On September 21, 1979, dignitaries from around the nation gathered on a sunny Waco afternoon to dedicate a new $1.5 million 25,000 square feet facility on the Baylor campus. The new library was built to house an office for the recently retired Texas Congressman W. R. “Bob” Poage, his extensive archives, several new political collections, a reading room, and the Baylor graduate school. Forty years later, the W. R. Poage Legislative Library continues to thrive with an active Graduate Research Center, its beautiful Jack E. Hightower Book Vault, a growing number of political archives, and initiatives designed to encourage political research and civic engagement.
Mary Goolsby was selected in January to serve as the library’s new director. She began her work with the library in 2008, most recently serving as interim director, and hopes to continue to fulfill the original vision for this congressional research center.
“Congressman Poage imagined this library as a living institution and my goal is to welcome a new generation of researchers both at Baylor and beyond to use our archives,” said Goolsby. “We are already making our collections more accessible online and developing personal connections with faculty, graduate students and outside organizations whose interests match those of the library.” Goolsby also hopes to increase the engagement of History Fair students with the archives and continue the library’s involvement in Baylor School of Education’s iEngage Summer Civics Institute.
Beyond developing and extending the use of the library, Goolsby and the Poage staff are also in the process of designing a new permanent exhibit that will greet everyone who walks into the foyer. The exhibit will feature the two signature political collections of the library—the Bob Poage and Bob Bullock archives—along with highlights from a number of others.
In addition to featuring the collections, the exhibit will serve as an invitation to viewers to examine public service. “By representing the men and women of many backgrounds who have served the United States, Texas and Waco, we hope the exhibit will highlight our collections and encourage future generations to follow in the footsteps of these leaders,” said Goolsby. If all goes according to schedule, the exhibit should be open next summer.
To honor Poage Library’s 40th anniversary an open house will be held Friday, September 20, and in November the Standing Committee, the supporting organization for the library, will gather for a celebration at McLane Stadium. As director, Goolsby hopes to extend the work of those who have served before her and leave a lasting legacy, “When I retire, I hope that the reputation of the W. R. Poage Legislative Library will have grown among scholars and that I will have helped mentor the next generation of leaders for the Baylor Libraries.”
This story originally appeared in the 2019 Baylor University ITS & Libraries Magazine. To join our mailing list for future editions, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.