Securing a dedicated space for leisure reading in the Oviatt Library has been a longtime objective for Robert (Bob) Gohstand. A Professor Emeritus from the Department of Geography in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences here at CSUN, Gohstand was a member of the Faculty Senate Library Committee for two decades and served as the chair of the committee for 10 of those years. Gohstand remains an ardent supporter of the community, the campus, and particularly the Oviatt Library, where he continues to serve on the Board of Directors for the Friends of the Library and as Director of the Old China Hands Archive.
When asked about the origins of the Robert and Maureen Gohstand Leisure Reading Room and his impetus to see the project through, Gohstand readily shares that his relationship with books and reading is a long and passionate one. “I have been an avid reader since early childhood. Growing up in Shanghai, China, in the late ‘30s and the 1940s, during part of which time we were under Japanese occupation, our recreational opportunities were limited,” Gohstand says. “What we always had, however, were books.” He goes on to explain the impact that books had on him as a boy. “Books were checked out of libraries, saved for, bought, borrowed and exchanged. We read history, science, exploration, and lots of fiction and poetry (children were expected to recite before company in those days). We lived in worlds of imagination stimulated by reading. This was a habit I never lost.”
Gohstand says that the idea of creating a leisure reading room at CSUN stemmed in part from the happy times he spent in the beautiful Morrison Library when he was a student at the University of California at Berkeley. The Morrison Library opened in 1928 and was designed specifically to provide students a place to escape the academic pressure of their day-to-day college routines. “It provided a wonderful respite from the stress of classes and assignments,” Gohstand says. So, when the blueprints for the construction of two additional Library wings for the Oviatt were presented to the Faculty Senate Library Committee while Gohstand was chair in the late 1980s, he was struck by the absence of a recreational reading space. “I led a successful effort to modify the plans, and the first version of the Reading Room, located in the basement of the new west wing, was opened in 1991,” Gohstand says. Unfortunately, that reading room survived only until 1994. The violent Northridge Earthquake and the resulting damage would require that the entire west wing be demolished.
The Oviatt was rebuilt, and when the new wings opened in 2000, the Reading Room was resurrected in the space it now occupies in the West Wing on the second floor. Since its reopening, the room has evolved gradually, and major improvements were eventually made possible by generous student support in the form of Campus Quality Fee (CQF) funding. The CQF grant helped with the purchase of new furniture that emphasized comfort, and the addition of more bookcases. Another major change took place when Gohstand and his wife, Maureen, decided to create and fund an endowment to help support the room and its collection of books well into the future. “I cannot imagine a life without reading, which I absolutely believe stimulates introspection, imagination, consideration of ethical values, a mastery of language, and writing ability” Gohstand adds. “It is also hugely entertaining.”
Gohstand’s zeal for the reading room project was met with a kindred enthusiasm from Oviatt Library Dean Mark Stover. “Leisure reading – reading for pure pleasure – is not only a great way to relax and enjoy literature of all genres, but is also a gateway to increased literacy. Reading stimulates the mind and the heart. It allows us to explore new worlds, meet many different types of people, and become aware of the great diversity that exists in the world,” Stover says. The eventual goal for the Robert and Maureen Gohstand Leisure Reading Room is all of that and more. Along with providing a comfortable, quiet, and attractive place to enjoy the tranquil pleasures of reading, there will be an active webpage that will share news items related to the room’s growing collection, updates about the collection’s ongoing curation, and information about Reading Room special events. “I am excited that we can offer our students a comfortable and inviting space like the Robert and Maureen Gohstand Leisure Reading Room,” says Stover.
The inaugural event for this much enhanced and newly named space will be a dedication in the room on October 22, from 4:00 – 6:00 p.m. The reception and celebration will include a keynote address by CSUN English Professor and current Faculty Senate Library Committee Chair Charles Hatfield. Dr. Hatfield’s address will be the first of what will be a biennial lecture series about reading. For more information about this event, please call 818 677-2638.