By Jose San Mateo

The third-floor bridge at McHenry Library connects Special Collections with the library’s main wing, but on Nov. 6, it became a place for roughly 100 library patrons and UC Santa Cruz alumni to bridge 41 years of history with the library’s future renovation.

The event, called “Transitions: A Reflection on 41 Years of History at McHenry Library,” was sponsored by McHenry Library as a part of their Mosaic Lecture series. The event brought together a panel of emeritus faculty who reflected on the initial construction of the library, which became a part of the UCSC campus in 1966. The library, which is named after UCSC’s founding chancellor Dean McHenry, fit right into McHenry’s vision of an undergraduate-focused university.

Panelist Virginia Jansen, who started teaching in the history of art and visual culture department in 1975, spoke fondly of the McHenry Library, recalling the atmosphere that made it unusual compared to other UC libraries at the time.

“Students had access to slides and open stacks,” Jansen said. “At [UC Berkeley] only grad students could use slides and the stacks were closed.” Open stacks meant that any student could access the library’s collection of books for their research.

Judy Yung, an emeritus professor in the American studies department who began teaching in 1990, took to the library’s open philosophy upon arrival. “I thought I had arrived in paradise,” Yung said.

Yung also spearheaded the creation of an Asian-American book collection at McHenry with the help of library funds. She said that the library provided grants and funding for an Asian-American collection and Asian-American Studies material. It was not a hard task, since the library already had materials to work with.

“UCSC is the only campus without an Ethnic Studies department, yet it had already developed quite an extensive collection,” Yung said.

Also among the panelists was American studies professor John Dizikes, who is concerned about the library’s continuing decline in student visitors. “We need to recognize that people are intimidated by institutions,” Dizikes said. “The library should be the center and focal point of this university.”

The current McHenry Library Renovation and Addition Project will be central to modernizing an aging library. Magaret Gordon, a member of the Library Development Team, said that they have raised half of the $8 million in private funding that will be necessary for new additions. “These are amenities the state would provide,” she said. “[The state] would not provide funding for things like the brand new cyber café in the foyer.”

According to the McHenry Renovation Project website, construction on the library started in 2005 and is scheduled to finish in 2009. An estimated 82,000 square feet will be added to the existing library to turn it into a “state-of-the-art research facility to meet the instruction and research needs of UC Santa Cruz students and faculty.”

While the library may undergo dramatic changes within the next two years, those like Jansen who are involved in McHenry Library’s long history recognize that there is a certain spirit and attitude centered around books that will never go away.

“This is still my personal library and it is a nice place to spend time for research,” Jansen said. “If only everything at UCSC worked as well as the library.”