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The Marilyn Potts Guin Library can be compared to an ecosystem. Like an ecosystem, this OSU branch library has evolved over its life, from barely a room with a file cabinet of article reprints and a shelf of books to a cozy room tucked into the second floor of HMSC’s Education Building to its current 20,000 square foot iteration as a hub for the Center. Its evolution has been shaped by the librarians who have managed it and the people who use it.
The Guin Library houses the research and teaching collection of Oregon State University's Hatfield Marine Science Center. The collection covers a broad range of marine-related topics including fisheries, aquaculture, oceanography, geology, environmental studies and biology.
Particular attention is paid to collecting material on marine fisheries, marine mammals, and information specific to the Northeast Pacific Ocean.
Researchers, students and staff use traditional and electronic tools to access both the local and main campus collections as well as resources throughout the world.
The Hatfield Marine Science Center Library was named as a memorial to Marilyn Potts Guin who served as the Marine Science Center's first Librarian from September 1976 until her death in December 1989.
She came to OSU with a library degree (M.L.S., University of Oklahoma, 1971) and then, after becoming fascinated with the marine world, she pursued a masters degree in Oceanography (M.S., Oceanography, Oregon State University, 1978).
With that accomplished, she convinced the director of the Hatfield Marine Science Center, Lavern Weber, that Hatfield needed a real library with a real librarian.
The Education Building had space for a library and in 1976, Marilyn promptly started filling it with a well-crafted collection to support the scientists and students working and studying in Newport.
The field station was evolving into a multi-agency research campus, and the library changed with it. She recognized what information people needed before they did.
Under her exuberant guidance, the collection grew and the library is now an integral part of the Hatfield Marine Science Center.
The library was officially dedicated in her memory on July 4th, 1990.
The Hatfield Marine Science Center Library Before the New Building
In 1988, funding came through the Environmental Protection Agency for a new saltwater lab AND a new library. Marilyn worked with Mel George, the University Librarian, and the Steering Committee for the Friends of the HMSC Library: John Chapman, Jim Lannan, Rick Starr, and Ted DeWittto to design a building that would be flexible to accommodate growth while intimate enough to fit into the culture of HMSC.
Unfortunately, Marilyn lost her fight with cancer December 2, 1989 while the building was still under construction. Fortunately, she had hired Janet Webster as a part-time assistant earlier that year and so Janet took over running the library and figuring out how to configure the new space.
Janet was new to science librarianship but not new to the coast. She was drawn to OSU because of its role as a land grant institution – one that worked for all Oregonians on the issues and ideas that challenged them. At the library’s dedication on July 4th 1990, she celebrated Marilyn’s legacy, freedom of speech and the people that make a library work. It was a full day as HMSC was celebrating its 25th anniversary and the Oregon Coast Aquarium was breaking ground next door.
Over the next 25 years, Janet saw students come and go, research programs flourish and others fade, and the information world change. HMSC people focus on research and management of the marine environment. They are there because they needed running seawater for their work, had to be close to the marine environment for experiments or worked with people in the coastal communities. The library’s collection expanded into new areas, particularly around policy and management. Some disciplines such as toxicology and pharmacy became less important as genetics and climate change increased visibility. This meant working with the Valley Library librarians to reshape collections as needed. The Guin Library could respond to new demands in part because the Valley Library retained archival and core collections. We also built on our relationships with OSU departments, state and federal agencies and international colleagues to partner in the preservation of obscure and valuable information.
The switch to digital information came quickly for the libraries, but scientists were a little reluctant to let go of print. Now students and scientists are hard pressed to imagine going back to print journals. That switch allowed Janet and her dedicated staff to consider removing long physical runs of journals and open space up for different uses. In 2014, the Guin Library was remodeled to increase meeting room space and to take advantage of the wonderful natural light for better study areas.
The 2014 remodel was possible due to Marilyn Guin’s legacy. She left her house to HMSC and when it was decided that it would be better to sell it, the proceeds were dedicated to library needs. These funds helped reconfigure the spaces to meet current needs.
In January 2015, Janet retired just as the Marine Studies Initiative was gaining momentum. Mary Markland took over leadership of the Guin Library. Mary came to Guin Library with an extensive background in science librarianship and a long-held interest in the marine sciences. She had always dreamed of working at a marine research facility and was familiar with the HMSC as a tourist to the Oregon coast. It seemed like a grand opportunity for her. She is focused on envisioning the library in light of the OSU Marine Studies Initiative that is projected to bring hundreds of new undergraduate students to HMSC to study and experience the coast across disciplines. Consequently, she is looking at how undergraduate students study and research. She is tuned into their need for both intellectual encouragement and relaxation. Simple changes such as changing furniture to accommodate small groups and relaxed conversation demonstrate her eye for the evolving library.
The library ecosystem has evolved from a place for books and journals to a place for people to meet, study and talk. Its services have changed from accommodating circulation of print material to facilitating access to digital information.
Through all of this, the librarians and library staff of the Guin Library have emphasized that the library is a visible and vital part of HMSC and beyond. It’s important to emphasize that while the professional librarians have guided the development of the library ecosystem, the small but mighty staff have been instrumental in keeping the system moving forward.
Graduate students rely on the library for quiet space while undergraduates look for collaborative experiences. The scientists use it as a gateway to find the information needed to foster their research. International colleagues in the network of marine libraries use us a resource just as we count on them for obscure resources. People at the Corvallis campus know that the Guin Library is the place for marine information. The Library will continue to evolve as the people who use it and the community around it change.
After 30 years of service, it’s time for another tweak to the building.
Many groups use the meeting rooms for conversations, classes, workshops and more. The original kitchen was designed so graduate students and others could put their lunch in the refrigerator, microwave their cup of coffee and rinse their dishes in the sink. It doesn’t work when catering lunch for 50 workshop participants. Also, the original Seminar Room furniture has always been beautiful, but difficult to configure and move. Janet remarked that if she had a dime for every time she had stacked chairs and moved tables, the Guin Library Endowment would be worth over a million dollars.
As part of our celebration of 30 years in the Guin Library and over 45 as the library at HMSC, we are starting an effort to raise $50,000 to bring the space and its services up another notch. Donations to the Guin Library Fund can be made through the OSU Foundation. Look for the section called "Don't see the area you would like to support?" and write in Guin Library.
HMSC Library History Pre-1990:
Range Bayer came to the Marine Science Center (as it was known then) in 1974 as a graduate student and worked as a library assistant before the Guin Library was built.
He speaks primarily of his association with the HMSC library, initially as a student worker and later as a custodian. In this, he reflects on the impact made by Marilyn Potts Guin, HMSC's first professional librarian, noting in particular her forward-thinking vision for the role of computers within libraries.
Guin Library Director 1990-2015
Janet Webster: Memories of the Guin Library, November 14, 2014
Guin Library Technician III 1988-2015
Susan Gilmont: September 17, 2018
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