Without libraries what have we? We have no past and no future. –Ray Bradbury
The first library director of Seward County Community College, Mary Anna (Lane) Brown, died Nov. 19, in her hometown of Shawnee, Okla. Brown, who served as the Director of Libraries at SCCC when it opened in 1969, served in that capacity until her retirement in 1991.
“She was here from the very beginning, when the library was in a different location, and when it was part of the original campus built in 1974,” said Emery Swagerty, SCCC Library Technician. Swagerty, who began working for Brown when he was an SCCC student, recalled Brown’s many stories about what it meant to build a library — both figuratively and literally.
“When they were constructing the buildings on campus, the library was used as kind of a warehouse for the supplies and furniture, with them loading things in through those windows we have now,” he said. “She used to talk about that.”
Once the buildings were finished, Brown established a solid foundation for serious academic work.
“She was a real professional,” said Margaret Thompson, SCCC Library Technician. “I had worked at my high school library and taken a class, and when I started work at the college library for Mrs. Brown, I was glad I had done that.” Thompson recalled Brown as a person with high standards and a sense of humor.
Brown attended Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern State College, earning a B.S. in Business Education in 1953. She added two master’s degrees in Business Education (1964) and Library Science (1969) from the University of Oklahoma.
At Seward, Brown established a large collection of periodicals, a valuable resource in the days before the Internet, along with a microfilm database. In keeping with educational trends, Brown worked to transform the library into something more dynamic than books on a shelf. In fact, Brown helped set up computer labs for student use, and eventually converted the paper card catalog of library materials to digital files.
“She was very enthusiastic about learning the newest methods; she saw how things were transitioning, and she wasn’t resistant to change,” Thompson said. One of Brown’s high-tech introductions to campus was the security gate, which prevented theft of library materials.
Swagerty recalled Brown’s commitment to her coworkers, one of whom was her husband, SCCC instructor Orville Donald or “O.D.” He survives.
“Mrs. Brown set up a faculty lounge and helped create a Telenet classroom for instructors and professional development, and she was very protective of the projects she was involved with,” Swagerty said. “She was a good person to work for.”
“Libraries are timeless, a symbol of the pursuit of knowledge even in the digital age,” said SCCC President Dr. Ken Trzaska. “Mary Anna Brown was a part of the college from the very beginning, and we are still benefiting from her contributions today, every time a student or team member walks through the library doors. We are grateful for her life.”