Former Oregon State University librarian Rodney Waldron died June 22 in Mt. Angel. He was 93 years old. Waldron served as University Librarian at OSU from 1965 to 1984.
A Newberg, Ore., native, Waldron came to OSU in 1954. He had served in the 77th Infantry Division during World War II, rising to the rank of master sergeant, and following his service, he received a bachelor’s in history from the University of Denver, and later a master’s of library science.
Waldron, who had inherited a love of books from his mother, threw himself into his work, first as assistant state archivist for the State of Colorado, and then as head cataloger for the State Historical Society of Missouri. After three years at University of Idaho, he came to OSU as administrative assistant to then-library director William Carlson. He told the OSU Messenger in 2001 “My first job at OSC (Oregon State College) was to keep rabbits out of the library’s window wells and to keep grosbeaks out of the reading room.”
He then worked as a librarian, and helped in the planning for a new library facility, the Kerr Library, which opened in 1963. Although that building was eventually replaced with Valley Library, one of Waldron’s biggest and longest lasting legacies was the establishment of the University Archives, which was formally established in 1961.
Waldron’s tenure as library director began in 1965, the same year he served as president of the Pacific Northwest Library Association. While Waldron often struggled with inadequate staff and budget, he prioritized student learning, and made sure that students were involved in the library planning process.
“I think Rod’s lasting legacy is that he put students first, and they in turn greatly respected him,” said Larry Landis, OSU’s director of the Special Collections & Archives Research Center. “The beginnings of automation within the library happened during his time as university librarian, and he played a key role in establishing the University Archives.”
He also fought against potential budget cuts that would have nearly halved the library’s funding, and after an impassioned talk in front of the Faculty Senate, he saw the cuts reduced to 18 percent. “You put up a fight for what you know is right or you can just go along, let the thing go to pot,” he once told an interviewer.
Waldron also oversaw automation of many of the library’s functions, and the expansion the library building. Two floors were added to Kerr Library during his tenure, increasing storage space and study areas by 54,000 square feet.
Karyle Butcher, professor emeritus and former University Librarian, said Waldron’s amazing memory helped connect her with library staff and donors from years past, and she appreciated his embrace of new library technology.
“He was a bit of a mover and shaker in his day,” Butcher said. “He was a strong advocate for libraries sharing the card catalogs to make interlibrary loan easier and more efficient. In the days before automation this was not an easy thing to do. He was also an early promoter of technology in libraries – creating the Library Information and Retrieval Systems LIRS which was an early system of database searching.”
When he retired in 1984, Waldron turned from university archiving to a more personal project, transcribing the oral history of his family. He eventually moved to Silverton, Ore., to be near family, and was living at an assisted living facility in Mt. Angel when he died.