Norman Powell Endows University Librarian Position
By Melissa Osorio on Dec 14, 2016
“Mighty oaks from little acorns grow” goes the old proverb. In Norman Powell’s case, the little acorn was his first gift to the UCLA Library, in 1971 in the amount of $10. That has since blossomed into the mightiest of oaks, with his recent $5 million gift to endow the position of university librarian and name it the Norman and Armena Powell University Librarian.
This extraordinary gift will enable the Library to continue to redefine the research library of the twenty-first century. Funds from the endowment will support the Library’s highest priority needs, ensuring that its unparalleled collections and innovative services fuel teaching and research across campus now and in the future and that physical and virtual spaces and technology evolve to meet the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s students and faculty.
“Norman has been one of the Library’s most generous and visionary donors for many, many years, and this magnificent gift further demonstrates the strength of his support,” said University Librarian Ginny Steel. “I’m deeply honored to be the first Norman and Armena Powell University Librarian, and I trust that I and my successors will live up to the extraordinary legacy the Powells have established at UCLA.”
Though Norman graduated from UCLA in 1959, his relationship with the campus and the Library stretches back even further, to his childhood days in the 1940s when his father, longtime University Librarian Lawrence Clark Powell, came to work for UCLA. “My father said that when he was on his way to interview for a position as junior librarian, he stood in the Library’s Rotunda, awestruck,” Norman recalled. “At that point he knew it was the place for him.”
“Books and manuscripts are the original font of knowledge,” Norman continued. “Books and libraries are in my childhood and my whole life.”
Norman’s fondness for and familiarity with the library stood him in good stead during his undergraduate years. “The Library’s materials were of course a central resource for all departments, but it also served as a refuge for students,” he noted. “It was a place to get away from class and from friends, a quiet place to rest, recharge, get work done.”
Asked to compare the UCLA Library he knew then and the Library of today, he replied, “It’s still a student-friendly, magnificent resource. And the improvements since I was a student are quite an achievement by UCLA.”
“All the student resources—meeting rooms, resources, refreshments—as a UCLA alumnus, I’m quite proud of it,” he continued. “I doubt if anyone has anything better.” After so many years of admiring and supporting the Library, why give a transformational gift now? As a member of the UCLA Centennial Campaign Cabinet, Norman knew the time was right as the campaign transforms UCLA and wanted to ensure the Library stays at the forefront of innovation.
This endowment will help the Library provide services to students and faculty, enhance collections, and ensure technology and spaces evolve to meet the needs of current and future Bruins.
“I reached the conclusion that state funding alone will not enable the UCLA Library to sustain and grow its standing as a premier institution, and I hope my gift inspires others to reach similar conclusions,” Norman noted. “I encourage everyone to be as generous as they can during the Centennial Campaign so years from now we can all look back and be proud of the impact we had.”
The UCLA Library creates a vibrant nexus of ideas, collections, expertise, and spaces in which users illuminate solutions for local and global challenges. We constantly evolve to advance UCLA’s research, education, and public service mission by empowering and inspiring communities of scholars and learners to discover, access, create, share, and preserve knowledge.