When you need to concentrate and research for that long paper that’s due tomorrow, or need a quiet place to sit and read an excellent book, Weis Library is the place to go. Alternatively, when you are in a particularly adventurous mood, exploring the rows upon rows of texts and discovering something you never thought of before, Weis Library is the place to go. The library has been around almost as long as Washington Adventist University (WAU) has existed. Moreover, as each decade goes by, library directors have stood at the helm to ensure that as time changes, Weis Library adjusts well. As our current Director of Weis Library, Don Essex continues that mission.
Essex had not always wanted to be a librarian; he had initially planned to go into Graphic Arts. However, when he started at Pacific Union College (PUC), a change of heart led him to become undecided. A colleague who had it in his cards to become a librarian suggested that Essex consider that possibility as well. So, Essex took it upon himself to research the position and volunteered at the college library for a semester. The library hired him soon after and Essex remained there for the rest of his undergraduate years. It was during this time that he decided that he would become a librarian. Academic libraries are central hubs of knowledge and learning, the birth of new ideas, and a meeting place for all types of interesting people. Having cultivated a new love for learning, Essex decided that he wanted to work towards being in that place in the future. Changing his degree to Liberal Studies, he chose American history and culture as his theme. He, then, customized other exciting classes he wanted to take around it for the remainder of his time at PUC.
After graduating from PUC and earning a Masters in Library Science from the University of Maryland (UMD), Essex worked as a contractor for a year before joining the Columbian Union College (CUC) family in ’99 as a Circulation Librarian. However, in 2001, he received an opportunity to work in the Washington Office of the American Librarian Association (ALA) as a Legislative Information Specialist – a legislative librarian for the organization. It had been over a decade in their service when Essex felt that he needed a change; he wanted to get back to his goal of working in an academic library. In 2015, the former director of Weis Library decided to retire, opening up the opportunity that Essex was waiting for. So, Don Essex returned to WAU that year as the new Director of Weis Library.
One of the main objectives Director Essex has accomplished in his years here was the library’s modernization in several essential areas. For example, he made it possible to access the library databases remotely by setting up an authentication system. One of the most notable achievements, however, was leading the library through a migration process which involves an online system called the catalog. A catalog is a database of all the information resources that a library has available. Through this system, you can look up if and where the library has a specific book or journal that you want to access. The Weis Library, in particular, had a catalog that was becoming dated and was shared with several other academic libraries. In summer 2017, Director Essex and his team migrated all our data and records from that shared catalog to our own, which is called WorldCat Discovery. WorldCat Discovery created a place on the library’s website where people can go to search for books, articles, e-books, videos, and more. Essex remarked, “That was a major undertaking because we have a small staff – one director and three staff – and most university libraries have several librarians. So for us to pull that off was a major accomplishment without any major hiccups.”
There is always plenty of reading to be done, not just as a librarian. Essex’s most prominent topic of interest is in American Studies. He likes to keep up with reading news and online articles – something he picked up from his time at ALA. Essex also likes exercising, walking, and currently, running. In his downtime he enjoys watching science fiction – at heart, he is a Star Wars and Star Trek fan. Most of all, he loves spending time with his daughter – Eden – recounting a time when they would go to the comic book store and read comics together.
Now, Mr. Essex hopes to modernize the whole building, in terms of appearance and experience when individuals come in. He wants to get more computers and upgrade the furnishings to something more colorful, inviting, and spacious. He is very passionate about the library and the potential of the library and the impact it can have on students and faculty. Libraries have great potential for learning and growth of which most do not take advantage. With information being just a click away, many find it challenging to slow down, sit, and read a book much more in-depth. Sometimes, the hustle and bustle of the Internet can be overwhelming. Libraries help provide a safe place where it is easier to focus and find more accurate sources of information without distractions. Mr. Essex expressed, “There are things that the library has right now that they’ll never have access to again unless they work at a university or a major corporation – I wish they would take advantage of it. And not just to do homework, but to see what you can learn for yourself and grow from that standpoint.”
by Shannon Smith
Intern, Integrated Marketing and Communications