History of Cameron University Library
Cameron Library began as a few shelves of books housed in basement of the downtown Lawton bank building where Cameron State School of Agriculture faculty began offering classes to high-school aged farm family children in 1908. Early students employed the books housed on those shelves, required textbooks, and Lawton Public Library materials to meet course reading requirements.
In 1911, Cameron President J. A. Liner, faculty, and student body moved to a newly-constructed building located two miles west of downtown Lawton, taking the school's library with them. Boys studied agriculture, dairying, and manual training while girls studied domestic science, arts, and home nursing. Both groups completed standard secondary school courses, including those focused on English, literature and history that required them to read books other than official textbooks. Students continued to supplement the limited number of Cameron Library materials with books and periodicals owned by Lawton Public Library. They did so by making a dirt-road trip to and from downtown via horse-drawn buggy, bicycle, or foot.
Administrators and faculty transformed Cameron State School of Agriculture into Cameron State College of Agriculture in 1927. When the addition of college-level course work created a need for a well-developed library, faculty and students busied themselves increasing the collection and remodeling the physical library facility. Student writers generated enthusiasm for library development by detailing library-related improvements in the pages of the newly-born school newspaper.
Persistent administrative efforts to secure North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools accreditation status revealed library deficiencies that took years of diligent work to overcome. Negative external agency library evaluations impelled a series of Cameron Presidents and librarians to take actions designed to bring library collections and services into compliance with American Library Association and North Central guidelines.
During the early 1930s, President Charles Conwill hired the institution's first professionally-trained librarian, University of Oklahoma library school graduate Howard Way. Way, a librarian who doubled as music professor/band director, maintained a closed-stack collection, reading room, and Dewy Decimal System card catalog. Administrative funding and Way's previous University of Oklahoma library experience enabled him to increase Cameron Library's collection to the 8,000 volume minimum then recommended by North Central Association. He overcame the problematic closed stack arrangement by permitting faculty and students behind the physical wall that separated collection and reading room. Way became the first librarian to supervise student assistants when Federal Civil Works Agency Program funding made possible creation of student jobs at Cameron during Great Depression years.
The institution's next professionally-trained librarian, Arda Frans, moved the expanding collection into a newly-constructed combination library and administration building where she continued the battle to meet accreditation guidelines. Frans improved material accessibility by making a welcomed transition from closed to open stacks, created a leisure reading collection, and became the first Cameron librarian to be active in local and state library organizations. Patient and kind, Frans used the teaching skills she had developed as an English professor to help students master productive library use habits. She continued Way's practice of publicizing new library acquisitions in order to encourage increased library use. Frans supervised the Library's first full-time assistant after President C. Vernon Howell hired her with the thought of meeting accreditation-related library staffing guidelines in mind.
Construction of the state-of-the-art library building that Frans moved into transformed Cameron's physical library facilities into a recruitment and retention tool. President Howell and Librarian Frans proudly hosted an open house in celebration of the new structure, one that won its designers an award and written praise in the journal Progressive Architecture. In 1963, Cameron opened the doors of another new combination library and administration building that gave the looks of the campus a boost similar to the one that would occur again in 1983. In that year, completion of a library building expansion project endowed the library with additional shelving, seating, and computer lab space and attractive plate glass windows that illuminated study areas with natural sunlight.
While administrators and architects made plans to create new and expand existing library spaces, Head Librarian Odeal Locke, who served Cameron State College of Agriculture during the 1960s, and Director of Library Services James Byrn, who served the school during the first years of the1970s after its name changed to Cameron College, improved library collections and services during time periods of expanding enrollments and course offerings. Locke began a conversion from use of the Dewy Decimal System to that of Library of Congress Classification Scheme, a project that saw completion during Byrn's administration. A former Woman's Army Corp serviceperson, Locke's attention to detail and demand for strict adherence to policy and procedure left their mark on library operations. Byrn introduced a student-friendly library atmosphere by loosening strict collection use policies and hosting a popular library amnesty program during National Library Week. Locke and Byrn adjusted to expanded library staffing, implementation of shared campus governance structures, and more formal relationships with campus administrators. Byrn secured faculty status for Cameron librarians.
Years of collection development efforts produced the desired result in 1973 when North Central agents pronounced Cameron College Library's 102,000 volume collection sufficient to meet four year baccalaureate degree granting institution needs. Byrn's intensive collection expansion project, one that included using vans to haul books withdrawn from library and private collections to Cameron, had been worth the effort.
Continuing where Byrn had ended, successor Robert Phillips worked with the librarians under his supervision to implement Online Computer Library Center use and scholarly information database access. The librarians, who served a university instead of a college from 1974 on, made Cameron Library one of the first academic libraries in Oklahoma to transition to use of an automated catalog. Administrators President Don Davis and Provost Terral McKellips helped make possible the entry into the world of library automation. Phillips and crew struggled to solve computer system failures and help patrons continue to locate information during such failures. Director and library staff confronted harsh criticism of material withdrawal procedures made necessary by a lack of collection growth space and the need to maintain a current collection.
During the first part of the twenty-first century, Cameron University Library continued to take advantage of library-related information access improvements. Administrators and librarians worked together to secure funding for purchase of a new library management system. Librarians implemented the system, expanded database access, and began to deliver materials to on- and off-campus students in electronic format. These librarians secured radio frequency identification technology in order to improve collection maintenance and make possible use of a patron shelf-check system. New library building plans initiated by President Cindy Ross, designed to improve student learning through combination of library and student writing center services, demonstrate continued commitment to providing excellent academic library services and collections to the people of Southwest Oklahoma.