One of my favorite parts of the Oviatt Library is Special Collections & Archives (SC/A). I’m not an archivist myself, but one of my first mentors taught me that Special Collections & Archives is the jewel in the crown of every library. The SC/A rare books are amazing to look at and study, and the archival collections are truly unique. Every time I visit this space I’m reminded of the importance of curating and caring for these materials, as well as the positive academic impact on students and researchers who are afforded access to these collections.
This edition of the Oviatt Library eNews is all about Special Collections & Archives at CSUN. In the lead article, "A New Home for Unique Treasures," you will learn about the recent completion of the expansion and modernization of this part of the Oviatt Library. In "What's Up" we invite you to attend our Grand Opening event in January 2018, and "Oviatt Spotlight" describes the wonderful exhibit, pulled from our own archives, that will stand in the Library Exhibit Gallery for the next nine months. You will also get to meet two individuals who have been a positive influence on Special Collections & Archives over the years: Ellen Jarosz, our current head of SC/A, and the late Dennis Bakewell, one of the first Oviatt librarians to work in this section of the Library.
I’ve been at CSUN for over six years, and in that time I’ve worked hard to create a high profile for the unique materials that are preserved in Special Collections & Archives. From expanding the number of staff who work here, to focusing our efforts and resources on a newly completed $2.1 million expansion and renovation of Special Collections & Archives, to raising funds from alumni and community donors so that we can acquire new archival collections and process old ones, Special Collections & Archives has been one of my highest priorities while at CSUN.
I’ve found a great passion among archivists, historians and curators over the years when talking to them about the fabulous resources that are available to researchers, students and scholars through our archival collections. In fact, this passion sometimes reaches the heights of religious zealotry, and why not? Our archives shed light on the rich diversity of Los Angeles, past and present, and help our students become not just scholars but also better citizens through a deep study of historical events and people. As many of us have learned, primary source documents are one of the best ways to connect with our region’s past and to learn from our failures and triumphs. Why shouldn’t a group of committed archivists and historians take on the mantle of the evangelist when promoting the hidden treasures of the Los Angeles region (and beyond) through letters, diaries, photographs, video and audio recordings, and historical legal documents? It is no wonder that those who guard the gems of Special Collections & Archives are “true believers.” And you might become one too once you get to know the joys of reading an original 150 year old document, holding in your own hands a 19th century diary, and reflecting deeply on what the past can mean for us today.