The mission of the Oregon State Library is to promote
the establishment, development, and support of library services
to the people of Oregon; to provide library service that assists
informed decision-making by the personnel of government; and
to encourage cooperation between units of government and among
libraries. The library is administered by a seven member Board
of Trustees which selects a secretary to serve as state librarian
and to administer the state library.
A state supported library in Oregon began on August 14, 1848,
when Oregon's legislative assembly funded the purchase of
a territorial library and appointed the first territorial
librarian. In 1852 the territorial legislature provided funds
for an annual salary for a librarian to administer the territorial
library and for the relocation of the library in Salem. A
fire in 1855 destroyed the library's holdings, but under the
direction of a new librarian the collection of books was renewed.
The first state legislative assembly established an annual
budget for the purchase of books. Between 1868 and 1894 the
State Library moved to different locations in Salem before
finally locating in the state capitol. The 1878 legislative
assembly appropriated funds to improve the library, to make
it "...one of which the state might be proud." Although
improvements were made, a wind and rain storm blew the roof
off of the capitol building in 1889 and soaked the library's
The Oregon State Library in its modern form was established
in 1905 when the Oregon State Library Commission was organized
and provisions were made for the separate care of law books
and for the separate collection of documents and books. Cornelia
Marvin was appointed as the first secretary of the Oregon
Library Commission. The commission consisted of the governor,
state superintendent of public instruction, president of the
State University (University of Oregon), librarian of the
Portland Library Association, and one appointee.
An annual tex levy was created in 1905 to fund book purchases
for school libraries. The books purchased came from a list
selected by the commission and provided to public schools.
The commission also provided traveling and debate libraries
and assisted study clubs, granges, and home study programs
in selecting material for their use.
In 1913 the Oregon Library Commission formally became the
Board of Trustees of the Oregon State Library. The trustees
were given custody of all the books and publications under
the care of the commission and all of the federal and state
documents and general books previously held by the Supreme
Court Library (Territorial Library). Functions and collection
policies for the Supreme Court Library were now focused entirely
on law. The Board of Trustees, created to "...keep the
close connection between the library and other educational
interests," inherited the responsibilities of the commission.
World War I led to the addition of war service responsibilities
to the State Library's function. Educational courses, distribution
of books and pamphlets to housewives and military camps, and
the establishment of the War Libraries Fund were added functions
of the state library. State Librarian Cornelia Marvin was
appointed State Historian of Defense for Oregon and was assigned
to collect and preserve the records of Oregon's war service.
In 1932 the Library of Congress designated the state library
as a Regional Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.
The 1930s also saw the need for a new library building. Economic
conditions brought on by the Great Depression, however, left
little room in the state budget for this building. In 1935
the Public Works Administration provided funds for a new building,
but, because of limitations in its constitution, the state
was unable to accept this money. The 1939 legislative assembly
quickly passed legislation enabling the state to accept federal
aid, including WPA funds for the present day library on the
capitol mall. WPA money also provided the library with the
personnel to operate library centers, bookmobiles, and to
and clean the holdings of the state's libraries. Legislation
was provided in 1939 for the formation of regional libraries.
The state library's efforts included a 1942 recommendation
to assign an official archivist to the library to maintain
the documents being collected. The budget for the 1945-1947
biennium included funds for a full-time archivist. David C.
Duniway served as the first State Archivist beginning in 1946.
The responsibilities of the newly created Archives Division
included the preservation and custody of basic records of
Oregon's government, care for the administration of Special
Collections for the State Library, surveys and appraisals
of stored records of state and county agencies, and microfilming.
The archives remained part of the state library until 1973
when it was transferred from the state library to the secretary
of state's office which served as the administrator of public
In 1949 the state library's functions were reorganized to
serve the public more efficiently. Legislation passed in 1953
removed authority from the state library for the pooled purchasing
of books for public schools, improved the document exchange
program at the state library, and simplified state library
Budget cuts at both the state and federal levels hampered
state library programs during the 1960s and 1970s. The Graduate
Library Scholarship Program was suspended and not reinstated
until the 1969-1970 academic year. However, in 1969 the legislative
assembly appropriated funds, in addition to federal funds
received, for the library to increase its participation in
the federal program for the blind and physically impaired.
Since the 1970s the State Library has made changes in its
laws enabling the library to obtain and distrbute state and
federal funds to local libraries. The library was also given
charge of appointing the State Advisory Council on Libraries
and the State Aid for Public Libraries Advisory Committee.
Compiled by Monica Mersinger
Oregon Blue Book, Salem Public Library, Salem, OR