David McCaslin: the man behind the books

David McCaslin: the man behind the books

Elizabeth Wirtz

As new students begin their first semester at Whittier College, so does the new Library Director, David McCaslin. McCaslin began working at the library circulation desk during his undergraduate career at Pennsylvania State University (PSU) in 2001. From there, he obtained his Bachelor’s in Film and History, but with the job market not prospering at that time, he chose to get a Master’s of Library Science.


 During his schooling, McCaslin continued working at one of PSU’s libraries, going from the circulation desk to student supervisor, and then becoming one of the librarians at PSU. He transitioned into the Head of Access Services for the two main libraries at Yale and then into another librarian position at the California Institute of Technology where he reported directly to the Library Director. “I think that’s what prepared me to eventually be a director,” said McCaslin.

McCaslin wanted to come to Whittier for many of the same reasons students choose to come here: the Southern California weather, the small community that the campus provides, and the liberal arts education, which offers a unique environment for any professional. Additionally, he enjoyed the students and faculty of the College. “Meeting all the nice folks was sort of the clencher,” said McCaslin. “The people have all been extremely nice — all the staff, all the faculty; everyone.”

As the Library Director, McCaslin works on administrative tasks on a day-to-day basis. He is responsible for the management of student and professional staff members, the budget — including the payment of student staff members — ensuring print and electronic resources are being adequately handled, and securing the rights for the licensing of eBooks. McCaslin also assists when first-year interdisciplinary classes are shown instructional sessions on how to properly search for academic articles, and he assists professors in finding additional sources for their research. He hopes to use his position to directly assist students and faculty, making scholarly material accessible for all. “On the student side, [I want to be] that partner in terms of their own schoolwork [and] classwork as well as their own creativity,” said McCaslin.

While McCaslin believes Wardman Library was a great library before his employment, he still hopes to make a few changes. One of the most significant changes he hopes to make is the creation of a Student Library Advisory Board (SLAB). He envisions this as a cross-section of the student body, made up of students from all aspects of campus: commuter students, residents, athletes, student leaders, and many more. SLAB would focus on how students best feel the library could be improved to foster a more welcoming learning environment, and to ensure efficiency and practicality within this student space. McCaslin also wants to examine the exhibit space and showcase local and campus-based art exhibits, while trying to ensure all other spaces are being used to the best of their capabilities.

One change already made to the functions of the library is the automation of the study room reserve. Instead of students rushing after their classes in hopes to claim one of the 12 study rooms, McCaslin has created an online system where students can reserve a room up to three days prior of their desired date. Rooms can only be checked out for up to four hours at a time, but moving this process online frees up the time of the librarians to assist students in their areas of specialty and in student research assignments. Study rooms can be reserved at whittier.libcal.com/spaces. With these changes, McCaslin hopes students will view the library as “being that reliable space that on campus they know they can go to, whether it’s for help on a paper, access to technology, [or] they just need a space to relax and think about what their next steps are. Being that partner [with students and faculty].”

With modern advancements constantly being updated, it is interesting to hear about the continued importance of library sciences. “94 to 96 percent [of online information] is hidden behind password protected sites,” McCaslin said on the topic of Google. “We are the ones who organize information, who collect it, [and] put it in a consumable package or format so that users can access it.” It is the person-to-person interaction available in the library that one cannot experience when using a smart engine or subscription service. 

Library Science is still a modern field, despite more information sources turning away from print and transitioning in the digital age. Fourth-year Carly Stevens, who has been employed at the College’s library throughout the duration of her enrollment at Whittier, and plans to attend graduate school for Library Science. She finds people are often surprised to realize what the job of a librarian truly entails. “Librarians deal with organizing and accessing information. Information will always be relevant; therefore, Library Science will always be relevant,” said Stevens.

With the closing of the Media and Digital Liberal Arts Bar, more commonly known as MADLAB, McCaslin is interested in learning what students need and how he can help address specific and unique requests of the student body at Whittier. While he does have extensive experience in working with college libraries, he recognizes that each library needs to serve a somewhat different function because each population is individualized. Students making themselves present when entering the library and simply ready to engage with the librarians can aid in class research and personal interest projects. Stevens also commented on the importance of being present when in the space. “I think one of the biggest underutilized resources of the library is simply the space. It is a beautiful library.”

Currently, there are three positions open in the library for which active searches are underway, including the archives and the special collections librarian positions. McCaslin encourages students to contact him with concerns or new ideas for the library by sending him an email at dmccasli@whittier.edu, to stop by his office located behind the circulation desk in the library, or to drop a comment in the comment box near the circulation desk.