Tucked into the corner of the Tseng Gallery on the second floor of the Oviatt Library’s west wing are a set of locked glass doors that lead to the Special Collections & Archives reading room. Further in are offices, vaults, and temperature controlled rooms that house some of the Library’s most unique, valuable, and delicate items. In these areas primary source materials (including correspondence, diaries, maps, university records, organizational records, photographs, and recordings) are carefully kept and made available to students and researchers in a comfortable and secure environment.
Special Collections and Archives is comprised of five areas: Special Collections, Urban Archives, International Guitar and Research Archives, the Old China Hands Archives, and University Archives which documents the history of the campus starting in 1956 when CSUN was still the San Fernando Valley Campus of Los Angeles State College. As the archives grow the work of processing new and existing collections remains an exciting and challenging prospect. In addition, as the digital revolution continues to transform the ways in which information is both created and consumed the work of the archivist changes as well.
According to Special Collections and Archives Librarian Ellen Jarosz, the age of digitization has been extremely beneficial in terms of the Library’s ability to provide access to information about rare and unique materials, and to the materials themselves. “It has become much easier to reach the campus community and other potential patrons with information about our collections, and as a result we've had researchers visit us from all over the country and all around the world,” Jarosz says. She adds that there are new challenges in regards to collection materials that come in non-paper formats, especially those in outmoded formats such as Betamax or eight-track tape. “We're continually working to migrate materials in older, difficult-to-access formats into newer ones that we can read or play,” Jarosz says.
The vast majority of materials in Special Collections and Archives are donated; some rare or unique items, however, are purchased by the Library to augment the collections. And while many archival items are gifted to the Library, finding sufficient resources to process the donated collections so that they can be made accessible to researchers is also an ongoing challenge. “We fund processing in a variety of ways,” says Jarosz. “Some work is done by librarians and staff who are paid from state funds. Other projects are completed with grant or endowment funding, and some with the help of donors who give money along with collection materials to help expedite processing.”
As part of the Library’s ongoing transformation, Special Collections and Archives soon will be getting a much anticipated and critical makeover all its own. “The planned expansion of Special Collections and Archives is hugely important for our future,” says Jarosz. “We call it an expansion, and our footprint on the second floor of the Oviatt will certainly grow larger. But in reality, we'll be consolidating all of our staff and most of our collections into a single work area rather than being spread across five different work areas on four floors in the Oviatt.” The larger and more united work environment will bring with it a myriad of benefits. The closer proximity of the department’s team will make all aspects of their work easier; from processing and preservation, to providing patron services in the Special Collections and Archives Reading Room.
In addition to the physical exhibitions curated in the Tseng Gallery and throughout the Library, Special Collections and Archives offers Online Exhibitions and a blog called Peek in the Stacks which is updated by students, staff, and faculty who work in the unit. Both of these easily accessible online options offer patrons entree into the vast and fascinating world of resources available in Special Collections and Archives without having to pass through the glass doors on the second floor. For more information about their collections, services, and exhibitions please visit the Special Collections and Archives website.
Featured Image in Mailer and Web Version: Summa Angelica (Incunabule) - Angelo Carletti, 1411 - 1495. Catalog Record: http://suncat.csun.edu/record=b1595963