Riding into the Sunset
Helping people locate needed information has been Alex Toth’s passion as a librarian and archivist at Pacific University since 1977. He is retiring at the end of the academic year.
Toth, whose official title is associate professor/social sciences and special collections librarian, joined Pacific after working for a Portland architectural firm where he organized and maintained its library. However, he soon decided he wanted more people interaction and the chance to develop strategies for finding information.
“What kept me at Pacific was the opportunity to do just that,” he said. “I very much enjoyed interacting on a personal level with those using the Library's collections and services.”
Toth’s work has involved working with students, faculty, staff and community members in not only finding information—but showing them how to figure out where to get information that is reliable, accurate and academically sound.
When he first came to the University, he worked with social sciences faculty helping to develop that section of the library’s resources. His responsibilities have expanded over the years, including overseeing government documents and special collections.
Among other things, Toth has been in charge of the University’s archives, housed mostly on the second floor of the Library on the Forest Grove campus. Items in the temperature-controlled rooms include some 10,000 photographic and slide images, student newspapers and yearbooks dating back to the 1890s, the papers of the University’s first president, Sidney H. Marsh, minutes of Board of Trustees meetings and other items relating to Pacific’s history.
Toth has recently also been involved in a joint project with the Washington County Museum which will result in a digital library of historic photographs illustrating the history and development of Washington County.
When asked what he would miss most, he said, “I will certainly miss the interaction with faculty colleagues and students,” adding, “Work in the Library is very much a collective effort. Any personal success I may have achieved is owed to successful collaboration with my colleagues.
“Once an item is identified for addition to the collection it needs to be ordered, processed, cataloged, shelved etc. before it becomes usable. All of this work requires the coordinated efforts of a number of dedicated individuals all working toward a common end—improving the library’s collections and services,” he said.
Among his more memorable moments, Toth told of “the day the HVAC compressor on the second floor of the Scott Library caught fire and I got to pull the pin on one of the library's fire extinguishers.” Another, time there was an ant invasion in the Scott Library and “an early morning encounter with one of the free-ranging raccoons that used to call our campus home.”
As for life after retirement, Toth said he is pondering volunteer activities, travel with his wife and home and yard projects. However, the librarian who often rode his BMW motorcycle to work and posted pictures of old motorcycles and riders in his office is likely thinking the most of opportunities ahead to ride.
-- Wanda Laukkanen