When Annette Osenga first came to Life Chiropractic College West, she did so as a part-time media librarian working one day a week. Thirty-eight years later, she stepped away from her post as head of the Life West library following a distinguished career as one of the school’s longest-tenured employees.
Osenga earned her master’s degree in Librarianship at University of California, Berkeley, in 1976, and she was hired to work at Life West in 1981. She was actually approached twice by then-library director Marda Woodbury and turned down the initial offer.
“I used to volunteer at the Ecology Center in Berkeley,” Osenga recalled. “That’s where I met Marda Woodbury. At the time, I said no because I had a new baby and the drive to San Lorenzo just seemed too far. She called me back six months later, and that was enough time for me to say, ‘Yes, please! I want to come to work!’ ”
Osenga was quick to recall the environment at Life West, which at the time was located at an old middle school in the Bay Area. She said the surroundings were bolstered by the efforts of community members, who worked together to create a positive culture.
“The facility was sweet,” Osenga said. “It had inner courtyards that blocked the wind, so we had sweet little gardens. Those were collaborations between students and many others, and it was a very hands-on, ‘pitch in, do your thing’ environment. The people were unique individuals but very collective-minded. Whatever they had to bring, they would bring it.”
Osenga’s duties grew over time, and in 1995 after 14 years as a media librarian, she was promoted to the position of library director. In her time at Life West, she played a large part in helping the college adopt newer technologies that provided ways for students and faculty members alike to learn about chiropractic.
“The first things we concentrated on were newer models, because those were straightforward and easier to purchase,” she said. “But then, on our own, we created an audio viewer with a slide tray and a cassette player. I had to edit audio tapes by snipping the tape, creating a master and recording codes so the slides would advance.”
Over time, as technology took leaps forward, Osenga and her staff made efforts to balance procuring new materials and archiving older content. She cited this as one of her biggest challenges and something librarians face on a constant basis.
“I hope librarians are able to be curators and select and preserve stories that matter,” Osenga said. “With digital technology, a lot of stuff is going off in the ether, and it’s not being selectively preserved. It’s a difficult job. Technology can do so much for you, but it can also take up your whole life and disappear.”
Osenga stepped down from her post in June, saying she had a desire to travel at a going-away party held by her colleagues. She spent much of the summer crisscrossing the United States and visiting family and friends. She is also making an effort to stay physically active and has recently attended pole-hiking and tai chi classes. She continues to volunteer at the Index to Chiropractic Literature, where she has contributed for nearly two decades.
Meanwhile, the Life West library is in familiar hands. Barbara Delli Gatti, who first reported to work at Life West in 1991, was named the new library director earlier this summer, and her predecessor expressed confidence in her ability to balance the desires of current students and the demands of the archival process.
“Barbara has always been good at prioritizing,” Osenga said. “There are pros and cons to everything, and there’s only so much time, so you have to pick what’s going to be important. That was something I always valued.”
After nearly four decades at Life West, Osenga looks back at her time at the college fondly. She values the relationships she built, as well as the experience she had watching the school grow to its current status as a respected chiropractic college.
“I enjoyed being around people dedicated to having good health and wanting to teach other people about it,” she said. “Life West teaches a natural approach and a more logical way of looking at health than what I had been seeing. I wanted to be part of a group of people like that.”