Monday, October 28, 2013

The Library in Pentecostalism: Three Oklahoma Institutions. Part 1

The Library in Pentecostalism: Two Oklahoma Institutions. By Marilyn A. Hudson, M.L.I.S. (2009)

[in process]

The British journalist, Holbrook Jackson, once wrote, “Your library is your portrait” and those words are indeed true. The place of the library in education is a strong barometer of the character and ability of a group to not merely exist but thrive.

As early as 1906, the Pentecostal movement had educational efforts in Oklahoma. In Beulah, Beckham County, Emmanuel Bible College was established as holiness school but became Pentecostal after 1907 and until the school closed in 1910. The annual conference of the Pentecostal Holiness Church met at the Delmar Gardens in Oklahoma in 1913 and from that, the Stratford Pentecostal Holiness School was established. The school in southern Oklahoma opened in 1914 but after a severe storm in 1915, the school closed soon due to a storm that destroyed the building. A school in Wagoner, near Seminole soon followed but also closed. In 1924, in Checotah Kings College opened, soon moved to Kingfisher, and closed in 1935 . Although, most of the institutions were elementary and high school in scope, they provide the foundation upon which later institutions would build.

Southwestern College, Enid, Oklahoma

Southwestern Pentecostal Holiness College/ Southwestern Christian University
Despite Oklahoma being one of the strongest centers of the Pentecostal doctrine west of the Mississippi, higher education for ministry meant several years in Georgia where the only denominational school existed. Several young Pentecostal men, including Oral Roberts, R.O.Corvin, C.H. Williams, Sam Greene, C.E. Neukirchner, Paul Finchum, L.E. Turpin, and many others, had a dream of a school in Oklahoma. These men had strong ties to Oklahoma and shared an entrepreneurial streak. They were representative of a new and younger brand of leadership emerging in the movement and in society.

The original Southwestern Pentecostal Holiness College opened in 1946 in Oklahoma City with a library of some eight hundred books, mostly from the private collection of the president.
For a time the books were located in a corner of the remodeled barn known affectionately as ‘McGrew Hall.” The first librarian was also the campus counselor, Noami Watts, but Marie Ellis (Mrs. Clayton Ellis) soon joined her. Mrs. Ellis would serve the campus longer than anyone else associated with the library.

As the college experienced rapid growth in the early 1950’s, the meager collection and space were sorely taxed. In 1953, Oral Roberts, evangelist, Southwestern College Board Member, occasional faculty, and one of the co-founders of the institution, arranged the donation of $70,000 for construction of a combined library and administration building.

Growth continued as the school pushed toward its original mandated target of becoming a junior college to service the denomination. Local community clubs hosted book drives and the collection grew in volumes if not in content. In 1966, following a donation of $50,000 from Mrs. Zula Light of Rolla, Kansas, the doors of the new Light Library opened. The New facility the Irwin Learning Resources Center added 15,000 square feet to create a multi-media resource center (with studio, private learning rooms, and distant learning equipment) and the much expanded library.

Oral Roberts University
The Library of ORU opened September 1965 with some 60,000 volumes and plans to add as many as 500,000. In addition, the facility would be home to a unique special collection devoted to works from around the world on the Holy Spirit. Although largely known at the time as an evangelist with his own large ministry, Oral Roberts was a member of the Pentecostal Holiness Church until he joined the Methodist Church in 1968. In 1966, the Pentecostal Holiness Church even named the ORU Graduate School of Theology as the official Pentecostal Holiness seminary, however, when Roberts left the denomination this was revoked.

At the time of its opening and first few years, the school and its library were firmly in a Pentecostal perspective. ORU was an example of planned development with results that were truly a showcase of that day and today. Implementing many innovations of the time, in both library services and education, it was a noteworthy development.

The library, reflecting a new view, was imbedded in a larger learning resources center. That concept included specialized areas for using the latest technology to assist learning. As was common at the time resources, were viewed and arranged by their format. As a result, a library held only books and could therefore not hold the new technologies. A new term was needed, one that would better reflect the new, space-age, modern, and progressive developments. When ORU opened it touted an emphasis on the new “Programmed Learning” approach and included on demand film, audio, electronic tutoring. Discussion or study groups, in addition to the traditional book based library resources, made the library a mode. This would change in the subsequent information revolution as the library redefined itself but the ill-defined ‘learning resources’ concept would linger on.

They are the books, the arts, the academes,
That show, contain and nourish all the world.
- William Shakespeare, Love's Labour's Lost


Holbrook, Jackson,,
Hudson, et all. One Nightclub and a Mule Barn: The First Sixty Years of Southwestern Christian University. Tate, 2005.
Hudson, et al. One Nightclub and A Mule Barn: The First Sixty Years of Southwestern Christian University. Tate, 2005.
Yearbooks, Southwestern College and Oklahoma City Southwestern College, SCU Archives, 1946 to 1976.
“School Launches $1 Million Program of Advancement.” The Oklahoman (Jan. 8, 1963)12.
“College Gets $50,000 Gift.” The Oklahoman (March 24, 1966):29; “City College to Dedicate New Library.” The Oklahoman (Nov. 17, 1966):52. Oral Roberts University Outreach (2:2, Spring 1965): 8.

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