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Building a Thriving Community

eNews Edition: Spring 2019

I have belonged to many different communities throughout my life. Sometimes communities are geographical in nature, and with that lens in mind, I have lived in over twenty different neighborhoods. But just as often, communities are seen through a different lens, whether ethnic, religious, gender identity, or other categories. Sometimes communities are fluid, and people can pass in and out easily, but other times they have rigid boundaries with circumscribed membership requirements.

The Oviatt Library is in many ways its own community. This community includes employees (such as our 90 staff and faculty and our 140 student assistants); campus faculty and staff; local users and supporters; and of course, the 38,000 CSUN students who make excellent use of our resources and services.

Dean Mark Stover
Oviatt Library Dean Mark Stover

When I was a child and a teenager, I moved around a lot. Entering a new community, whether a classroom, sandlot, youth organization, or neighborhood, was quite a challenge. In fact, it often felt overwhelming. Looking back, I appreciate the people who tried to welcome me into a new environment. They made a difficult situation for me much more bearable. There are many potential barriers to entering a new community, and it goes without saying that those who are the “veterans” or “gatekeepers” of a community need to do everything they can to make newcomers feel welcomed.

Several years ago, the Oviatt Library made a conscious decision to turn our building into a more welcoming space. A big part of this was our major renovation of the First Floor, which included the Learning Commons and the Freudian Sip Coffee House. We radically changed the contours of the First Floor to make it feel more open and bright. We wanted visitors, especially first-time visitors, to feel welcome. Over the past few years, we have made similar changes throughout the Oviatt Library.

But space renovations are only one part of creating a more welcoming environment. Another part of making students and visitors feel welcome, perhaps even more important than updating our space, is our commitment to inclusion and diversity. If any segment of the CSUN community feels marginalized in the Library, then we have failed at our goal of inclusion. Many of our services, resources, and programs over the past few years have been geared specifically toward the concept of inclusion and the recognition of (and celebration of) the diversity that is found in Los Angeles and on the CSUN campus.

This issue of the Oviatt Library eNews includes several articles that touch on the related topics of community and diversity. You will read in this issue about elementary school children from our surrounding community visiting the Oviatt Library and the effect that it has on them. These children are part of the diverse patchwork quilt that makes up the San Fernando Valley. Someday many of these young people will become students in the CSUN community and again be welcomed into the Oviatt Library.

Another article in this issue celebrates the life and work of Gus and Ricky Manders. They left a ravaged Europe after World War II and built a community here in the San Fernando Valley. The Manders became part of the CSUN community, and they consistently gave back to CSUN to show their gratitude for those people in their lives who had assisted them in their time of need.

A third article in this issue of the Oviatt Library eNews discusses the Tom & Ethel Bradley Center, an important facet of the Library that seeks to document the diverse communities of Los Angeles and other regions. The video of Willis Edwards, which I hope you will watch, is a prime example of someone who successfully gave back to his community through political and social action.

Helen Keller once said, “Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much.” I hope that you will consider supporting the thriving, diverse community of the Oviatt Library through a one-time or continuing gift. With your help, we can do so much more.

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