Warhawk Almanac: The Legacy of Gary J. Lenox

Suppose you have visited the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater at Rock County. In that case, you may have noticed a circular-shaped building with many large, picturesque windows as you enter the parking lot. This building, situated within Allen Hall, is recognized as the Gary J. Lenox Library. But who was Gary Lenox, and what made his name worthy of labeling the UW-Rock County Library?

Lenox Library Outside

Gary J. Lenox was the first librarian on the University of Wisconsin-Rock County campus and stayed in that position for 30 years. Before UW-Rock County, he earned his bachelor’s in English from the University of Minnesota. He later completed a master’s in library science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1966.[1] He was included in the early preparation of the university and played a pivotal role in developing the university’s library resources. During the first semester of campus operations, the campus acknowledged the library as one of the student’s favorite campus places, despite incomplete shelving and collections.[2] In 1972, the library had grown to 35,000 volumes and was noted as the largest in the UW Center System, largely thanks to Lenox.[3]

Gary Lenox at desk

Lenox in stacks

Lenox was a unique style of librarian, especially for his time. He fiercely believed in students’ intellectual freedom and worked tirelessly to meet the needs of his students.[4] He believed that library collections should have all types of materials available to students, even those that may be questionable. He said, “How can one know what’s good if one has nothing with which to compare it?”.[5] These beliefs drove him to develop extensive collections that would allow students to explore the bounds of their curiosity, both academically and recreationally.[6] Lenox would continue to advocate for intellectual freedom for students until he suddenly passed away at the bookstore he owned in Delavan, WI, in 1996.[7] Lenox’s death shocked the campus and the surrounding community, and they quickly responded by pushing to have the library memorialize Lenox’s legacy.[8] Many university libraries wear titles in honor of members of the Board of Regents or other higher officials, not the librarians who help them operate. Still, Lenox’s influence was enough to justify the name change.

Lenox Construction

Inside Lenox Library

In 2008, the campus celebrated the opening of Allen Hall, which connected the previously isolated Hyatt-Smith Hall and Andrews Hall. This building also included an updated, modern library that would continue to honor Gary Lenox.[9] Gary Lenox solidified intellectual freedom into the culture of the UW-Rock County campus. The library remains a student-focused space and continues to advocate for intellectual freedom today.   

[1] Duane Millard, “Gary Lenox: Teacher Feature…”, The Matrix, May 2, 1968, 4. https://www.jstor.org/stable/community.34666540 (accessed on July 7, 2023).

[2] “UW Campus Opens, a Milestone in Education Here”, Janesville Daily Gazette, December 31, 1966, 6D. https://access-newspaperarchive-com.libproxy.uww.edu:9443/us/wisconsin/janesville/janesville-daily-gazette/1966/12-31/page-101/ (accessed on July 7, 2023). 

[3] “UWRC library’s 35,000 volumes: largest in Center System”, The Matrix, February 11, 1972, 7. https://www.jstor.org/stable/community.34666561 (accessed on July 7, 2023).

[4] Ibid, 7.

[5] Millard, “Gary Lenox”, 4. 

[6] “Library: Place for Casual Study”, The Matrix, undated, 11. https://www.jstor.org/stable/community.35002579 (accessed on July 7, 2023).

[7] Scott Milfred, “An arts legacy: Community praises Lenox for contributions”, Janesville Daily Gazette, August 22, 1996, 1. https://access-newspaperarchive-com.libproxy.uww.edu:9443/us/wisconsin/janesville/janesville-gazette/1996/08-22/ (accessed on July 7, 2023).

[8] “911/Commission debate may not be over yet”, Janesville Daily Gazette, November 22, 1996, 11. https://access-newspaperarchive-com.libproxy.uww.edu:9443/us/wisconsin/janesville/janesville-gazette/1996/11-22/page-11/ (accessed on July 7, 2023).

[9] “New Allen Hall Offers Places to Learn, Study and Connect on Campus”, Janesville Daily Gazette, April 13, 2008, 22. https://access-newspaperarchive-com.libproxy.uww.edu:9443/us/wisconsin/janesville/janesville-gazette/2008/04-13/page-22/ (accessed on July 7, 2023).

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