Library has new advocate in Ruhl

Campus Times
September 19, 2003

photo by Blanca Rocha

New ULV librarian Taylor Ruhl, who has worked in similar positions for nearly 30 years, was most recently director of library and media services for the Community College of Baltimore County in Essex, Md. Ruhl has degrees in library science and music.

by Kenneth Todd Ruiz
Managing Editor

Taylor Ruhl, recently appointed head of the Wilson Library, is a square.

Fastidiously attired behind the particle board table that served as his temporary desk for the past three months, Ruhl spoke in the concise and deliberate language of an intellectual.

But what would you expect of a librarian?

"I like a lot of things about Taylor Ruhl," said Leonard Pellicer, a member of the research committee that tipped Ruhl for the position. "His bottom line is taking care of the people that use the library."

In his first three months, he has already brought changes to the library organization and policy.

"Exciting," Ruhl said of his first 90 days at the University of La Verne. "We have already reorganized the staff to sharpen our focus on what library users need."

Ruhl may play the square, but his passions and priorities for justice, civil liberties and equity suggest otherwise.

He sees the 21st Century librarian as a savvy, knowledgeable professional on the vanguard of ongoing struggles over issues such as censorship, access and privacy.

Like a book and its cover, Ruhl is one librarian you cannot judge prematurely.

One of his first loves is music; in fact Ruhl's first two academic degrees were in music at Pacific Union College in Angwin, Calif.

"I am deeply interested in music, and still play," Ruhl said. "I was the organist for two churches in Montgomery County in Maryland and have been playing since high school."

The pleasure he derives from tickling the ivories has found a new outlet at La Verne's Church of the Brethren, where he is occasionally able to play.

After completing his degree work at PUC, Ruhl headed south to work on a second master's degree, this time in library science at the University of Southern California.

"I became interested (in the field) when I really found out what an academic librarian was all about," Ruhl said.

He first combined these interests as a music librarian before transitioning into a role as full academic librarian, serving for the past 30 years at many institutions throughout the nation.

At ULV, Ruhl has already made waves by allowing students to bring covered drinks into the library.

"I hope people see that as symbolic of the desire to make the library a welcome place," said Ruhl, amused by the reaction to the policy change.

"The more the library is seen as welcoming, the more students want to come in," Ruhl said.

Ruhl promoted electronic information in the library long before the Web surfed into public awareness.

"Technology is allowing us to make information more accessible," Ruhl said. "It is taking us to a place where the library is as much a service as a place."

He said this transition toward being a service-oriented institution is a gradual process, one that he plans to guide Wilson library through during his watch here.

"I don't believe libraries will become paperless in the foreseeable future, however," Ruhl said.

He said that while the electronic format is well-suited to short-form reading, people will continue to prefer to read anything of length on paper.

"People still want something they can hold in their hands, technology has not brought us to the point where [paper is done away with]," Ruhl said.

While technology has improved the accessibility of information, Ruhl is also conscious of the need to protect the access.

Provisions in the Patriot Act passed by Congress in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks allow law enforcement to secretly access patrons' records and imposes a gag order on librarians, preventing them from discussing such investigations.

"I want students to feel they can access information for any reason and have their privacy protected," Ruhl said.

Library policy prevents and Ruhl personally opposes the sharing of such information.

"I would turn to University legal council for answers," Ruhl said. "Our policy states that we don't give information and I would recommend access not be given."

Ruhl said that if students do not feel their privacy is protected, they will be discouraged from using the library.

Beyond the walls of his library, Ruhl has promoted justice and equity by supporting organizations such as Soulforce, an interfaith movement committed to ending stigma against homosexuals in organized religion.

With Hurricane Isabel battering the east coast, Ruhl came to La Verne from Baltimore, Md. at the right time.

"I was ready to come back," Ruhl said of returning to California, his native state.

"La Verne has a wonderful culture," Ruhl said. "Everyone has been friendly and welcoming; it is a real collegial place."

He said he has settled into the La Verne community nicely, and enjoys spending free time with friends in Pasadena's Old Town area.