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Message from the Dean: The More Things Change... The More They Really Change!

eNews Edition: Spring 2022

The French have a saying: “plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.” The more things change, the more they stay the same. This is a maxim that we can all resonate with, in many facets of our lives. As time goes by, and as the world seems to transform in so many ways, certain themes tend to repeat themselves, generation after generation. But in this edition of the CSUN Library eNews, I would like to slightly revise that old French adage to something that is perhaps slightly less paradoxical: “The more things change … the more they really change!” What I mean by this new axiom is that sometimes the transitions we experience in life and work are so radical that it seems as though we have entered a new dimension of reality. In many ways, this is how I feel as I write this column in late March 2022.

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

In fall 2021, when the previous edition of the CSUN Library eNews was published, the Library was experiencing its first complete semester of being fully open since fall 2019. But since most CSUN students in fall 2021 were still taking classes in virtual mode, due to the ravages of the pandemic, the Library only experienced 10% of its pre-pandemic capacity. Our hours were shorter, the Freudian Sip coffee house was closed, reference services remained fully virtual, most library instruction classes were being taught online, Special Collections & Archives were open only to CSUN students and faculty, the Creative Media Studio was open to CSUN students by appointment only, and the future continued to be uncertain. I was thrilled that some CSUN students were using the Library building during fall 2021, but I could not deny that there were far fewer “face-to-face” users of the Library. We experienced glimmers of hope but also many moments of discouragement.

But as I write this Dean’s Message during spring 2022, the face of the Library has substantially changed. Most CSUN students are back on campus, and the Library now has many more students studying and researching in the building than has been the case for two years. Librarians are back at the reference desk in person, our open hours are close to normal, community members have returned to the Library, and external researchers have again been welcomed into Special Collections & Archives. The Library has embarked on several internal renovation projects which will come to fruition over the next two years, and which I will write about in the coming months. What a difference six months makes! Our only disappointment is that the Library’s Freudian Sip Coffee House remains closed, but we anticipate that it will open again in fall 2022.

Even as I reflect on the temporary closure of some Library services over the past two years, and the stark contrast that we are experiencing this semester when compared with the past four semesters at CSUN, I continue to be extremely proud of the agility of the entire Library team to adapt to operational changes during the pandemic. Our library faculty and staff played an integral role in helping CSUN students thrive academically throughout the challenges of COVID -19. I am so grateful for each and every Library employee’s resilience and persistence in the face of adversity.

When I think about the changes that we continue to experience in the CSUN Library, I can’t help but come to two conclusions. First, we are without a doubt moving back to what feels like “normal” in the Library, with thousands of students using the building each day and almost all of our face-to-face services back in place. And, second, the more things change … the more they really change! While our reference librarians are again working face-to-face with students, our statistics show that many of these student interactions and research consultations with librarians are occurring online, much more than we experienced before the pandemic. Our employees now have flexible schedules and most are able to do some of their work remotely. And our locker service, implemented in the middle of some of the darkest days of the pandemic, is as popular as ever. In other words, many of the shifts and adjustments that were brought on by the pandemic are now becoming more permanent practices in the CSUN Library. We have discovered that COVID-19 and its aftermath, though a challenging time for all of us, has a silver lining in the form of a new way of envisioning our Library’s mission. We now know, through the difficult experiences of the crucible, that many of the changes we desperately sought in the first days of the pandemic turned out to be better in many ways than what we had grown accustomed to. In other words, the more things change … the more they really change!

--Mark Stover