The Voskuyl Library as seen from the entrance. Masked students work in the background. (Caleb Crother)
The Voskuyl Library as seen from the entrance. Masked students work in the background.

Caleb Crother

Staff eagerly reopen Voskuyl Library to students

October 26, 2020

After six months of hosting only essential workers, Westmont’s Voskuyl Library has welcomed students back into the building. Due to Santa Barbara’s move into the red tier, the library was allowed to reopen last week and is currently operating at 25 percent capacity. The library will continue to offer its services to students both online and in-person with restrictions to ensure its compliance with COVID-19 regulations.

We have had to reimagine what it means to be Voskuyl Library when most of us cannot be in the building and the doors are locked.”

— DR. JANA MAYFIELD MULLEN

Ruth Angelos, the library’s circulation desk coordinator, explained the necessary changes implemented as a result of the coronavirus. These include a rearrangement of the furniture to be socially distanced, limiting the total library capacity to about 50, adding hand-sanitizing stations, limiting the number of students in study rooms, and adding plexiglass in front of desk services and at study tables. Angelos emphasized the importance of student compliance with the library’s new rules. She commented that “this is a great time to make sure all our patrons are masked and distanced,” and that staff will “remediate politely as needed” if students are not following the guidelines.

The staff members, used to the bustle of students, were among the most affected by the closure of the library. Dr. Jana Mayfield Mullen, the director of the library, described the wonder of having an active library again, saying, “It’s energizing to see students in the building studying, using the computers and printers, and browsing the books.” After working in the minimally staffed library all summer, Dr. Mullen is grateful to have this essential part of student academics included in the school’s updated plans for the semester. She expressed her thoughts, saying, “I am thankful that we were able to continue to provide our regular library services to students and faculty — and also invent some along the way! We have had to reimagine what it means to be Voskuyl Library when most of us cannot be in the building and the doors are locked.”

Students work in the reopened Voskuyl Library. (Caleb Crother)

Although grateful for the library’s reopening, Dr. Mullen noted the difficulties of having to navigate COVID-19 while keeping library services up and running. Two of the most successful solutions to remote servicing are the @askalibrarian remote research help portal and the contactless curbside pick-up system. With these and other new resources, like remote tutoring, students are able to access the library’s helpful librarians and its stock of books while remaining mindful of student safety. These services are a reflection of the mission of the library, since the librarians “are here to support student learning,” said Dr. Mullen.

The most prominent response to the library’s reopening has been joy at seeing others in person again. Angelos especially has missed this element. “The best part of my job has always been interacting with students,” she said. “I am blessed to share their dreams, accomplishments, challenges, worries, and fears … it matters that someone else noticed and cared about how their day went.” Students can anticipate meeting the same welcoming environment the library has had, and sharing the personal interactions that have “restored [the library] back to life.”

For more information about library services, you can visit the Fall 2020 Library Services Guide on the Westmont website, or email askalibrarian@westmont.edu.

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