Contributed by Elizabeth Altman
Del Williams arrived at CSUN in fall 1982 as a brand new freshman, and she immediately got a job shelving books as a student assistant in Library Circulation. Still in school in 1985, she was hired into a part-time staff position in the Reserve Book Room. Because her interests were eclectic, Williams changed her major several times before graduating in 1988 with a B.A. in Liberal Studies, with an emphasis in English Literature.
Upon graduation she assumed a full-time staff position in what was then called Technical Services (TS), still housed at that time in the old South Library. Her position was Clerical Assistant, as almost everything was still done on paper back then. “We filed stuff,” Williams says. “I was doing serials check in – you had to check things in on those little green paper cards.” Computers played a limited role in library work at that time, and all acquisitions paperwork had to be physically processed.
The Oviatt Library wings expansion was completed in 1991, which allowed TS to move into the 4th floor area of the West Wing. When the Northridge earthquake struck in January 1994, however, the wings had to be demolished and rebuilt. During Library reconstruction, many Library staff moved to external facilities to continue operations. “We all kept our sense of humor about it. Technical Services was displaced into trailers the first few weeks after campus reopened, and everybody always made the joke that we were in trailer #666. We were then moved to the Goat Barn, a renovated livestock space the 4H club used to use for agriculture education programs. And then we were put in trailers on the Zelzah side of campus,” Williams says. “I remember being very pregnant and having to walk to the bathroom trailer in the pouring rain.”
Williams notes that the greatest change on campus since she began as a student is the reduction of green space. “There used to be a lot more trees and open lawns that students would lounge around on. But now every time you turn around, there’s construction going on. It’s been that way since the earthquake. I think it changes the feel of the campus.” Another change is that students expect more electronic resources and use more computers and electronic devices. “But the students themselves are pretty much the same,” says Williams. “They come in looking for a book, or looking for a place to study. They just have more devices – more stuff that they’re paying attention to.”
In recent years, Library collection development strategies have changed, which has had an impact on acquisitions as well. “The former Library Dean, Sue Curzon, was invested in building up the print collection. Dean Stover is prioritizing expanding the collection as much as possible, regardless of medium; moving from print items to electronic frees up floor space, and maximizes the area available for student learning in the Library,” say Williams. For Technical Services – now called Collection Access and Management Services (CAMS) – more electronic resources means fewer physical pieces to handle, and less paperwork to file because invoices are electronic. “We’ve been moving to more e-resources and outsourcing some acquisitions processes, which means fewer student jobs. We used to have a lot more students employed in the department for materials processing – maybe 15 or more – but this also means that we can make things available faster,” says Williams.
The acquisitions unit within CAMS performs the order and fulfillment workflows necessary for collection development, including tracking budgets, negotiating vendor contracts, seeing that publishers get paid, and making sure new titles and subscriptions are actually received. Williams was promoted to Acquisitions Supervisor in 2008, the same year she received her MLIS from San Jose State University. During her studies Williams focused on technical services courses and reference, “because to me, cataloging and reference are the heart of librarianship.” Although other librarian positions opened up in the years since she earned her degree, none had the acquisitions component that Williams was seeking. “I liked what I did as Acquisitions Supervisor, so I looked forward to the opportunity to continuing to do that. One of the issues that I’ve been raising for many years is that we had not had an acquisitions coordinator since the mid-90s, and the Library needed that level of expertise in acquisitions. We needed somebody with faculty authority who could do ordering, receiving, and processing, without having to pass critical decisions to the chair. “
As a new librarian, Williams enjoys helping students at the reference desk. She also welcomed the opportunity to help new freshmen at the Ask Us booth and the CSUN Navigators booth. The shift to student support has been exciting, but also challenging. “My colleagues know that I’ve been here for so long, so they assume I know things,” Williams says. “When for me, I’ve been looking at things from a certain perspective. I know all our resources, but now I need to look at them in a new way.” The response from her fellow Library staff has been positive and supportive. “It’s really nice to see the other staff asking – where did you get your library degree? Now they can see that it’s doable – going to library school, taking that next step.”
Williams definitely sees libraries and librarians remaining critical elements of the university environment. “I’ve been here since ’82 – there have been many times when people have come through here with their different ideas about what libraries will become. Yes, they’re changing, but that doesn’t mean that they’re going away. People will always need books, and will always need help finding books and information. And that’s what we’re here for. As long as there are universities, there will be university libraries.”
Away from the Library, Williams spends time with her family, camping and traveling in the southwest. Her favorite places are Yosemite and the Sequoias.