News and Events
Mark Roosa: The Face and Future of Pepperdine Libraries
Mark Roosa is a librarian for the 21st century. With nearly 20 years of experience in his field, his philosophy is forward-thinking, innovative, and receptive to trends and new technology. Gone are the days of dusty shelves, moth-eaten books, and dark, cramped spaces that characterize traditional libraries. Mark, Pepperdine’s dean of libraries since 2004, envisions a comfortable, welcoming space, open to digital content and the culture of learning at a university.
“We want this to be the biggest classroom on campus and the biggest living room on campus,” he says of Payson Library, Pepperdine’s undergraduate facility on the Malibu campus. “The library is a unique and sacred kind of space, a sanctuary for learning, discovery, and self-understanding.”
Raised in Ohio and educated at the University of Minnesota, young Mark Roosa never imagined a library as his future home and sanctuary. A skilled bassoon and tenor saxophone player, Mark earned his B.A. in music, and aspired to pursue an advanced degree in musicology at UCLA. He left the cold environs of Minnesota and headed westward, stopping in San Francisco en route to Los Angeles. The brief stopover became a five-year residence.
During this time, Mark became interested in music archiving and ethnomusicology, and enrolled in the library information studies graduate program at the University of California Berkeley. There, Mark met Sally Buchanan, a leader in the field of library preservation. Noting the shortage of music specialists in the field of preservation, she directed him to the year-long preservation administration graduate program at New York’s Columbia University.
Following graduation from Columbia, Mark accepted a Mellon-funded fellowship at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., and then an invitation to start a preservation program for the University of Delaware. Possessing knowledge of collection preservation in a large federal agency and an academic environment, Mark wanted to work with rare and valuable materials in a special collections program.
An opening in preservation at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, offered Mark this multifaceted experience in an unusual library setting. It was there that he met Alexandra, the passionate and highly educated woman who would become his wife. With degrees in law and museum studies, Alexandra nurtured her love of art while working in the museums of the Huntington Library. Mark, responsible for overseeing the care of rare books, manuscripts, and photograph collections, as well as preparing such materials for exhibition, happily considered the Huntington as the final stop for them: “I thought I’d be there for the rest of my career.”
He knew, however, that only one job could pull him away from the Huntington Library, and when that position fatefully opened, the Roosas moved to the nation’s capital. Mark became head of conservation at the Library of Congress, and soon advanced to director of preservation, overseeing five divisions, two special programs, an $11 million budget, and approximately 120 conservators and preservationists. Alexandra enjoyed positions at the National Gallery and the American Association of Museums.
Yet the Roosas felt themselves called back to the West Coast. Fond of California and ready for children, they sought opportunities that would provide support for family and faith. Serendipitously, the dean of libraries position at Pepperdine University became available.
Mark recalls that stroke of luck: “It was a perfect opportunity. I could continue working in preservation, take on a broader range of duties, and serve a clear customer base. I was hungry for a personal connection with students, faculty, and staff. Both my wife and I have always admired Pepperdine and its superb reputation, so we pursued it. It all happened so fast!”
Two years later, Mark reflects warmly on the decision: “Coming to Pepperdine is like coming full circle. I’m returning to academics, getting in touch with library users.” This is also an exciting time to be at Pepperdine, he notes: “I love that Pepperdine is forging new territory. It’s moving in directions of blending faith and learning. This is a place of faith first and foremost, but it is also absolutely committed to academic excellence. As dean of libraries I celebrate both these things.”
The move to Pepperdine has launched an important period in the Roosa family. In 2004 Mark and Alexandra adopted their daughter, Bronwen, from China. Named to honor Alexandra’s Welsh heritage, Bronwen has been a blessing and joy to the Roosas “in every way.” The family has settled comfortably in their Los Angeles home, and has become active in their local parish, St. Matthews. Mark dedicates his spare time to his family, tennis, and Bronwen's exposure to different types of music. The proud father notes, "I think her current favorite is Mozart. A close second is the Wiggles."
As Mark anticipates a long and fruitful tenure at Pepperdine, his attention is fixed on renovations to Payson Library, tentatively scheduled to commence in 2007. Mark credits the generosity and galvanizing spirit of Pepperdine President Andrew K. Benton, whom he calls a “great lover of books and of libraries,” with enabling this new construction and vision for the library’s enrichment. “We are lucky to have leaders like President Benton here, individuals who show trust, respect, and integrity at all levels.”
The renovations to Payson Library will maximize the current footprint of the building. Library users can expect such features as a new entrance, central information point, Special Collections department, and an outdoor plaza with a coffee shop and technology store. They will enjoy more light, ocean vistas, comfortable seating, and flexible study spaces.
Plans also include what Mark calls a “seamless undercurrent of technology throughout the library,” encompassing wireless Internet access, AC plugs for laptops, computer clusters, multimedia and audiovisual workspaces, Mac and PC platforms. With the proliferation and popularity of technology these days, Mark is eager to integrate digital content, but remains “mindful of making the right changes. We have to deliver the technology necessary for students and faculty to be players in the arena of higher education, but we need to balance that with traditional methods: teach students how to write, read, and research. These things will disappear if we don’t preserve them.”
In his ongoing work as dean of libraries, Mark emphasizes what he calls the “three pillars of our work in the library: collections, services, and community.” Since his appointment, Mark has opened library database access to alumni, fostered relationships with local libraries, and built an impressive and eclectic collection of DVDs and CDs, popular with students and faculty alike. On weekends, the library offers popcorn, and during exam periods, free coffee. “If I’m able to sit back at the end of the day and say we’ve done something to positively impact students’ lives, then I’m happy,” Mark says.
by Megan Huard