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Message from the Dean - Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow: Yesterday’s Gone (But Not Forgotten)

eNews Edition: Fall 2022

Many of us (myself included) have a sentimental view of the past. We romanticize it and forget that the world is a different place now – and we forget that trying to hold onto the past is often counter-productive. But British author and mathematician Lewis Carroll (and his unforgettable protagonist Alice) was a bit more clear-eyed about the past and the present, and the difference between the two. He wrote in Alice in Wonderland, "It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then."

University libraries aren’t exactly falling down the rabbit hole, but they continue to evolve, sometimes in subtle ways, other times in more substantive ways. This issue of the CSUN Library eNews includes three articles that demonstrate some of the changes that we in the University Library are experiencing, and how these changes fit into our overall mission.

Renovation from the inside out

CSUN University Library Dean Mark Stover
CSUN University Library Dean Mark Stover

Associate Dean Kathy Dabbour’s article on recent Library renovations is a perfect example of how libraries in higher education are changing for the better. She discusses a variety of internal building projects that continue to provide CSUN students with a more welcoming environment for study space. The Library is offering a more diverse atmosphere as well, in that we provide a variety of learning space modalities: individual study, collaborative study, quiet areas and “noise-friendly” spaces. To accomplish this goal, we’ve shifted our book collection to the higher floors and in some cases moved print materials to our Automated Storage and Retrieval System. We have removed some of our ranges of shelves and replaced them with new carpet and new technology-enabled furniture. The result, at least on the 2nd floor of the Library, is a wide open, expansive area that takes advantage of our spacious windows to the north and gives students a clean, sleek collaborative study area. A similar transformation took place on the 4th floor, East Wing, though on a smaller scale. The main difference between the 4th floor renovation and the 2nd floor is that the 4th floor is meant to be a quiet study area. These changes are consistent with the Library’s philosophy of encouraging collaborative study spaces on the lower floors of the building but mandating quiet study on the upper floors. In addition, one might say that the CSUN University Library is moving away from the idea of “the library as static book repository” to a more dynamic, invigorating space that combines the traditional “look-and-feel” of book stacks and study carrels on some floors with a more modern, collaborative approach on the 1st and 2nd floors.

Community engagement

The CSUN University Library has, since its early days over 60 years ago, been concerned about engagement with both students and the broader community. These intellectual and cultural connections were accomplished through a variety of means, including special lectures, exhibits, artwork, and fine printing from the Santa Susana Press. Exhibits and special lectures continue to meet the need of community engagement today, but sometimes they take on an edgier tone that is arguably more relevant to the demographic majority of CSUN and the city of Los Angeles. The best example of this new direction is the current major exhibit in the Library, written about in this issue of the University Library eNews by Elizabeth Altman. Denise Sandoval has created a powerful picture of Los Angeles Latinx life through her curation of an exhibit focused on the culture of lowrider cars and their importance to the region. For those of us who are not familiar with lowrider culture, the exhibit will be enriching yet also provocative – which will differentiate it from some of our less colorful exhibits from the past. Please come and visit this compelling exhibit, which will be available through mid-2023, to take in the full impact of its powerful message.

Library Makerspace

In this issue of the University Library eNews, Eva Cohen describes the new and improved Creative Maker Studio (CMS) and its evolution from a primarily digital media focused space to a hybrid space that still has a recording studio but also has high-tech tools (like 3-D printers) that create tangible artifacts; a virtual reality lab; craft-oriented tools like sewing machines and vinyl cutters; and a high-end production room. The new CMS continues to fit in well with the evolving mission of the CSUN University Library as a center of knowledge creation along with information discovery.

The Creative Maker Studio is open to students from all majors and encourages collaboration among students of diverse backgrounds. In the Creative Maker Studio, the focus is on “learning by doing,” where knowledge is not just discovered but also created. The expanded Creative Maker Studio is centered on learning in action and democratizing activities across all demographics for students in any major. The CMS goes hand in hand with the Library’s continued emphasis on information literacy standards, which emphasize critical thinking, synthesizing information, technological fluency, and knowledge creation as an iterative process. I am excited about the newly branded Creative Maker Studio, as the Library champions exploration, innovation, and the building of an open, inclusive and creative environment for the CSUN student community.

In today’s academic Library, we build on the foundations of the past, and we look forward to the innovations of the future. Yesterday may be gone, but it is not forgotten. Nevertheless, to paraphrase Lewis Carroll’s Alice in in her 19th century fantastical journey, “We are different people now.” That is apparent to both our students and visitors as they travel through the Learning Commons and Creative Maker Studio on the 1st floor, to the wide-open expanse of collaborative study space on the 2nd floor, to the newly designed quiet study area in the East Wing of the 4th floor. The CSUN University Library continues to evolve, and our hope is that the changes we’ve built will help our students become more successful in their studies and better equipped for the future.