For the love of the library
Ray Choate Even after a quarter of a century at the helm of the University of Adelaide libraries, Ray Choate still considered himself a newcomer in the role compared to his predecessors.
Only the seventh University Librarian in the University’s history, Ray followed the lengthy tenures of Robert Clucas (30 years), William Cowan (31 years) and Ira Raymond (18 years).
Recently retired, Ray grew up as far from an Australian university library as you can get – on a cattle ranch in Wyoming, USA. As an undergraduate majoring in literature, Ray shelved books at a local library for 45 cents an hour – and it was there that his interest in libraries was sparked.
He received a Fulbright Fellowship to study in Germany in 1963 and later taught English at high schools in West Berlin before completing a masters in librarianship at Columbia University in New York.
Ray continued his travels, working as librarian at the American School of The Hague in the Netherlands before coming to Australia in 1970 to work at La Trobe University where he progressed to the position of Deputy University Librarian. He arrived in Adelaide in 1990 just as the University entered a new era in automation with the introduction of a commercial software system.
One of his biggest changes was overseeing the switch from hardcopy journals to digital with nearly 200,000 electronic journals now accessible online through the library’s website. He insisted on retaining the Barr Smith Library printed book collections as an important research resource at all levels and in most disciplines.
Other key initiatives have included reciprocal borrowing for students and staff at the three South Australian university libraries, the development of Adelaide Research and Scholarship as an open access digital repository, and in 2009 the establishment of University of Adelaide Press. Ray also played a key role in converting Barr Smith Library space into the Hub Central (a space where students meet, study and socialise).
During his time in Australia, Ray has made a leading contribution to the profession nationally, holding senior positions on various professional associations. He says the support of alumni, Friends of the Library and other committed supporters are extremely important for maintaining a quality library system.
“Generous contributions over the past 15 years of annual appeals have provided the library with funds to acquire additional and often unique research materials,” he says. “I find it especially pleasing that so many alumni and friends are also users of our collections.”
It is also a wonderful testament to Ray’s commitment that in the last half of his tenure he donated over 2,500 volumes to the library.
“To be involved with these major changes in the library, its collections and the provision of access for the University community has been both challenging and rewarding,” he says. “With the loyalty of staff, donors and the extended University community it has been possible to accomplish significant change.”
Ray will continue to read and collect with a bibliophile’s passion, and in particular will pursue his avid interest in the areas of garden history, architecture and the decorative arts.
Barr Smith Library Appeal
As we say goodbye to Ray, we also reflect on the contribution that our donors have gifted to the library during his time with us.
The 2015 Barr Smith Library appeal has so far raised more than $132,000 taking total donations to more than $1.2 million since the Appeal’s inception in 2002. Your generous support keeps this inspirational place of learning alive and offers staff and students a premier research facility where excellent resources are readily available. You make it possible for us to maintain our breadth of collections, and our ability to acquire rare and unique items which motivate and excite those who read them.
Thank you for your support.
Find out more at www.adelaide.edu.au/give
Story by Genevieve Sanchez