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Memories of SSU

Steve Pickett

College Librarian/Library Director 1963-1977

(Excerpted from an interview with Daniel Markwyn, March 22, 1990).

            During the time of the off-campus center we accumulated some 6,000 volumes in the Library, all in the field of education and the subjects that were related to it, such as English, history, and science. In the ’61-62 campus year, we were in one building on the old campus. Then we had outgrown that we were given a portion of the ground floor in one of the other buildings. That’s where the technical services, the cataloguing and my office were. In the following year we moved to a new building that was built across from the old campus, a supermarket, and this was designed for the library.

            The last summer session at the center took place in the Lewis School, but there wasn’t any room so the books were put in storage. A friend of mine was the librarian at Santa Rosa Public Library, and he offered me the hatchery, which they used to store books, to store the books until the College opened. This was in Petaluma. I immediately began ordering books that would be needed in the fall. These cartons overran my office, which wasn’t opened until we got our new library the first of September 1966.

            The shelving that we needed in the new library didn’t come and didn’t come. Of course, this created quite a bit of confusion. The periodicals became a sore point. They were still in the boxes and they couldn’t be shelved.

            Prior to our establishment in 1961, the University of California established three new universities: Santa Cruz, Irvine and San Diego. Clark Kerr, president of the UC system, mandated that no university library would open with fewer than 75,000 volumes. We were the first college to get money for 50,000 volumes in the first three years. That was the nucleus of building the collection.

            When we moved to the new campus in the fall of 1966, the first spot occupied by the library was on the second floor of Stevenson. The move to the new building was ’69-70. In order to make this move with the books, new furniture, and shelving that had to be ordered and installed, we received permission from the Chancellor’s office to end the first semester prior to the Christmas break. We had approximately five or six weeks prior to starting the spring semester the first of February. The schedule had been a popular topic during discussions, and this need triggered it as far as our college was concerned. The faculty loved it.

            We’ve received many gifts but one big 10,000-volume gift we received was in ’62-63. I was put in touch with the sons of the woman who had died. She was the wife of one of the partner of a large law firm in San Francisco: Madison, Pillsbury, and Sutro. Her sons were all attorneys and they told me they had all agreed that their contribution should go to Sonoma State. It came at a time when the library had virtually nothing. These books were in fields of literature, art and biography. Everything meshed perfectly into our budding collection. To show the excitement that it aroused, a local moving firm, Bekins, Jerry Poznonavich and the Schultz Brothers, boxed and moved the collections. The people who worked the trucks were so enthused with the nature of the collection and that here was a new school getting this collection, that Poznonavich gave a donation, part of which we used for pictures later on within the library and to do a catalogue of the special collection.

            The workload that this represented was a great deal. The order librarian organized with the students a Saturday work schedule where he had volunteers to do the work, and it triggered publicity statewide. The news services actually picked it up because we were the smallest and newest and this was the largest gift that had ever been given to a college in our system. It helped Rohnert Park in publicizing itself, before this it was another place on the map.

            During the spring of 1970, following the invasion of Cambodia, there was some fear that there might be some damage done to the library. One of the things to which they could have done most harm, and to some extent we anticipated, would have been harming the card catalogue. The Registrar’s Office, and Admissions and Records had microfilm. We borrowed the machine and in a weekend copied the card catalogue, then the new acquisitions and ordered an additional catalogue card file. The only actual scare was that somebody pulled the alarm system in the Library and I needed to send the staff home.