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From the Dean

Evansdale Library celebrates 40th anniversary

By Karen Diaz, Dean of WVU Libraries

To celebrate the new academic year, I’d like to share comments I made at our recent celebration of the 40th (actually 42nd) anniversary of the Evansdale Library. This is a good reminder of how libraries continue to evolve to meet the needs of campus.

In 1978, while I was still in high school, WVU broke ground for the Evansdale Library. By November 1980, when I was taking a year off from my own college experience, the doors opened to students.

It was acknowledged that the growing campus needed an expanded library system that could serve students who now did business on three different campuses within Morgantown.  We see from the newspaper accounts that one of the exciting features of this new library was going to be a large microfilm room and an AV lab!  Exciting stuff! Having been a college student myself at this time I can imagine the AV space had turntables, cassette players, big heavy headphones, and maybe even a state-of-the-art VHS player. Also present would have been the card catalog.  Ah yes, it was the environment of my own learning and experience.

But just as daily life has changed since 1980, so have libraries.  In 1980, one had to be present in the library to use it. Quiet spaces were prized. Study was solitary.

We know life is not like that now.  Now, you do not even have to come into the library to use it. Or, you might come to the library not to check out a book, but instead to “borrow” a group study room to complete a group project.

When I think of what a library does, I tend to divide us into three buckets.  We are collections – or content, we are spaces, and we are expert services.  These three buckets were true in 1980 and remain true today.  What has changed is how we manage each of those buckets.

First of all, the content is now largely digital. You can use the library from your home or dorm. When you walk in our spaces you do not see 90% of the new content we provide for this campus.  It is freeing that this material can be used from anywhere and at any time. And while people have a notion that everything is online and thus libraries are irrelevant, miss the fact that most scholarship – while online – is actually not accessible without subscription which libraries pay to make it available to the community.

But this cloud-based content has not made our space irrelevant.  We remain a space where people can come to focus on their academic work.  It might mean studying; it might mean borrowing a laptop. It might even mean finding a quiet place to meditate and prepare for the rest of the day’s rigors. Libraries remain a place for the mind to focus – or wander – or rest as it needs to do. This library has also become a space for sharing learning. We host exhibits of art and musical performances by students in the College of Creative Arts, fashion designs created by students in Davis College. We remain a crossroads for the disciplines to bump into each other.

But libraries are also places to find experts.  Perhaps now our staff are not spending their time helping you thread a microfilm reel or learn how to use a print index.  But they can help you get to a place online where Google will never take you. They can help you use software to manage citations, give tips on storing all your research files so you can find them again, or navigate submission of your electronic thesis or dissertation. Our experts – our staff and librarians – provide so many services that are hard to catalog, seemingly invisible because they are so personalized and tailored to individual need and purpose.

It was important that our state and campus leaders in the 1970’s had the insight to understand the essential underpinnings that a library provides a campus. And that first meant a building. But then that building had to be staffed and then filled with content. Libraries are physical spaces, yes.  This building still serves students and faculty, just as it did 40 years ago.  But this building still serves students and faculty not at all like it did 40 years ago. Evansdale Library, like all libraries, is timeless and traditional and a place for the life of the mind and spirit.  But it is simultaneously adaptable and changeable and ever modern.  Taking the opportunity to reflect back on our beginnings we are able to see how far we have come, and to know we will continue to evolve.

Thank you all for celebrating with us today. Come back and enjoy this space every day. And know that when you are in this place, it is here because of leaders who made it so. And it remains here because of people who tend to it daily in so many ways.

WVU Libraries to mark Women’s History Month

The State Journal published this article on March 3.

By Karen Diaz, Dean of WVU Libraries

Women – of all backgrounds – have made important contributions to society. Only recently are we learning more about these individuals and learning to give credit to women where that credit is due. The way we have learned more is through evidence. Often that evidence sits in archives used by historians and others to document how women have shaped society. Due to a long tradition of underrepresenting women and women’s contributions, there are archival silences or gaps in what has been preserved. This undervaluing perhaps also causes those making contributors to undervalue documenting what they have done.

Women, it is important to record how you are acting to improve health, family, racial equity, education, political representation, and more. Your activity might be documented on social media, in a chapter newsletter, in a diary or in newspaper clippings, or in photographs. Women are not a monolith and so having this documentation from women of different races, different age groups, urban, rural, and different walks of life matters. Take time to document your work and your contributions.

In March, our nation will again be celebrating Women’s History Month. It is only because of evidence of women’s contributions to society that we are able to reflect on the various ways in which women have advanced society through art, politics, science, sport, medicine, and so much more. This is often found in archives.

What are you doing to tell your story or to leave records for your family to tell your story? Do you have letters, photographs, memorabilia? Have you interviewed women of note and recorded these interviews? Are these items you can share with libraries and archives to magnify the story of how the women in your life have advanced society? Representation begets representation. 

On March 19 at noon, WVU Libraries will host an online session about a newly developing Feminist Activist Archives at the West Virginia and Regional History Center. This new focus in our archive seeks to tell the story of West Virginia women who have actively worked to improve the lives of women of all walks of life. We invite everyone who is interested in learning more about documenting women and archives in West Virginia to join us for this important conversation. Details and a link to register for the event can be found at exhibits.lib.wvu.edu/virtual-offerings.

Update presented to the Faculty Senate Library Committee

By Karen Diaz, Dean of Libraries

The Libraries closed to the public on March 19 as part of the campus shut down due to COVID-19. It remained shuttered to the public until August 20 when it reopened to the campus community only through swipe access. This was 143 days of being closed.

During the closure most of our staff retreated to working from home as did the rest of campus with a skeleton crew on sight to retrieve and deliver print materials to our faculty, staff and students as needed. During that time, we continued to maintain access to our digital materials and purchase new academic content, completed teaching our already online credit courses, continued to answer reference questions through email, chat and phone. As mentioned, we also scanned articles from print materials as needed to email to our campus community and even mailed print books as needed.  Interlibrary loan continued for everything digital, but stopped for print materials due to so many library buildings being closed. The WVRHC was also closed, but provided reference assistance as possible.

Selected data for the end of Spring semester through June while closed:   

  • Items checked out: 1,337
  • Books purchased that could not be borrowed through ILL: 719
  • Reference questions answered (Morgantown): 1,242
  • Reference questions answered (WVRHC): 164
  • Scheduled consultation sessions: 120
  • eReserves added (books, articles, streaming media): 389
  • ILL filled (articles): 5,208
  • Visits to our website: 526,727
  • Visits to our research guides: 2,232

During the summer many of our staff experienced being furloughed during the campus furloughs. We were very happy and relieved to welcome everyone back in July. Many were important to the work of preparing our buildings for reopening. Those staff who were not furloughed continued to work from home, with a couple more brought to campus to manage our mail pick-up and delivery while that service was diminished.

We also had to cancel many events. Both a Speculative Futures Conference (with the Humanities Center, and a Sherlock Holmes Conference (with the President’s Office) had to be cancelled.

Meanwhile, our Art in the Libraries Program did an amazing pivot and managed to host a number of Friday at noon events during Zoom. We have been having 20-40 participants in these online activities. We also switched our large interdisciplinary exhibit Undefeated to open as a virtual exhibit with on ground installation coming in Spring Semester.

Upon our reopening of all campus libraries on August 10, we instituted many changes:

  • Swipe access to both Evansdale and Downtown libraries was instituted to restrict access to WVU students, staff and faculty. The location of Health Sciences Library makes non-WVU community members access problematic already, so no changes were made.
  • All facilities were adjusted to reduce seating by about 1/3 – ½ and to ensure proper distancing.
  • Masks are required and are available at our front desks for any user who comes in without one.
  • Hand sanitizing stations and disinfecting wipes are available in many locations
  • WVRHC is physically available only to WVRHC faculty, staff and students with an appointment
  • Hours are slightly reduced (all close at midnight during the week).
  • Used physical materials are quarantined for 3 days before returning to the shelves.
  • Brought up a major exhibit virtually with print installation to take place in spring.

How things are going in fall semester:

  • Our door counts are about 1/5 – ¼ of our usual numbers in a typical semester.  While these numbers feel disappointing they are in line with the de-densification of campus and actually help keep the libraries safer.
  • Our virtual reference interactions seem to be higher this semester than in the past.
  • We have had no reports of spread in the libraries. We have had a few of our student employees test positive and have to isolate -and in some cases this has caused our staff to also have to quarantine. You may have seen a disruption in hours at the Downtown Campus Library for this reason. One staff member had to quarantine because of COVID in his family. We have been so fortunate to not suffer any illness!
  • We will continue to have evening hours even after the Thanksgiving break so that any local students who need a place to study for or complete their final exam will have a place to do so. After the semester ends we will go to an 8-5 M-F schedule for the intersession.
  • We will finalize hours for spring semester when the academic schedule is more complete.

By Karen Diaz, Dean of WVU Libraries

To celebrate the new academic year, I’d like to share comments I made at our recent celebration of the 40th (actually 42nd) anniversary of the Evansdale Library. This is a good reminder of how libraries continue to evolve to meet the needs of campus.

In 1978, while I was still in high school, WVU broke ground for the Evansdale Library. By November 1980, when I was taking a year off from my own college experience, the doors opened to students.

It was acknowledged that the growing campus needed an expanded library system that could serve students who now did business on three different campuses within Morgantown.  We see from the newspaper accounts that one of the exciting features of this new library was going to be a large microfilm room and an AV lab!  Exciting stuff! Having been a college student myself at this time I can imagine the AV space had turntables, cassette players, big heavy headphones, and maybe even a state-of-the-art VHS player. Also present would have been the card catalog.  Ah yes, it was the environment of my own learning and experience.

But just as daily life has changed since 1980, so have libraries.  In 1980, one had to be present in the library to use it. Quiet spaces were prized. Study was solitary.

We know life is not like that now.  Now, you do not even have to come into the library to use it. Or, you might come to the library not to check out a book, but instead to “borrow” a group study room to complete a group project.

When I think of what a library does, I tend to divide us into three buckets.  We are collections – or content, we are spaces, and we are expert services.  These three buckets were true in 1980 and remain true today.  What has changed is how we manage each of those buckets.

First of all, the content is now largely digital. You can use the library from your home or dorm. When you walk in our spaces you do not see 90% of the new content we provide for this campus.  It is freeing that this material can be used from anywhere and at any time. And while people have a notion that everything is online and thus libraries are irrelevant, miss the fact that most scholarship – while online – is actually not accessible without subscription which libraries pay to make it available to the community.

But this cloud-based content has not made our space irrelevant.  We remain a space where people can come to focus on their academic work.  It might mean studying; it might mean borrowing a laptop. It might even mean finding a quiet place to meditate and prepare for the rest of the day’s rigors. Libraries remain a place for the mind to focus – or wander – or rest as it needs to do. This library has also become a space for sharing learning. We host exhibits of art and musical performances by students in the College of Creative Arts, fashion designs created by students in Davis College. We remain a crossroads for the disciplines to bump into each other.

But libraries are also places to find experts.  Perhaps now our staff are not spending their time helping you thread a microfilm reel or learn how to use a print index.  But they can help you get to a place online where Google will never take you. They can help you use software to manage citations, give tips on storing all your research files so you can find them again, or navigate submission of your electronic thesis or dissertation. Our experts – our staff and librarians – provide so many services that are hard to catalog, seemingly invisible because they are so personalized and tailored to individual need and purpose.

It was important that our state and campus leaders in the 1970’s had the insight to understand the essential underpinnings that a library provides a campus. And that first meant a building. But then that building had to be staffed and then filled with content. Libraries are physical spaces, yes.  This building still serves students and faculty, just as it did 40 years ago.  But this building still serves students and faculty not at all like it did 40 years ago. Evansdale Library, like all libraries, is timeless and traditional and a place for the life of the mind and spirit.  But it is simultaneously adaptable and changeable and ever modern.  Taking the opportunity to reflect back on our beginnings we are able to see how far we have come, and to know we will continue to evolve.

Thank you all for celebrating with us today. Come back and enjoy this space every day. And know that when you are in this place, it is here because of leaders who made it so. And it remains here because of people who tend to it daily in so many ways.

By Karen Diaz, Dean of WVU Libraries

To celebrate the new academic year, I’d like to share comments I made at our recent celebration of the 40th (actually 42nd) anniversary of the Evansdale Library. This is a good reminder of how libraries continue to evolve to meet the needs of campus.

In 1978, while I was still in high school, WVU broke ground for the Evansdale Library. By November 1980, when I was taking a year off from my own college experience, the doors opened to students.

It was acknowledged that the growing campus needed an expanded library system that could serve students who now did business on three different campuses within Morgantown.  We see from the newspaper accounts that one of the exciting features of this new library was going to be a large microfilm room and an AV lab!  Exciting stuff! Having been a college student myself at this time I can imagine the AV space had turntables, cassette players, big heavy headphones, and maybe even a state-of-the-art VHS player. Also present would have been the card catalog.  Ah yes, it was the environment of my own learning and experience.

But just as daily life has changed since 1980, so have libraries.  In 1980, one had to be present in the library to use it. Quiet spaces were prized. Study was solitary.

We know life is not like that now.  Now, you do not even have to come into the library to use it. Or, you might come to the library not to check out a book, but instead to “borrow” a group study room to complete a group project.

When I think of what a library does, I tend to divide us into three buckets.  We are collections – or content, we are spaces, and we are expert services.  These three buckets were true in 1980 and remain true today.  What has changed is how we manage each of those buckets.

First of all, the content is now largely digital. You can use the library from your home or dorm. When you walk in our spaces you do not see 90% of the new content we provide for this campus.  It is freeing that this material can be used from anywhere and at any time. And while people have a notion that everything is online and thus libraries are irrelevant, miss the fact that most scholarship – while online – is actually not accessible without subscription which libraries pay to make it available to the community.

But this cloud-based content has not made our space irrelevant.  We remain a space where people can come to focus on their academic work.  It might mean studying; it might mean borrowing a laptop. It might even mean finding a quiet place to meditate and prepare for the rest of the day’s rigors. Libraries remain a place for the mind to focus – or wander – or rest as it needs to do. This library has also become a space for sharing learning. We host exhibits of art and musical performances by students in the College of Creative Arts, fashion designs created by students in Davis College. We remain a crossroads for the disciplines to bump into each other.

But libraries are also places to find experts.  Perhaps now our staff are not spending their time helping you thread a microfilm reel or learn how to use a print index.  But they can help you get to a place online where Google will never take you. They can help you use software to manage citations, give tips on storing all your research files so you can find them again, or navigate submission of your electronic thesis or dissertation. Our experts – our staff and librarians – provide so many services that are hard to catalog, seemingly invisible because they are so personalized and tailored to individual need and purpose.

It was important that our state and campus leaders in the 1970’s had the insight to understand the essential underpinnings that a library provides a campus. And that first meant a building. But then that building had to be staffed and then filled with content. Libraries are physical spaces, yes.  This building still serves students and faculty, just as it did 40 years ago.  But this building still serves students and faculty not at all like it did 40 years ago. Evansdale Library, like all libraries, is timeless and traditional and a place for the life of the mind and spirit.  But it is simultaneously adaptable and changeable and ever modern.  Taking the opportunity to reflect back on our beginnings we are able to see how far we have come, and to know we will continue to evolve.

Thank you all for celebrating with us today. Come back and enjoy this space every day. And know that when you are in this place, it is here because of leaders who made it so. And it remains here because of people who tend to it daily in so many ways.