By Rory Noble
More facilities were required for students, staff and faculty as enrollment grew at Eastern Oregon College of Education during the 1940s. Late in that decade, construction began on a new library to replace the small library in the Inlow Hall basement.
The library was completed in 1951 and housed all books owned by the library at that time on one floor. The books were manually categorized according to the Dewey Decimal System. Book titles and authors’ names appeared alphabetically on cards in large drawer files.
Faculty offices were in the basement of the new library, along with a small museum. The offices often housed two or three professors. Later, a calculator lab was created for students in an upstairs room.
The move from the Inlow basement to the new facility took some time and effort on the part of many freshmen. Boxes were filled with books and color-coded. The students then formed a human chain carrying full boxes to the library and empty boxes back to be refilled. Some carried stacks of books to the new library as well.
Librarians and student helpers then worked at emptying boxes and placing the books on the shelves. The library was set up with different sections that were also color-coded to keep book delivery organized. The process took most of a day to move all of the books to the new library, and several more days to get all the books arranged correctly.
In 1956, the library was officially dedicated to former Oregon governor Walter M. Pierce. Pierce had been a strong supporter of Eastern Oregon Normal School finding a home in La Grande during the late 1920s.
A special commencement ceremony held early in 1956 transferred a portrait of Governor Pierce to the newly dedicated library. Governor Elmo Smith sent another gift to the library on behalf of the state as well. The very first state flag of Oregon was given to EOCE and Pierce Library became the official custodian of the flag.
As the reference material in the library increased through the years, the interior space decreased significantly. In 2011, Pierce was officially closed on Aug. 1 in order for renovations to begin. The $8 million project included redesigning the interior of the building and creating more “natural” lighting to save on energy costs.
During the renovation phase, the majority of Pierce’s main collection, reference titles and microfilm were housed in Quinn Coliseum. The circulation desk, more reference material, computers, printers and photocopy machines were set up in Gilbert Hall during the Pierce project. The library officially reopened in September of 2012 for the 2012-13 school year.