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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

2012: MaryKay Dahlgreen becomes the nineth State Librarian.

The Libraries of Oregon website is launched. This website provides access for everyone in the state of Oregon to databases and resources from the State Library. The venture was a cooperation between Oregon State University Library and the State Library.

2013: The Pioneer Room is dedicated in Talking Book and Braille Services, in remembrance of the many years of service offered by Telephone Pioneer volunteers who repaired countless cassette players.

2014: The Reference Room is closed. 

Following the Reference Room’s closure, the Willamette Valley Genealogical Society is moved to Salem Public Library. 

The Oregon Poetry Collection is moved to the University of Oregon. 

The divisions of the State Library change their names to:

  • Government Information and Library Services

  • Library Support and Development Services 

  • Operations

  • Talking Book and Braille Library

2015: Answerland, Oregon’s 24/7 virtual reference chat service, is moved to the State Library from Multnomah County Library.

The State Library shares an integrated library system with Chemeketa Cooperative Regional Library Services. 

The Talking Book and Braille Library Donor Board is installed, displaying the names of people who have donated $10,000+ to the Talking Book and Braille Library.

2016: The State Library Board of Trustees is renamed the State Library Board, and membership is expanded from seven members to nine with designated positions (HB 3523). 

The State Librarian is moved from being appointed by the Board to being appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the state Senate. 

The last staff exchange with Horner Exchange program at the Fujian Provincial Library is held in Fujian, China. 

The Oregon Documents Summit is held at the State Library.

2017: Government Services opens the Government Room for public access.

The State Library launches a new logo. The color palette is natural, representing Oregon’s natural beauty, and the colors are used by the divisions to differentiate themselves while at the same time showing their connection to the agency. The circular shape is both an O for Oregon and a knowledge portal, an appropriate symbol for libraries in the digital age.

The State Library began working with the Oregon Library Association and the public library division to update the definition of the public library and establish minimum criteria conditions that a public library must meet for public libraries. The criteria pass in 2018 and pass the Oregon legislature in 2019 (HB 2243).

2019: Jennifer Patterson becomes the tenth State Librarian. 

The Talking Book and Braille Library celebrates 50 years at the State Library.

2021: Northwest Digital Heritage is launched, a partnership between the State Library of Oregon, the Washington State Library, and the Oregon Heritage Commission to make digitized historical collections from Oregon and Washington more accessible through the Digital Public Library of America.

2022: Wendy Cornelisen becomes the eleventh State Librarian.  

The Talking Book and Braille Library is designated as Oregon’s Center for the Book affiliate library. They are the first National Library Service network library to receive this designation, and the first library focused on service to people with disabilities to become an affiliate library.

1991: Jim Scheppke becomes the eighth State Librarian.

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 State Library changes part of 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 Book and Braille Services receives a Governor’s award for providing volunteer opportunities to Oregonians with disabilities.

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.

The Oregon School Library Information System (OSLIS), a K-12 website providing access to quality licensed databases within an information literacy framework, is established

2000: The renovation is completed. 

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

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

2007: The State Library is designated as the Regional Federal Depository Library, and 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: The Irene Price Society, a group for people who include Talking Book and Braille Services in their estate planning, is created for Talking Book and Braille Services.  

In September, Talking Book and Braille Services introduces the new digital player and digital audio books.

1969: Talking Book and Braille Services moves from Multnomah County Library to the  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 Street/13th Street annex of the State Library becomes the second home of Talking Book and Braille Services.

1977: Marcia Lowell becomes the sixth State Librarian.

1981: The State Library 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.

1983: Wesley Doak becomes the seventh State Librarian.

1985: Talking Book and Braille Services moves to the State Library building and user information and book circulation become automated.

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

1959: Eloise Ebert becomes the fifth State Librarian.

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: The State Library 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.

1929: Virginia Bacon became the second State Librarian. Unfortunately, she died less than a month into her tenure.

1930: Harriet Long becomes the third State Librarian.

1932: The State Library 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.

1939: Construction of the State Library is completed. The building becomes the first building on what is now known as the Capitol Mall, after the Capitol itself.

1941: Eleanor Stephens becomes the fourth State Librarian.

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.

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 (a position later renamed the State Librarian) 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.


State Librarians


Wendy Cornelisen will join us as our new State Librarian effective March 1, 2022. Wendy comes to the State Library with over 15 years of progressive leadership positions in libraries. Wendy started her library career as a Reference Librarian in a public library outside of Nashville, TN. Her next position was managing the Tennessee Electronic Library, a statewide resource, at the Tennessee State Library & Archives. In 2014, she became the Assistant State Librarian at the Georgia Public Library Service where, in 2021, Wendy served as the Georgia Library Association President. 

Wendy has an MLIS from University of Tennessee, Knoxville and a B.S. in Anthropology from Iowa State University. In 2020, she was awarded both the 2020 ALA-ASGCLA Leadership & Professional Achievement Award and the School of Information Science Alumni Innovator Award. These were awarded in recognition of her many years of accomplished service to the libraries of Tennessee and Georgia, and for her dedication and leadership in building a state-wide eBook service for Georgia’s youngest readers, a service that was heavily used during the pandemic.

Photograph of Jennifer Patterson 

Jennifer Patterson joined the State Library with over 20 years of library experience, including leadership in 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 obtained 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.

Prior to her position with the library, she served as Associate Dean of Learning Resources   at Edmonds Community College in Lynnwood, Washington. Her skills as a library leader with expertise in budget and policy development and management, strategic planning, and human resources led to her obtaining the position of State Librarian of Oregon in May of 2019.

During her first year, Talking Books celebrated its 50th anniversary. During the legislative session, House Bill 2243 passed, which updated the legal definition of a public library in Oregon and required the State Library Board to establish minimum conditions that a public library must meet. Patterson convened a Rulemaking Advisory Committee who guided the creation of the minimum conditions. These conditions were approved by the State Library Board on October 18, 2019, and became effective on January 1, 2020, as OAR 543-010-0036.

At the start of 2020, Patterson worked with staff and the Board to implement a new mission and vision for the State Library, finalize a new strategic plan, and develop equity and antiracism statements and goals.

Unfortunately, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic then arrived in Oregon, forcing all State Library services to temporarily move from in-person to virtual. Patterson and staff worked closely with the governor’s office to develop guidance for libraries across the state navigating this challenging crisis while continuing to deliver services to patrons.

Late in 2020 the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) act passed. The State Library received CARES monies from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and used the funds to administer grants to support libraries during this difficult time. Following the CARES Act, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) passed in 2021, providing even more economic relief as the pandemic continued to surge and prevent in-person services. The State Library received ARPA monies again from IMLS and began to issue more grants to support Oregon libraries and museums.

Jennifer resigned in May of 2021 to rejoin her family in Washington state.

Photograph of MaryKay Dahlgreen 

MaryKay Dahlgreen began her term as State Librarian in March 2012. She had previously been at the State Library since January 1996, starting out as Youth Services Consultant for nine years before becoming Program Manager of Library Development for seven years. Her previous library experience included 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 also had library experience in Vermont and Alaska, after completing her Masters of Librarianship at the University of Washington.

Dahlgreen served as Interim State Librarian for two months before her appointment as State Librarian. During this time, the budget at the library had been under review, and a note was included by the Governor to remove the Government Research Services (GRS) division. Under Marykay’s supervision, efforts were made to reorganize the library to ensure GRS would remain and continue to provide their services. MaryKay worked with transformation teams made up of representatives from the Governor’s Office, the legislature, the library community, and State Library staff, which resulted in a legislatively-approved budget for the 2013-15 biennium that included funding for the GRS division.

In 2012, the Libraries of Oregon website was launched. This website provides access for everyone in the state of Oregon to databases and resources from the State Library. The venture was a cooperation between Oregon State University Library and the State Library.

In 2013, the Talking Book and Braille Library went through several changes, including a renovation of their office space and the introduction of the BARD Mobile app.

In 2014, it was determined that the Willamette Genealogical Society was no longer a function of the State Library and was moved to the Salem Public Library.

In 2015, the state legislature determined that the State Librarian would no longer be appointed by the State Library Board and would instead be appointed by the Governor’s office. This legislation  also clarified some of the library roles and partnerships, including the archives and state law library.

During that year, the library made a large effort to digitize the Oregon Index. This effort was completed over the course of a couple years and with the inter-agency help of the Department of Revenue.

A workgroup was formed to discuss Answerland, the statewide 24-hour virtual reference service, resulting in the move from Multnomah County Library to the State Library. Answerland has been housed in the State Library ever since.

In 2016, MaryKay traveled to China as a member of the sister library delegation with Fujian Provincial Library. She spent two weeks visiting libraries and meeting with their director, and she also spoke at the Fujian Library event.

In 2017,  the State Library began working with the Oregon Library Association to update the definition of the public library and establish minimum conditions that a public library must meet. These were later passed by the Oregon legislature in 2019 (HB 2243).

Unfortunately, due to the legislative changes made in 2015 affecting who appoints the State Librarian, MaryKay was not confirmed by the senate in 2018 and was removed from service as State Librarian.  She served as Lincoln County Library District Director from 2018 - 2023, when she retired.

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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 became the state librarian, with Cornelia becoming the first 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 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.

Cornelia's efforts to develop free library service across the state had long-lasting impact. The number of public libraries in Oregon grew from 3 to 82 during her tenure as State Librarian. Cornelia left the State Library in 1928, marrying former Oregon governor Walter M. Pierce, who became a member of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1932.

Cornelia's legacy is marred by the fact that she was a strong proponent of eugenics and a supporter of the American Breeders Association. She backed the fight for the enactment of eugenics laws in Oregon, which sought to improve the genetic quality of the human race by restricting marriage and reproductive rights for individuals deemed degenerate. She “viewed her promotion of the sterilization law as an extension of her responsibilities as State Librarian and also as a tool for improving society" (Gunselman, 2009).  Walter Pierce was known to be affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan, and in 1923 signed the Oregon Alien Land Law that banned Japanese and Chinese nationals from buying and leasing land in Oregon. Cornelia held abhorrent racist beliefs that run counter to the State Library's current mission and values. To learn more about her, see A Matriarch With Many Sides: Contextualizing Oregon's First State Librarian.​​


Gunselman, C. (2009, Fall). “Wheedling, wangling, and walloping" for progress: the public service career of Cornelia Marvin Pierce, 1905-1943. Oregon Historical Quarterly, 110(3). Retrieved from