Northwestern State University’s Head Archivist and Records Officer Donna Baker hosted a rededication of Eugene P. Watson Memorial Library April 24 in celebration of the library’s 50th year. The celebration took place in the Cammie G. Henry Research Center on the third floor of the library. Watson Library opened in 1972 during the administration of president Dr. Arnold Kilpatrick, and was formally dedicated to long-time librarian Eugene P. Watson in May 1973.
Monday’s celebration was planned in conjunction with National Library Week. An exhibit of Eugene Watson’s personal belongings will be on exhibit through May 18.
The celebration’s focus was on the scholar and librarian for whom the library is named, Eugene P. Watson, who served as head librarian from 1940-1964 and founded Alpha Beta Alpha honorary library fraternity with the very first chapter at Northwestern State.
Baker said Watson’s life was dedicated to “Books. People. Service. Life,” which is also the motto of Alpha Beta Alpha.
Watson’s love of words, language, scholarship and writing have had a lasting impact at NSU and in the field of library science. He was born in Natchitoches in 1911 and stricken with polio as a child that left him physically disabled for the rest of his life. He completed high school at St. Mary’s and earned a B.A. at Louisiana State Normal College, as NSU was then known, in 1933. He earned a master’s degree in 1934 and a Master of Library Science in 1937 from LSU and completed a Ph.D. in English at the University of Texas in 1951.
Watson was a professor of English at NSU from 1934-37 and an assistant librarian from 1937 to 1940 when he was named head librarian. Alpha Beta Alpha was founded May 3, 1950, as the nation’s first co-educational undergraduate library science fraternity. NSU’s chapter, the Alpha Chapter, was reestablished in 2018. Watson was responsible for creating the Louisiana Room, a collection of books and papers related to the history and culture of Louisiana, in 1940, a time when few universities were collecting regional materials in the American south. The Louisiana Room forms the core of collections in the Cammie G. Henry Research Center that includes more than 800 manuscript collections.
Located at 911 University Parkway, Watson Library is a three-story modular building with 95,000 square feet that includes a reference room, serials and media department, a volume count of more than 270,200 books and ebooks, 1,900 print and e-edition journals and 110 research collections. In addition to study spaces, a computer lab and an open classroom for staff and community groups, the library also houses the Academic Success Center, Café DeMon and the Cammie G. Henry Research Center, the University Archives and the Louisiana Collection.
National observance sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA) and libraries across the country take place each April to celebrate the contributions of the nation’s libraries and librarians and to promote library use and support.
More information about Eugene P. Watson Memorial Library is available at https://www.nsula.edu/library/.
Pictured: Gathered around a portrait of Eugene P. Watson are University Libraries staff. On the front row from left are Sherri Voebel, Kerri Christopher, Terrie Sebren, Jacqueline Hawkins, Yolanda Bobb, Megan Lowe and Michael Matthews. On the back row are LSMSA student volunteer Daniel Kennen;,Anna MacDonald, Debbie Huntington, Sontonia Helaire, Brent Thomas, Sara Rebstock, Donna Baker, Michelle DeMattie.