Westmont’s Library Turns 50

Voskuyl Library in 1968 (photo courtesy Westmont Archives)

Voskuyl Library in 1968 (photo courtesy Westmont Archives)

Westmont celebrated Voskuyl Library’s 50th birthday Dec. 3 with historic photos, trivia contest and speeches by President Gayle D. Beebe, Provost Mark Sargent and library staff.

Diane Ziliotto, special collections librarian, recounted the meticulous move into the new library May 16, 1968, with 62-year-old Eleanor Armington carrying the first armload of books. Eleanor and her husband, Everett, who sold his Euclid Road Machinery Company to General Motors in 1953, donated the first $200,000 to get library construction underway. The couple lived on a ranch in Summerland and met Westmont president Roger Voskuyl at a local Rotary Club meeting. Later, the Armingtons gave the first million-dollar gift to Westmont for new residence halls.

“When Dr. Voskuyl’s daughter, Nancy, passed away, the Armingtons were the first people to step up and offer money for a memorial,” Ziliotto said. “They continued to give money for both big and tiny things. Things that weren’t glamorous, such as funds for sewer laterals. Not nice, but totally necessary.”

Voskuyl Library interior 1968 (photo courtesy Westmont Archives)

Voskuyl Library interior in 1968 (photo courtesy Westmont Archives)

The Armingtons cared so much for Westmont and Voskuyl that they ultimately chose to name the library for him. Voskuyl placed the last books on the shelves at the end of the move.

Mary Logue, library director, shared the words of Vernon Ritter, the first director of the library, who spoke at the original dedication. “It really comes to this — as much as we like our building and as important as the building is for the accomplishment of our goals, and as important as its own distinctive message may be, the building is not the library; it furnishes the physical environment, it is simply a means and the catalyst by which we can mix together in a meaningful and fruitful way the members of our academic community and the ideas that have made history and changed the world and will yet change us,” Ritter said.

“It is with pleasure that I can say 50 years later that this library is still a catalyst for our academic community to mix with the ideas that have made history and those that have and will change the world and us,” Logue said. “This building is important. It’s a starting point. And it’s more than that. It is the resources, the staff and those studying here that make Voskuyl Library what it is. It’s a testament that 50 years later this building is able to support the needs of 21st century students.”

Westmont students gather on Magnolia Lawn as construction continues on the library (photo courtesy Westmont Archives)

Westmont students gather on Magnolia Lawn as construction continues on the library (photo courtesy Westmont Archives)

Beebe said his love for libraries developed through frequent trips with his mother as a youngster in Eugene, Oregon. “I hope Voskuyl Library will always stand as a place that embodies one the deepest and best held values of the college as a center of the mind and a place where students explore the next horizon with their intellect,” he said.

Sargent said he appreciates the library staff’s efforts to draw students in with creative things like game nights and various activities as well as the ways the library has become part of the lifeblood of the institution. “They’ve started tutoring services to enrich classes, worked closely with various academic departments to establish a liaison program,” he said. “We not only honor the founding of this library but also thank the many people who’ve worked to improve students’ experiences.”