Poage Library’s 41st Anniversary: A Time to Reflect

This blog post was written by Processing Archivist Thomas DeShong.

In preparing to write this blog post honoring Poage Library’s anniversary, I took a few moments to look at the years gone by. Specifically, I went back and read a few of the blog posts Poage students and staff have written from recent Septembers. Last year, in honor of the Poage Library’s 40th anniversary celebration, archivist Amanda Fisher penned a thorough account of some of the major milestones throughout the library’s history. In 2018, to celebrate the 39th anniversary of the library, Mary Goolsby, the current director, posted a photo collage of then and now, highlighting the dedication ceremony and how far we have come. If you have a few moments, I encourage you to check these out. An exercise in historical reflection and remembrance is beneficial; it grounds us to a larger story and shows us our place in it.

Abner McCall, Bob Poage, and others break ground on the future site of the Poage Legislative Library.

This Monday, September 21st, will mark the 41st anniversary of the W. R. Poage Legislative Library’s dedication service. The story is a familiar one for many. Again, I would redirect you to Amanda’s post last year if you are interested in learning more about our history. One of the foundational pieces of our institutional identity as a library is a quote that Representative Bob Poage stated at the dedication ceremony, a mantra of sorts that rings true each time it is considered: “I hope we never complete this library, but make it a living institution with continuous additions.”

Even now, amid the stresses and upheavals characteristic of the COVID-19 pandemic, we strive to fulfill the vision cast by Mr. Poage. Although we have had to implement social distancing guidelines and change some of our routines, our collective desire to create something worthwhile and to increase the library’s impact on our community remains strong. As an example, we have continued to strengthen our partnerships across campus. This summer, meeting almost exclusively online using Zoom, the Poage staff collaborated with Erik Swanson, the University Libraries Exhibits Curator and Coordinator, as well as Dr. Karon LeCompte and former master’s student Madelyn Greenleaf, both of Baylor’s School of Education. This partnership led to the creation of lesson plans designed to help local history teachers introduce archival materials on local issues such as water conservation, redistricting, and cultural resources in Waco.

Here’s a panel from our new exhibit featuring Fowler West and Bob Poage.

As of the first week of September, the Poage Library also unofficially opened its permanent exhibit which explores how some of our Congressional leaders entered the path to public service. In an ideal world, a formal ceremony was planned in conjunction with the 2020 Standing Committee luncheon. Unfortunately, nothing has proven ideal in 2020. We have had to adapt, and though an opening has not yet solidified, we are open for visitors and researchers who are interested in checking it out. A formal opening will be held when it is safe to do so, probably in the spring.

Poage Library has also continued to promote the use of our holdings. Major collections such as the Jack Hightower papers, the O.C. Fisher papers, the Hyde Murray papers, and the Bob Poage papers are currently in processing following a slight hiatus earlier in the spring. Staff also seek to promote the collection’s usage across campus through classroom presentations. Earlier this month, staff spoke to Dr. Michael Parrish’s Texas history course and Dr. Stephen Sloan’s Vietnam War history course – one through Zoom and one in-person. Poage Library is also collaborating with the Baylor Institute for Oral History to host an online panel on the 19th Amendment and voting rights next Tuesday on September 22, National Voter Registration Day. You can learn all about the panel at here. We hope you can join us at 3:30 for the Zoom seminar.

Mr. Poage is reminding students to wear their masks in consideration of others.

Who knew that one year ago, our way of life and daily routines would be completely upended? To be honest, who knows what next year’s post will look like? The future is impossible to predict, but the present, if properly nurtured, can guide us to where we hope to be. The staff at Poage Library remain devoted to Bob Poage’s vision. We have had a roller-coaster of a year to say the least. But while the procedures and means may change for a time, our focus does not. We are committed – to our students, to our Baylor community, to our city, to our country, and to our world.

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