The True University
A History of the Western Washington University Library1899-1998
By Marian Alexander
On January 11, 1968, the Board approved the appointment of Dr. W. Robert Lawyer (B. A., Ph. D, University of Washington) as director of the library, effective January 12. On July 11, the Board recognized the promotion of Herbert R. Hearsey as associate director of the library. In November 1968, Dr. Charles J. "Jerry" Flora was inaugurated as the College’s eighth President.
Planning for the library addition had continued at a steady pace even during this intense period of upheaval and institutional change. In late 1966, library consultant Ralph Ellsworth, who was retained in May and visited the campus in August, submitted several recommendations. "The basic problem here," he stated in his Memo on the Library Addition Program of October 28, 1966, "turns out be one of suggesting a way of adding space on to the existing building so that it will serve as a satisfactory library."
The Thiry addition, Ellsworth felt, had compounded rather than mitigated many of the problems of the original building, especially as collections grew and library organization and operations changed, along with the needs of library users. "The present building might be described," he wrote, "as an automobile with a 1925 motor in a 1908 chassis trying to run on a 1966 freeway." After reviewing the well-known weaknesses of the existing interior layout, and proposing alternative solutions, he suggested that only a "high-rise addition" on the south side "would permit, with a minimum of expenditure … a way of organizing the building so that it would work well as a library."
By February 9, 1967, when the Board selected Fred Bassetti as the project’s architect, Dr. McGaw had prepared extensive estimates of the library’s future space requirements based on projected enrollments, accessions, and staff. The detailed statistical summaries he forwarded to the architect on March 22 were based on the assumption that the new addition would be limited to 75,000 square feet. The planners, however, soon developed the notion of a phased approach to expansion related to enrollment projections. On May 16, 1967, campus planning director H. A. "Barney" Goltz distributed Bassetti’s guidelines for architectural planning of the library addition. These described projects, at the "present location if at all possible," providing 142,000 square feet of space in three phases keyed to student enrollments of 8, 10, and 15,000.
On July 21, 1967, the Board adopted the new three-phase site development plan for expanding the library. The architect stated that his design aims were "in summary, to provide for more students and faculty, to correct present deficiencies and to create a character which encourages student involvement, a building that is more than a study hall or a repository of books, a building that lives."
The Bassetti Addition
By late 1968, Fred Bassetti had developed the shape and form of the addition, based on the concept of completely surrounding the Thiry wings. "It was recognized that the additions would require further unification of architectural styles presented by the original building, the Thiry Addition, and the proposed additions," wrote campus planning director H. A. "Barney" Goltz on November 22, 1968, to one of the state’s senior architects. "It is for … these reasons that the Bassetti Additions completely envelope the Thiry Addition." Although the actual building extensions beyond the Thiry wings were to be only just over eight feet on the west side and just under seven feet on the east side, the planned "multiple floor increases in these extensions creates a substantial amount of usable space in the building."
The library staff continued planning future use of interior space. Attaining seating capacity close to the ALA-recommended figure of 25% of student enrollment (as opposed to the current 14%) was an important goal, as was shelving capacity sufficient for the anticipated acquisition of 50,000 volumes by 1973. Planning options increased in January 1968, when Dean Brown advised that planning for the forthcoming psychology-education building (Miller Hall) would include the library science program, then still housed in the library although administratively part of the education department.
Also, it was decided by May 1969 that music books and journals would eventually move from the main library to the "Music Auditorium addition" then under development. The music department had maintained a library of scores and music education materials since 1951. The relocation of all music materials to the main library had been briefly considered, and discarded, in 1967. The space to be made available due to these decisions became the subject of discussions about creating an "educational media disbursal center or service center in the library."
The passage of Referendum 15 assured the funding necessary for Phase I of the library addition. In the legislative session of 1969, funding for Phase II seemed certain as both the senate’s and governor’s budgets included the requested $1.2 million. In March 1969, the College notified the state that for reasons of economy and efficiency, it wished to combine phases I and II into a single project in order to achieve an immediate rather than staged increase of nearly 90,000 square feet of space. This was accepted and the appropriation repackaged to include $2.5 million in state funds along with $626,000 in federal funds. On June 25, 1970, on recommendation of Fred Bassetti, the Board accepted the bid of Cawdry and Vemo Construction Company of Seattle "for construction of the Library Addition, Phases I and II."
Even before the start of construction in the summer of 1970, campus and library planners had turned to their attention to Phase III of the library addition, which the Board had authorized on April 16, 1970. On June 1, the Library Building Program Committee chaired by Dr. Lawyer was reconstituted to include associate director Herbert R. Hearsey and the library’s two new administrators, Robert J. Cross, assistant director for public services and Dan Mather, assistant director for technical services.
As originally conceived by the architect, Phase III was to add another 64,000 square feet by pushing the east and west wings northward, with the western extension to be roughly twice the size of the eastern. It would permit completion of the fifth floor of the east wing, which had been eliminated from the combined Phase I and II stage due to cost overruns. Additional Phase III enhancements included a large archives/special collections room and service area, graduate and faculty reading rooms, refurbishment of the grandiose 1928 main reading room, and "an efficient Education Media center."
Phase III, the College explained in its $2 million-plus capital project estimate, was "planned to be the terminal major construction for the Wilson Library facility." Upon its completion, the library would be "an esthetically attractive, functional, centrally located library capable of serving 15,000 students and housing 500,000 volumes." Although the College submitted it as a priority budget item, the 1971 legislature funded Phase III at just $369,000. This amount was sufficient only to complete the combined Phase I-II project in an effort that came to be known as "Phase II b." Spaces where the education media center and other special collections and services might have been housed were finished instead as regular book stack areas. On the fifth floor, a small media center consisting of viewing and listening stations was installed and a more modest archives/special collections area established,
The Bassetti addition to the Wilson Library was substantially completed in the spring of 1972. Dedication ceremonies took place on November 4, 1972, with Senator Warren G. Magnuson giving the dedication address. Overall, the addition increased the area of the library by over 90,000 square feet and the working capacity of the library for the purposes of shelving collections to 350,000 volumes. The library also gained the "library presentation room," an 80 seat auditorium outfitted for media presentations.
The new, dramatic exterior featured the same type of brick facade and clay tile roof that characterized Bebb & Gould’s elegant 1928 building. In addition, ground floor arcades and sculptural window hoods and bays complemented the design features of nearby buildings constructed around "Red Square," the University’s central academic plaza. The library building had been restored as the "focal point of academic and architectural aspects of the college."
"We can now say we have a collection"
In arguing for funds to immediately construct Phase III after completion of Phase I-II, the College frequently cited a critical need for more space to house rapidly expanding collections. Purposeful build-up of the collection had begun in 1967 with the advent of Dr. Charles J. Flora as President and Dr. W. Robert Lawyer as library director and showed no signs of stopping. In the Flora-Lawyer combination, the College had a team that would more than match the historic pairing of Charles H. Fisher and Mabel Zoe Wilson in its ambition to propel the library forward.
As early as January 1968, the evaluation committee for the Northwest Association of Secondary and Higher Schools observed significant improvement over previous years. According to projections, about 20,000 volumes would be added in 1967/68 alone, contrasting sharply with increases of 9,000 volumes annually during the previous six years. In 1967, the state introduced a formula system for allocating funds to various higher education programs, including the state college libraries, which considerably increased the amount available for acquisitions. "For the first time," Dr. Lawyer wrote, "the state legislature was able to see the [state] college libraries in relation to the universities’ [libraries] and [was] able to recognize that the colleges deserved greater support."
In January 1968, the library initiated the English Language Approval Program (ELAP) offered by the Richard Abel Company, an academic book agency, which provided weekly shipments of hundreds of new monographs to be selected on-site for addition to the collections. The program also provided catalog cards for the titles selected, streamlining local processing of the new acquisitions. When it appeared that regular acquisitions funds could not keep up with the program, President Flora assured the availability of other funds. "Our A-1 priority must continue to be the library," he wrote in June 1969. The library also actively sought federal grants "to purchase certain scholarly works at optimum times despite unavailability of regular funds." By the end of 1969, grant funds had facilitated the purchase of standard works in political science and psychology, major resources in foreign language literatures, and microform editions of early newspapers, primary resources, and research reports.
Starting in 1970/7l, the funds available for acquisitions rose to nearly $400,000 per year.
The number of volumes added yearly continued to exceed 20,000, raising the library’s holdings close to the quarter-million mark by the end of 1971/72. Subscriptions too increased significantly. There were now 3,900 subscriptions, Dr. Lawyer reported to President Flora on January 13, 1972, compared to just 900 in 1964. Successive years of generous materials budgets enabled the library to overcome many of its former weaknesses. "We can now say we have a collection," Dr. Lawyer wrote in his annual report for 1975/76. "It is not fat, it is only barely adequate, but we do have a collection."
The library made progress in several other areas during the 1970s. The reclassification project, nearly moribund after its auspicious start in 1964, was revived in 1975/76, resulting in the conversion over the next few years of large backlogs of literature, history, music, and education volumes from the Dewey Decimal to the Library of Congress classification system. Starting in 1974, all remaining music books and scores still housed in Wilson Library were transferred to the Music Library in the Music Building and full cataloging along with a complete, separate card catalog, was provided for all Music Library resources.
The 12,000 volume School Library Collection, formerly known as the Campus School Library and housed within the Education Library since completion of the Thiry Addition, was re-organized, re-cataloged, and re-named the Children’s Literature Collection in time for an institutional accreditation in 1978. Wilson Library was made a depository for Canadian government publications in 1977/78, enhancing the public documents collections which had included Washington State publications since 1963 and U. S. federal documents since 1964. And, in 1978/79, the library implemented the 3M "Tattle-Tape" book security system.
A tribute and a warning
The report of the 1978 Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges accreditation evaluation team took note of the tremendous progress made by the library of Western Washington University, as the institution was now known. "The university has earned good commendation for the years of good financial support for the acquisition of books and other materials for the library. The acquisitions program is noteworthy, and the favorable statements in the self-study indicating strong book collections are fully justified. … The campus does not appear to have shortcomings in the library … at this time. … This situation is a tribute to the university, and the services are appreciated assets for the students and faculty."
On the other hand, the evaluators observed, "with the steady growth of the various collections, space is no longer generous." By 1977/78, the library housed 378,000 volumes, exceeding the projected 350,000 volume capacity of the Phase I-II Bassetti Addition. The collection growth rate was by now averaging about 24,000 volumes per year, Dr. Lawyer wrote to University planning officer H. A. "Barney" Goltz on October 20, 1977, and "in some stack areas we are at 100% of capacity." The long-delayed Phase III was needed very soon for, if the current acquisitions rate was sustained, "we will have a collection of just under 700,000 volumes in 1988."
The effort to achieve Phase III did not succeed, but funding was obtained in 1978/79 for the installation of additional bookstacks and some building alternations in areas housing media collections. Associate director for public services Robert Cross directed the creation of an enhanced special collections department on the fifth floor to house the library archives, campus history, rare book, and microform collections, and non-book materials such as recordings and kits. The Education Library, which had occupied the fifth floor since completion of the Bassetti Addition, moved to the west end of the second floor.
In 1975, Dr. Paul J. Olscamp succeeded Dr. Charles J. Flora as President of the University. Although administrative support for the library continued to be strong, the library was not exempt from the reductions that became commonplace as the decade proceeded. During 1974/75, reduced funding for acquisitions caused the library to discontinue the full English Language Approval Program which had contributed so significantly to collection development and growth since 1968. The reduced version implemented in its place quickly proved inadequate for the needs of departments requiring costlier materials, particularly the sciences, provoking renewed concerns about collection imbalance. Interlibrary loan requests also rose steeply at this time, indicating growing gaps in key areas.
A series of state-mandated budget cuts in the early 1980s further eroded the library’s ability to sustain the momentum of the previous years. For a decade and a half, Dr. Lawyer wrote to the university budget committee on June 28, 1982, "the Wilson Library administration has been sacrificing many things in the interests of one: building a collection." Among other sacrifices, the library had not increased its faculty and staff proportionate to the rapid growth of collections, services, and student enrollment. By 1971, only two librarians had been added to the library’s faculty since 1966 and six staff positions had been lost. The library had also opted to delay development of electronic resources and services in order to proportionately "put more of our dollars into acquisitions than any other university in the state."
Budget restorations during some of these years curtailed serious damage, enabling the library to maintain basic services and acceptable opening hours. But the impact of hiring freezes, rising materials costs, inflation, and greatly reduced options for further building alterations promised stern challenges for the library’s management in the years to come. In addition, institutional governance changes begun in the 1970s had altered the library’s historically direct working relationship with the President.
In July 1982, President Olscamp departed and in January 1983, the Board announced the appointment of his successor, Dr. G. Robert Ross. On August 29, 1983, Dr. W. Robert Lawyer, who had led the library through the heady years of dramatically expanded facilities, collections, and services, announced his retirement effective July 1, 1984.