Watzek at 50
The library was established with the founding of the college in 1867. The Albany Library and Literary Institute, organized by the town’s residents in 1865, donated its collection of books to the new Albany Collegiate Institute. The library remained a basic operation, with no full-time librarian until 1928, when Alice C. Graham joined Albany College staff. When the college closed its Albany campus and relocated its operations to downtown Portland in 1938, Graham established a temporary library in the rented basement of the First Church of the Nazarene. Four years later, she oversaw the library’s move to what is now the Albany Quadrangle on the Fir Acres campus. Under her successor, Ruth Rockwood, it was named the Wallace Howe Lee Library in honor of the former college president and his devotion to the institution. Under Laurence Tomlinson, librarian from 1947 to 1965, the number of library volumes tripled, laying the foundation for the current Watzek collection.
The opening ceremony of Aubrey R. Watzek Library in 1967 was the culmination of twenty-five years of work by students, faculty, and administrators to create an adequate library for their college campus. The Lee library had become insufficient to meet the needs of the growing student body and faculty. Multiple plans for a new library building were drawn as early as 1951, but financial insecurity postponed the project each year until it was shelved indefinitely in 1960.
The project was revitalized on the leadership of President John R. Howard. In the summer of 1964, through successful fundraising and federal grants, the college could start taking bids for the construction of a new library. Noted Seattle architect Paul Thiry was hired to design the new building. Its completion in 1967 was marked by the 100th anniversary of the college. On September 11, 1992, a fire damaged much of the building’s lower level. In addition to repairing the damage, the college embarked on a major renovation of the library. Architect Thomas Hacker’s design retained important elements of Paul Thiry’s original plan, but relocated the main entrance, added the south wing, and enclosed the atrium. These renovations more than doubled the size and capacity of the library.