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Edmon Low
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Photo of Edmon LowEdmon Low was born January 4, 1902 in Kiowa, Indian Territory. Low held a bachelors degrees from East Central State College in Ada, Oklahoma and from the University of Illinois. He held a Master of Arts in Library Science from the University of Michigan (1938). Low was the head librarian at Oklahoma A & M College 1940-1967.

Prior to coming to Oklahoma A & M College as librarian in March of 1940, Low served as assistant librarian at East Central State college for seven years and was head librarian for two years, 1938-1940, at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. While at Bowling Green he earned the reputation of bringing order out of extreme disorder. Low was knowledgeable in library methods, understood the complexities of technical processing routines, was highly skilled in human relationships, was creative, and was not afraid to try innovative methods or to experiment with different ideas.

While at Oklahoma A & M College Low instituted changes in procedures and methods. He proposed keeping the library open during vacation periods, created the Technical Processing Division, created the position of bibliographer, fully supported the government documents division, and instituted the charge slip check–out system that was used for 47 years. He also instituted a system of time keeping where members worked 40 hour weeks and filed a time card with their respective department heads. He encouraged professional staff to participate in professional organizations and in 1946 his proposal to give professional librarians faculty rank was granted. In 1950 Low was elected President of the Southwest Library Association and in 1952 he was elected to a four-year term on the council of the American Library Association. In 1960 he was President of the Association of College Research Libraries. Low also developed very good political techniques and lobbied before the U.S. Congress for library bills.

Photograph of Edmon Low Library
Edmon Low Library on the OSU-Stillwater campus

In the late 1940s Low campaigned for a new library and worked faithfully on plans for the new building. He researched and found the best library buildings in the country and pushed for a modular building that would offer flexibility as the collection continued to grow. According to Low the library was to be an ‘invitation to study’ rather than a ‘condition of study.’ Ground was broken May 1950 and when finished it would have free-standing book shelves where students could browse.

Low instituted a courier service between the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma A & M College and in 1967, his last year, he was instrumental in placing a new library code for Oklahoma before the state legislature. The new code would allow multi-county library systems to be formed giving the less populated areas of the state access to library services. Over the course of his career Low received many honors such as the Oklahoma Library Association’s Distinguished Service Award in 1958 as well as the association’s Special Meritorious Service Award in 1967. In 1977, ten years after his retirement, the library building he campaigned so much for was named after him. During his tenure at Oklahoma A & M College he had overseen the addition of 650,000 volumes which was an average of 24,000 volumes per year and the staff had grown from 16 to about 150.

When presenting the OLA Distinguished Service Award to Edmon Low at the 1958 Annual Conference Banquet, Awards Chair Elizabeth Cooper had this to say:

To those of us who have had the privilege of knowing and working with [Edmon Low] (and there are few here who have not), there has been revealed a character of solid integrity, sound judgement, and complete dependability, a personality of amazing modesty, elfish wit and singular diplomacy.  Jobs of work are taken without question, assignments of glory are carefully channeled toward others–and with no apparent manipulation.  Reports of accomplishments, even those concerning the fulfillment of dreams of long standing, are written without the pronoun "I" once appearing.  Influence carries through the field of library service in the U.S. and the awardee is as much loved abroad as at home–as much sought after–as eagerly followed.

Through friendly conversation, a masterly handling of human relations and complexities, and by helping people work together, [Edmon Low] has raised the spirit of the people of Oklahoma high, added zest to arduous and sometimes discouraging work, instilled and fostered in other the very concepts and ideals that are the basis of this award.

With cheerful good humor, a ready hand, and consistent good sense, he has moved among us and our work has become happier, our associations with one another warmer, our aims higher and ideals brighter, and yet our feet have stayed solidly on the earth.1

From 1967 to 1972 Low was a professor of Library Science at the University of Michigan where he had taught the summer term for years using his earned vacation time. From 1972-1979 he was the director of the library at New College in Sarasota, Florida. After a very long and successful career in the library profession, Edmon Low passed away in Tulsa on December 2, 1983 at the age of 81.

In an obituary published in the January/February 1984 issue of the Oklahoma Librarian, OSU Library Dean Roscoe Rouse wrote of his predecessor:

Known for his wry humor and his complacent adjustment to difficulties, Low was like the proverbial "old shoe" to those who admired and even envied his casual yet astute manner of dealing with problems.  While many of us were rushing through life at a fast pace, taking issue with others, and getting tense and anxious, Edmon Low remained at ease and found satisfactory solutions by the proper application of interaction and negotiation.  A trail of friendships made by Edmon Low from coast to coast mark this country as highways on a map.

The memory of Edmon Low will remain with us, but more than only a memory–a spirit, perhaps, an emblem, a shining example that will never dim.  We are grateful that he came our way.2

1Elizabeth Cooper, “OLA Honors Edmon Low for Distinguished Service,” Oklahoma Librarian 8, no. 3 (July 1958): 79.
2Roscoe Rouse, “Edmon Low, 1902-1983,” Oklahoma Librarian 34, no. 1 (February 1984): 3.

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