Brownell Frasier was the lead designer of the Browsing Room. An associate professor of interior design in the School of Architecture and Allied Arts (now the College of Design), Frasier planned every facet of the room.
What is commonly called the Browsing Room is officially named the Adelaide Church Memorial Reading Room. The room, 90 feet long by 23 feet wide, was originally designed to have three unique spaces. According to the plans, the slightly larger central space was a Browsing Room which was flanked to the west by the Home Collection of Beautiful Books and to the right by the Choice Art Books. The concept of the "browsing room" was unique for an academic library of the time: It was designed to created a pleasant environment for recreational reading with a friendly warning that no studying was allowed. A librarian, Ethel Sawyer, was hired to manage the recreational reading collection which was circulated to the several "house collections' located in the campus dorms, fraternities, and sororities. The room was dedicated to Mrs. Church, a long-time library supporter, on Mother's Day, May 14, 1939. The original purpose of the space did not last long as the spacious Browsing Room was considered a desirable space for public lectures and special events.
Brownell Frasier was the lead designer of the room. An associate professor of interior design in the School of Architecture and Allied Arts, Frasier planned every facet of the room, and designed the furniture, floor lamps, rugs, and drapery draperies. She identified and supervised the artists whose art was selected for the room. Irene (Mrs. George) Gerlinger chaired the committee to provide funds for the furnishings for the room which were provided by over 370 sources. The Browsing Room was not furnished as planned when the library opened in 1937 because many objects were custom-designed and specially manufactured. As photographs attest, the original character of the room has substantially changed over the years as the room has been altered to accommodate different needs.
Desiring a space with the original function of the room, students succeeded in having a reproduction of the Browsing Room sited in the new Erb Memorial Union which opened in 1950. The EMU room currently houses the Mills International Student Center. The Browsing Room was subsequently altered to house the School of Librarianship in 1967 and in 1974 smaller offices were created in the space. In the 1988-1991 renovation, the room was largely restored as an open space, although most of the original furnishings were no longer available.
Ethel Sawyer, the Browsing Room librarian, wrote the book, Books Are People: A Bookman's Credo (Portland, Or.: Berncliff Press, 1951).
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"Browsing Room Claims Beauty, Uniqueness, Practicality, Rest." Oregon Daily Emerald, May 20, 1939, 3.
"Library Browsing Room Will Be Furnished Soon." Oregon Daily Emerald, March 30, 1938, 1. Article notes that tomato-colored leather chairs were being restuffed, other furniture to be added. Notes that delay in receipt of rugs is due to internal problems in China. Notes that wall decorations have not been determined, but that woodcarvings were being considered to hang over each fireplace.
Douglass, Matthew Hale. The University of Oregon Library Building, 1937.
Emerson, Kim. University of Oregon Library and Memorial Quadrangle, National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, August 15, 1989.
Evans, Lew. "Art Work in New Library Product of Delicate Work by Grads and Professors." Oregon Daily Emerald, May 19, 1937.
"The Library," Ellis Lawrence Building Survey. v.2 (Eugene). Compiled by the Historic Preservation Program, School of Architecture and Allied Arts, University of Oregon ; project directors, Michael Shellenbarger, Kimberly Lakin. [Salem, Or.] : State Historic Preservation Office, .
Wiley, Nan. "A Project in Sculpture: Four Races as Expressed in Small Sculpture." University of Oregon, 1936. This thesis describes sculpture planned for the Browsing Room.