The Day the Library Moved

It took 19 months to build Roger John Voskuyl Library, but only one day to fill it with books. On May 16, 1968, the college canceled classes and 600 students, staff and administrators moved 45,000 books and bound periodicals to the new facility. The library had been housed in Kerrwood Hall — and in hallways, faculty offices and Page Hall. Lack of shelf space had become a significant problem. The committee that reviewed Westmont’s accreditation in 1963 noted that a new library building was the college’s biggest need. The trustees approved a $1 million, 37,000-square-foot facility in 1965.

College officials originally decided to name the building Armington Library after Mr. and Mrs. Everett Armington. These generous friends played a major part in funding the project. But the Armingtons had a surprise for Dr. Voskuyl, whose birthday fell on moving day. Usually a quiet man, Everett Armington asked to speak before the move began. He announced that he and his wife had agreed with the trustees to name the new facility the Roger John Voskuyl Library. The Armingtons didn’t know that Dr. Voskuyl would announce his resignation as president of Westmont the next day, ending an 18-year tenure.

The move began at 9:30 a.m. and lasted until 1:30 p.m. The Armingtons led the way by carrying the first volumes. Each person simply carried a stack of books from its old home to the new stacks. At the entrance of the library building, they learned where their books were to go. The secret of the move was the preparation that took place months before a single book left the shelf.

Librarian Vernon Ritter planned it all carefully. “I had been involved in library moves at other schools, so I had a pretty good idea of what needed to be done,” he recalled later. “It was pretty much a matter of knowing how much space each classification of books would take up, and marking off the right amount of space for the books to go. I measured as closely as I could how much shelf space would be required in linear feet in the new library. We planned it so we would know where to send the various lines of students. The success of the move depended on precise organization. But it was also important that the people carrying the books follow the plan. Since we were working with college students, I wasn’t too worried. I knew they’d catch on, and they did. Everyone just put their hands to it.”

The move went very smoothly despite some concerns by a library staff member who feared the complicated scheme simply wouldn’t work.

Ritter and Voskuyl were standing on the stairs inside the new library when the last books arrived that afternoon. Voskuyl placed the last volume on the shelf. “I suggested to Dr. Voskuyl that it might be a good idea to sing the Doxology,” Ritter said. “We gathered everybody together and sang it. And then the new library was ready for business.”

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