The institution now known as Southern Oregon University can trace its earliest beginnings to the foundation of the Ashland Academy in 1872, a private preparatory school established by the Methodist Episcopal Church in Ashland. In 1895, the University was officially renamed Southern Oregon Normal School and held classes on a site located about a mile south of the present campus. In 1909, the state legislature voted to withdraw funding for all state normal schools, and Southern didn’t reopen until 1926, when it was headquartered in Churchill Hall.
The mission of the Library at the time of the University reopening in 1926 was to provide resources for the training of teaching professionals, including a collection of the best children’s literature of the day, and “books of general culture.” The Library of 1926-27 was located in one large room on the first floor of Churchill Hall, which also housed the University administration and classrooms. Students had access to the Library’s complete collection of books, documents, and periodicals. Materials were classified by the Dewey Decimal System, and a card catalog was provided. A total of 75 periodicals and several daily and weekly newspapers were regularly received by the Library; and the Library was open on Saturday mornings as well as during the school day and evenings during the week. By the early 1930s, the Library collection had grown to 6,000 volumes, including a reference section, and periodical subscriptions had grown to 85.
The advent of World War II brought a crisis in enrollment at the University, culminating with a total student body of only 45 in the academic year 1945-46. The trend in enrollment had been downward in the pre-war years, and it was recognized that stringent measures were required to save the University. A new president, Elmo Stevenson, took over in 1946 and inaugurated the strong period of development of the University which continues today. By 1948, the Library had expanded to several crowded rooms, still on the first floor of Churchill Hall. It included almost 21,000 volumes of books and bound periodicals, and map and document collections. The core collection of reference and “professional” volumes comprised 14,500 works, and 159 periodical subscriptions were taken. The Library also held a collection of public textbooks by this time. Other services available at this time included a statewide interlibrary loan.
In response to space needs and the dramatic growth in enrollment, a new Library Classroom Building was finished in 1951, located in what is now Central Hall. The University Library was housed on the second floor and had open stacks, microform reading facilities, reading rooms, typing rooms, and staff offices. The children’s literature and curriculum collections were on the first floor. This new facility, in turn, was soon outgrown. In 1967 a modern, for the time, three-story library building opened its doors. This building remains part of the current Library building. Collection resources and services continued to expand and improve, as the University grew in enrollment and the number and type of degrees offered. Librarians began offering library instruction to students in the 1970s. The library’s online catalog became available to the public in 1993.
By the 1990s the “new” building was already at capacity. In 2000, the Library housed over 300,000 volumes, nearly 300,000 government publications, and around 2,000 periodical subscriptions, as well as collections of maps, films, microforms, and other materials. Recognizing the critical need for more and improved library spaces, a campus committee was convened to plan for an expanded library. The campus Library Program and Design Committee’s charge was to select an architect and begin development of a conceptual plan that would consider site needs, cost, preliminary floor plans, and functional areas.
In the fall of 2001, SRG Partnership of Portland was selected as the architect for the Library Enhancement Project. The planning committee toured academic libraries throughout Oregon and began participating in a series of workshops with architects. The project budget was finalized at $23,200,000. The collaborative design phase resulted in a plan to remodel the existing building and build an addition that would double the size of the Library. SRG developed construction documents in 2002 and Emerick Construction was selected as the general contractor. Pine Hall was demolished in December of 2002 to make way for the library addition.
The March 7, 2003 groundbreaking featured many dignitaries including OUS Chancellor Richard Jarvis, Representative Alan Bates, and Senator Lenn Hannon. Construction of the new addition began immediately after groundbreaking. Concurrently the existing first floor was remodeled to house the new reference, maps, and government publications areas, which were open to students for fall term 2003. The new addition opened in June 2004, followed by the remodeled third floor in fall 2004. The second floor remodel, the final part of the building project, opened in February 2005.
On February 20, 2004 the name of the Library was officially changed to “The Lenn and Dixie Hannon Library” in recognition of the contributions to Oregon made by Senator Lenn and Dixie Hannon. SOU requested that an exception be made to the Oregon Administrative Rule precluding the naming of facilities for persons who are living. The Oregon University System board unanimously approved this request at the February 20, 2004 board meeting. The total cost of the Enhancement Project was $23.5 million. Senator Hannon led the process to secure $20 million in state bonding. In years following, the name was shortened to Hannon Library.
On May 18, 2005, newly completed Hannon Library was officially dedicated. On hand were Michael Gorman, President-elect of the American Library Association and Bruce R. James, the Public Printer of the United States and head of the Government Printing Office. James came in recognition of Hannon Library’s receipt of the 2004 Depository Library of the Year Award. Other dignitaries included Southern Oregon University President Elisabeth Zinser, Sid DeBoer, CEO of Lithia Motors, George Pernsteiner, Acting OUS Chancellor, and Lenn Hannon.
At the completion of the Library Enhancement Project the bright and welcoming building contains electronic classrooms, student computers, a coffee shop, inviting reading areas, a secure and climate-controlled Special Collections/University Archives, fireplace alcoves, attractive current periodicals area, art gallery, meeting rooms, and 22 group study rooms. The library increased in size from 64,380 square feet to 122, 830 square feet. The soaring, glass-enclosed entrance rotunda features an award-winning mosaic by artists Robert Stout and Stephanie Jurs.
Today the bright and welcoming, 122,830 square foot Hannon Library offers access to an ever-growing number of resources for instructional, research, and general information needs. The collections complement the educational programs of SOU and include materials in a variety of formats. Library materials are identified and located using the Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC) which can be searched both on and off campus. As of July 1, 2015, students have access to 340,000 print volumes and 115,000 e-books, 296,000 government publications, and 1,689 periodical, serial, and newspaper subscriptions. Online access to the full-text content of journals is increasing annually through the nearly 80 research databases to which Hannon Library has licenses; students can access online content from 24,125 unique journals. In addition, over 820,000 items are available in microform, ranging from popular magazines to historical materials of scholarly interest. Through Hannon Library’s membership in the Orbis Cascade Alliance, students have access to 30 million items at 37 member academic libraries in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.
Special resources in the Hannon Library include the 9,000-volume Margery Bailey Collection of Shakespeare and English Renaissance materials; recognized collections in Native American studies and viticulture/enology; a local history and bioregion collection covering the six counties of southern Oregon and counties of northern California. Hannon Library collections include 10,000 videos as well as extensive map, children’s literature, and art print collections.
The secure, climate-controlled Special Collections area contains materials of significant historical and research value, as well as local history, fine printing and binding, and miscellaneous publications that are too valuable, rare, or fragile to place on the open stacks. The most valuable materials include Shakespeare’s 2nd and 4th folios from 1632 and 1685, as well as the 16C histories that Shakespeare may have referred to in writing his historical plays. Archives, located here also, house the historical record of Southern Oregon University.
A qualified and dedicated library staff of around 20 FTE administrative, librarian, and classified employees and fifty student workers provide a plethora of value-added services. With a focus on student success and retention, innovative student services include an online reservation system to reserve study rooms, a voice-over room with acoustics for creating student presentations, and the Digital Media Gallery to display student productions. The Library is open extended hours, with late night coffee and cookies, during quiet and finals weeks. In the first floor Learning Commons, students can receive research assistance at the reference desk, find help with computer applications, obtain career counseling, get tutoring in writing, science, and math, and check out laptops, iPads, and projectors. The coffee shop and special programming designed to promote student success, like the quarterly Long Night Against Procrastination events, complement student outreach.
Hannon Library’s web site (hanlib.sou.edu) contains customized research guides for directed research in all academic programs offered at SOU. The website is regularly updated with links to new resources. Teaching is an important activity. Each year, librarians directly reach around 4,500 students in more than 200 library instruction sessions.
Exemplary grant-funded digitization initiatives and the creation of the Southern Oregon Digital Archives have provided Hannon Library national recognition. The Digital@SOU site includes the text-based Bioregion, First Nations, and Southern Oregon History collections, fourteen image collections, and the growing SOU institutional repository of student and faculty research papers and other scholarly artifacts and e-University Archives.
Hannon Library engages the campus and larger community through exhibits, displays, programs, performances, and other events. Each year the Ashland Book and Author Festival celebrates the literary arts of Southern Oregon, bringing together authors, publishers, booksellers, and media outlets with presentations, exhibits, and book signings throughout the library. Hannon Library is a sponsor and organizer of the annual Southern Oregon Arts and Research (SOAR) conference, a week-long showcase of student and faculty research, scholarship, performance, and artistic achievement.
Today Hannon Library has become a cultural, social, and learning center of Southern Oregon University and the region, hosting lectures, musical performances, and other events and supporting student learning, research, and success.