library. 

1932: Oregon State Library (OSL) offers reading courses. Courses consist of reading suggestions on various topics, aimed at unemployed youth who are unable to attend college; in the first 18 months of service more than 1,470 students take part. It later grows to include workers in the federal Civilian Conservation Corps camps. 

1933: The legislature approves the construction of the State Library building. 

1935: In November, a special session of the Legislature creates the State Capitol Reconstruction Commission to oversee the construction of the new State Capitol and State Library buildings. 

1937: In March, the Legislature appropriates $550,000 for the State Library project, with $450,000 available from the WPA. 

1942: “Ask Your State Librarian”, a weekly radio program, is broadcast over the state owned radio station, KOAC in Corvallis. 

1945: The legislative assembly makes budgetary provision for a State Archivist (at the recommendation of the Board of Trustees), which operates under the supervision of the State Librarian. 

1946: David Duniway becomes Oregon’s first State Archivist. 

1962: A Field Services Division is established to promote development of public library services and provide consultant services.  

1965: Interstate Library Compact becomes law in Oregon, Washington and Idaho, which encourages and enables sharing of resources among these three states.

1967: OSL publishes Master Book Catalog, the first book catalog to be published by any state library in the nation. It contains a listing of all adult non-fiction acquired before November 1965 and was equivalent to a 1,200 drawer card catalog. 

1969: Talking Book and Braille Services moves from Multnomah County Library to the Oregon State Library, Church Street annex in Salem. 

1973: The Archives Division and archival services are transferred from the State Library to the Secretary of State’s office. 

1976: Marion and 13th Street annex of the State Library become the second home of Talking Books. 

1981: OSL suffers a severe cutback in services due to a 10 percent budget cut by the Governor and an additional 10 percent cut by the Legislature. Assistance to out-of-state residents and telephone reference service to individuals is curtailed. 

1985: Talking Books moves to the State Library building and patron information and book circulation become automated. 

1987: Oregon Intellectual Clearinghouse is established to track formally challenged library materials in Oregon. 

1991: The Department of Administrative Services (DAS) requests funds from the Legislature as part of the 1991-93 capitol construction program. Some of these funds are used to carry out needed improvements to the State Library building. 

The Library changes its mission to move away from acting as a public library for the citizens of Oregon and towards becoming a special library that meets the information needs of state government employees. 

Talking Books receives a Governor’s award for providing volunteer opportunities to disabled Oregonians. 

1993: A Bill passes in the Legislature creating a State Library assessment of state agencies for library services. This assessment replaces General Fund money and Federal Library Services and Construction Act funds in the State Library budget. 

Another bill passes creating the Children's Services Improvement Grant Program (later renamed the Ready to Read Grant Program) to improve services to children in public libraries. 

1998: In September, renovation of the State Library begins. 

2000: The renovation is completed. 

2005: The State Library celebrates its 100-year anniversary. 

2006: The Library institutes the Oregon Documents Repository, which collects, preserves, and provides access to online publications of Oregon state government. 

2007: In February, the State Library Board of Trustees creates the Government Research Services Advisory Council. 

State Library is designated as the Regional Federal Depository Library. 

The Oregon Documents Depository Program celebrates its centennial. 

The State Library and the Oregon State Poetry Association form a partnership to develop the Oregon Poetry Collection at the State Library and the Poet Laureate's Reading Room. 

2009: Irene Price Society is created for TBABS 

In September, TBABS introduces the new talking book digital player and digital talking books. 

2012: Librari​es of Oregon website was launched.

The State Library moved to DAS HR Client Services

2013: Dedication of the Pioneer Room in the Talking Book and Braille Library Services Conference

2014: Reference Room was closed.

Creation of new mission, vision and values for the State Library

Poetry collection was moved to the University of Oregon

Change of Division names to:

  • Government Information and Library Services
  • Library Support and Development Services
  • Operations
  • Talking Book and Braille Library

2015: Answerland was moved to the State Library

State Library shares an ILS system with Chemeketa Cooperative Regional Library Services

Willamette Valley Genealogical Society moved to Salem Public Library.

Talking Book and Braille Library Donor Board was installed.

2016: The State Library Board was expanded from seven members to nine with designated positions (HB 3523).

The State Library Board of Trustees was renamed the State Library Board (HB 3523).

State Librarian moved from being appointed by the Board to appointed by and serving at the pleasure of the Governor.

The 1937 elevator was renovated and updated with modern mechanism.

Last staff exchange with Horner Exchange program at the Fujian Provincial Library in Fujian, China.

Government Services purchased new Digital Asset Management System - Islandora by LYRASIS for the Oregon Documents Depository Program.

Oregon Documents Summit held at the State Library.

2017: Government​ Services opened the Government Room for public access.

Rebranded the State Library of Oregon.

Launched a new logo for the State Library of Oregon.

2018: Government Services Division and Operations Division moved temporarily into the Reference Room while renovations are completed.

 

State Librarians

Photograph of Cornelia Marvin 
With the passage of House Bill 6 in 1905, the Oregon Library Commission was created in order to “give advice to all schools, free and other public libraries, and to all communities which may propose to establish them, as to the best means of establishing and maintaining such libraries, the selection of books, cataloging and other details of library management.” The salary of the secretary of the commission (the state librarian) was $1,200 a year and the commission was allotted an operating budget of $2,000.
Cornelia Marvin was appointed the first secretary of the commission, which consisted of the governor, state superintendent of public instruction, president of the University of Oregon, librarian of the Portland Library Association, and one other appointee. 
At the end of the first year, the library commission had made materials available to 45 rural communities and small cities in Oregon and circulated 6,700 books. The commission also recognized the importance of providing accurate information to the Legislature by looking up laws and reports from other states in order to “avoid the mistakes of others, and adopt the laws which have operated successfully.”
In 1907, Senate Bill 136 passed, creating an act “to provide for the binding and distribution of public documents,” which is now called the Oregon Documents Depository Program. (For more information on this topic please see the Centennial page, or reference Oregon’s Documents Depository Laws and Policies: Past and Present by Barbara Moberg.)
In 1911, Oregon became the first state in the nation to have a mail order library service, made possible by the Oregon Library Commission.
In 1913, the Oregon Library Commission officially became the State Library, and the Secretary of the Commission the State Librarian. The group that formerly made up the Library Commission now made up the Board of Trustees of the State Library. The Board of Trustees was created to “...keep the close connection between the library and other educational interests,” and took on the responsibilities of the commission. The State Library took over all federal, state, and general books which had previously belonged to the Supreme Court Library (about 40,000 state and federal documents were transferred at this time).
During World War I, war service responsibilities were added to the services provided by the State Library including: educational courses, distribution of books and pamphlets to housewives and military camps, and the establishment of the War Libraries Fund. In 1919, Cornelia Marvin was appointed the State Historian of Defense for Oregon (see Laws of 1919, chapter 400), and was assigned to collect and preserve the records of Oregon’s war service.
Photograph of Virginia Bacon  
Cornelia Marvin resigned her post as State Librarian, after her marriage to Governor Walter M Pierce, effective January 1st, 1929. Mirpah Blair acted as the interim State Librarian until Virginia Bacon began on March 18th, 1929. Mirpah acted again as the interim State Librarian upon the death of Virginia Bacon on April 12th, 1930.
Photograph of Harriet Long 

On October 15th, 1930, Harriet Long became the third State Librarian. During her tenure as State Librarian the State Library experienced many momentous changes.

In 1932, the Pratt-Smoot Act was signed creating the National Library Service for the Blind. Oregon, to comply with this act, created the Blind and Physically Handicapped Services which was housed at Mutnomah County Library. (This service was transferred to the Oregon State Library in 1969, and the name was changed to Talking Book and Braille Services in the 1980s.)

At this time the State Library also sponsored a statewide Works Progress Administration (WPA) project that employed between 120-135 WPA workers to drive bookmobiles, clean and repair books, staff service desks, and do outreach to community organizations.

Cramped and crowded conditions within the Supreme Court building led to a special session of the legislature in November of 1932, which created the State Capitol Reconstruction Commission to oversee the construction of a new State Capitol and State Library. The Works Progress Administration donated funds for a new building, but due to limits in the Oregon Constitution the state was unable to accept the money allocated. As a result, the legislature passed HB 495 on March 10, 1937. This bill empowered the board of control to accept federal aid, (which included WPA funds) for work on state institutions..

In March of 1937, the legislature appropriated $550,000 for the State Library project and $450,000 was made available through the WPA. Construction of the new library began in 1938, and was the first building, besides the capitol, to be built on what is now known as the Capitol Mall. On the site was the former Cooke-Patton House, built by Edwin N. Cooke, Oregon’s first state treasurer. It was razed to the ground in 1938 to make way for the new library. The State Library was completed in 1939, with the final cost totaling $825,000.

At the dedication of the State Library, other tenants of the building included the Department of Education, the State Board of Vocational Education, World War Veterans State Aid Commission, and the Bureau of Labor. One of many features of interest at the new library was a “model school library,” which was intended to show local school officials what a modern school library could offer.

Harriet Long passed away on July 4th, 1941, and Mirpah Blair served as the acting State Librarian for a third time until Eleanor Stephens began in November of 1941. In that same year the Oregon State Library Donation Fund was created and the first donation was handed to Governor Charles A Sprague for $1,000 by the sisters of Harriet Long.

To see the full text of Governor Charles H. Martin's speech at the cornerstone laying, and the dedication by Cornelia Marvin follow the links below:

Cornerstone Laying
State Library Dedication

Photograph of Eleanor Stephens 


Eleanor Stephens took on the post of State Librarian in 1941.  The following year saw the State Library coordinating the efforts of the Victory Book campaign.  A total of 74,000 books were received, which were then sorted for distribution to World War II servicemen and women during the summer of 1942.
 
In the same year, the State Library made a recommendation that an official archivist was needed for the state of Oregon in order to maintain the Oregon Documents Collection.  Funds in the amount of $15,000 were included in the 1945-1947 biennium to start the Oregon State Archives, which would operate under the supervision of the State Librarian.  David C. Duniway served as the first state archivist starting January 1st, 1946.  His responsibilities included preservation and custody of basic government records and administration of the library’s special collections.  Archives remained with the state library until 1973 when it transferred to the Secretary of State’s office. 
 
Stephens was also responsible for a series of weekly radio programs titled “Ask Your State Librarian” on the state owned radio station KOAC in Corvallis.  A total of 23 programs were aired between October 1942 and April 1943 on a variety of topics, of which a key feature was reading lists related to the subject of the talk.
 
In 1953 legislation was passed that removed authority from the State Library to purchase library books for public schools, improved the document exchange program (Oregon Documents), and simplified the state's library laws.
 
In 1955, the Board of Trustees was changed to a seven member citizen board appointed by the Governor.  This change was made so that the interests of the library could be dealt with more efficiently, as well as to ensure a greater representation of the entire state by appointing members from various regions throughout Oregon.
 
The Federal Library Services Act in 1957 led to the appropriation of state funds to implement the State Library’s Plan for Rural Library Services.

Photograph of Eloise Ebert 


Eloise Ebert’s tenure as state librarian started in 1959.  The first major change during her time at OSL came in 1962 when a Field Services Division, under the administration of a Director, was established to promote development of public library services and provide consultant services.  This department is known today as Library Development Services. 
 
In 1965, the Pacific Northwest Library Compact became a law in Oregon, Washington and Idaho, encouraging and facilitating the sharing of resources amongst these three states.  It was the third interstate library compact created in the nation and was modeled on the compact created by the Council of State Governments.
 
It was also in 1965 that OSL published a Master Book Catalog; the first book catalog to be published by any State Library in the nation.  It contained a listing of all adult non-fiction acquired prior to November 1965, with plans to publish bi-monthly supplements. The catalog was equivalent to a 1,200 drawer card catalog. 
 
1965 also saw the creation of the federal State Technology Act which encouraged providing library services to businesses, science, and industry.
 
In 1969, the Legislative Assembly appropriated funds to enable the State Library to increase participation in the Talking Books program.  Talking Book and Braille Services then moved from Multnomah County Library to the Oregon State Library, Church Street annex in Salem.
 
Although the State Library added the Talking Book department, it lost the Archives Division and archival services when they were transferred from the State Library to the Secretary of State’s office in 1973.
 
In 1974, people with disabilities other than visual impairments became eligible for Talking Book services.  As a result, Talking Books moved in 1976 to the Marion and 13th street annex of the State Library as their space needs grew.
 
The Oregon State Library began a project in May of 1976, in cooperation with Portland State University, to create the Oregon Regional Union List of Serials (ORULS).  ORULS incorporated the holdings of 48 college, university, public, and special libraries.

Photograph of Marcia Lowell 


With the retirement of Eloise Ebert, Marcia Lowell became the sixth State Librarian in 1977. One of the first changes during her tenure was the addition of Braille to the Oregon Talking Books collection. Prior to 1978 the collection contained no Braille, but due to requirements from the Library of Congress, Talking Books started to add it to their collection.

In 1981, the State Library suffered a severe cutback in services due to a 10 percent budget cut by the Governor and an additional 10 percent cut by the Legislature. As a result, assistance to out-of-state residents and telephone reference to individuals was curtailed. Though services were cut in some areas, the library became a joint Oregon state affiliate of the National Cartographic Information Center in 1981. The library acted as the main source of information in Oregon concerning maps and data produced by the NCIC.

Marcia Lowell left the Library in 1982 and Kay Grassing stepped in as the Acting State Librarian until a replacement was found.

Photograph of Wesley Doak 


Wesley Doak began his tenure as State Librarian in June of 1983. During the 1985-1986 biennium the OSL online catalog was established, with a total of 105,000 titles available for searching online. 1985 also saw the Talking Books Program move to the State Library building, and the beginning of the automation of TBABS patron information.

1986 was a busy year for the State Library. It saw the creation of the Oregon Economic Information Network to promote services to business and industry through academic, public and special libraries. 1986 was also the year the Fujian Provincial Librarian Exchange program was established.

Also in 1986, a study conducted by the architectural firm of Wilson, Bryant, Gunderson, Sieder, PC concluded that a renovation project to improve the State Library Building’s heating and electrical systems, add central air conditioning to the building, modernize office spaces, and improve the loading dock was needed. Monies for these projects were not received until the 1990s.

In 1987, the Oregon Intellectual Clearinghouse was established by Library Development to track formally challenged library materials in Oregon.

In 1990, the Library of Congress designated the State Library as the first Center for the Book west of the Mississippi.

In 1991, DAS requested $1,242,272 from the Legislative Assembly as part of the 1991-1993 Capitol Construction Program; the request was approved. Out of these funds a new loading dock was built for Talking Books and the electrical systems were updated.

Photograph of Jim Scheppke 

In 1991, the Board approved a mission change moving the Library away from acting as a public library for the citizens of Oregon, and towards becoming a special library that primarily met the information needs of state government employees.
 
In 1993, a Bill was passed in the Legislature to create a State Library assessment of state agencies for library services.  This assessment replaced General Fund money, as well as Federal Library Servicesand Construction Act funds, in the State Library budget. 

Also in the 1993 Legislature a bill was passed to change an existing program of state aid to public libraries to the Children Services Improvement Grant program, funded at 25¢ per child per year.  Yet another bill passed that removed the statutory mandate that the State Library provide public library services for Oregonians without a local public library.
 
Another request was made by the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) to the 1993 Legislative Assembly for $3,311,937 as part of the Capitol Construction Program for 1993-1995.  In 1995 DAS began working with the State Library Board and staff members to plan the renovation project.  By early 1998 DAS had settled on seven million dollars to renovate the State Library, construction began in September of 1998.
 
In 1997, the Children's Services Improvement Grant program was renamed the Ready to Read Grant program; funding was increased to 75¢ per child.
 
In 1999, the Information Resources Management Division of DAS leased rooms on the third floor of the library for their Statewide Technology Education Program Services (STEPS) to serve state employees.  Also in that year, Web-Braille, downloadable Braille which can be printed or read with an electronic Braille reader, was first offered to Talking Book patrons.
 
At the close of 2000, the State Library Building renovation was completed.  In addition to renovation of facilities and office spaces, the Oregon Arts Commission Percent for Arts program created original artwork by Oregon artists Dennis Cunningham, Margot Thompson and Kim Stafford for the various areas in the library.
 
In 2004, Talking Books started offering Unabridged, a service which allows TBABS patrons to download digital audio books to their hard drive, or transfer to MP3 players. the first such service in the country.
 
2005 was a landmark year for the State Library which celebrated its 100 year anniversary.  That same year the Talking Books program removed Braille from their collection and began a partnership with the Utah State library to provide Braille to its patrons.
 
Also in 2005, HB 2118 was signed which created the Oregon Documents Repository to collect and archive electronic Oregon Documents.  The Repository went live in July of 2006.
 
In 2007, the State Library was designated the Regional Federal Depository Library. The State Library and the Oregon State Poetry Association (OSPA) agreed upon a MOU concerning a poetry collection housed at the State Library and a reading room for the Poet Laureate of Oregon.
 
Also in 2007, the State Library partnered with the Oregon Association of School Libraries to begin to develop a statewide Battle of the Books competition to turn students on to reading and to showcase the value of school librarians in Oregon schools.
 
In 2009, Talking Book and Braille Services celebrated its 40th anniversary at the State Library, and in September of that year the transition to the new digital talking books began, replacing 4-track cassette books.
 
In 2010, Jim traveled for the first time to Oregon's sister library in Fujian, China, to speak at the Fujian Library Association Conference and to tour public and academic libraries and meet with professional colleagues. He went with three other Oregon librarians who were participating in the Horner Library Exchange Project.
 
Jim Scheppke retired on December 31, 2011, after twenty years as State Librarian.
Photograph of MaryKay Dahlgreen 

MaryKay Dahlgreen began her term as State Librarian in March 2012. She has been at the Oregon State Library since January 1996, starting out as Youth Services Consultant for nine years before becoming Program Manager of Library Development for seven years. Dahlgreen also served as Interim State Librarian for two months before her appointment as State Librarian. Her previous library experience includes multiple positions with the King County Library System in Seattle, WA, and Supervising Librarian in Children’s Service at the Albany Public Library in Albany, OR. She has also gained library experience in Vermont and Alaska, after completing her Masters of Librarianship at the University of Washington.

Photograph of Jennifer Patterson 

Patterson began her tenure as director of the State Library of Oregon on May 13, 2019.

Patterson joins the State Library with more than 20 years of library experience. She most recently served as associate dean of learning resources at Edmonds Community College in Lynnwood, Washington. Patterson’s prior experience includes leadership roles such as head of access services for the University of Washington Bothell, customer experience manager at the Pierce County Library System in Tacoma, Washington, and public services director at The Seattle Public Library. Patterson has a master’s degree in Library and Information Science from the University of California Los Angeles and a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Colorado Denver.

As a skilled library leader with expertise in budget and policy development and management, strategic planning, and human resources, Patterson hopes to build upon efforts to raise the profile of the State Library of Oregon and create strategic goals and priorities that align with stakeholder interests and needs.

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