Our Washington: Providing resources

Virginia Toliver believes in the ‘transformative power’ of libraries

Associate University Librarian Virginia Toliver speaks to senior Sarah Palay, who used original manuscripts from the Special Collections’ Samuel Beckett Papers to stage the production “Play.”

Associate University Librarian Virginia Toliver knows firsthand that libraries change lives. Growing up in the segregated South, Toliver was banned from the public library. But her school library introduced her to big cities and bold ideas.

“I was shown the world beyond Mississippi,” Toliver recalled. “It changes you to know that there are alternatives out there and that you can become whatever it is that you want to be. I am a believer in the transformative power of libraries.”

As a 32-year veteran of Washington University Libraries and a long-time donor to Washington University in St. Louis, Toliver strives to provide students with a comprehensive array of resources so they, too, can experience their own transformation. She has been an Eliot Society member for 16 years, purchased several memorial bricks for the Holmes Lounge Plaza and served on the previous Campaign for Washington University staff steering committee. Toliver, who coordinated the multiyear renovation of Olin Library completed in 2004, also donated money to create the Toliver-Diallo Group Study Room.

“I am deeply wedded to this building,” Toliver said. “Because of my closeness to Olin Library, I wanted a named space that would always align me with this facility. I chose a group study room because it is a collaborative space, and I feel collaboration and communication are essential in all areas. I also wanted something that would be commemorative for my daughter and grandchildren.”

Toliver supports Our Washington, Together We Make a Difference, the faculty and staff component of Leading Together: The Campaign for Washington University. Donations will fund scholarships, support academic and scientific initiatives, endow professorships, build new facilities and strengthen departments such as Washington University Libraries.

“Today, the library is more than a place to access books,” Toliver said. “We provide more electronic resources than ever before. But it is still a place for students to come together. It’s energizing to see them here — lounging in chairs or working in groups. To know that I’ve helped provide them with what they need fills me with joy.”