What a library means to me

As we work towards celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Chester Fritz Library (CFL), I would like to reflect upon what the library means to me as a young scholar and its importance to the institution. The library is more than a building to house books, it is a social place, as well as a gateway. While the word library conveys a silent place, colleagues and friends can often be observed quietly conversing on a variety of subjects at many different times of day. Further, it is where academic creativity begins, as patrons scan the shelves, or browse the various databases provided by the CFL, to complete various research projects, both professional and personal. The library is the heart of a university and the Chester Fritz has enlarged UND’s heart over the last fifty years through various changes.

This project causes me to reflect on the changes in the library since its opening. Where students relied on books and bound periodicals in the early days, much more research is done online through the many academic databases the CFL has acquired in recent years. These databases not only change how we engage the library, but are advantageous to the institution, as they allow patrons to access materials from virtually anywhere, while remaining in Grand Forks. I enjoy the ability to access scholarly journal articles in PDF form from the comfort of my home or office through the library’s website.

The other special part of our library is the Department of Special Collections, which not only house much of the material that we rely on for this project, but also three special collections that set the CFL apart from other institutions in the state and nation. The first collection is the genealogy reading room, which houses a significant amount of research material related to Scandinavian immigration to the region. It is one of the major draws for the public to the library, and provides patrons with valuable tools for learning more about their ancestry.

The second important collection are the papers related to the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial at the conclusion of World War II. Our collection is one of 22 in the nation and is one of the most complete, thanks to the efforts of Dr. Howard Russell, who was a professor of English Language and Literature at UND before entering government service. Dr. Russell served as the Secretary General of the American Military Tribunals from May 1948 until the conclusion in December 1949. It is a massive collection of over 450 boxes, totaling 600 feet in size. This collection truly sets our library apart as one of a handful of centers in the country for researching one of the most important trials in world history.

The last major important collection is one that is still processing in the department. Earlier this year, former Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) donated his papers dealing with his lengthy public service career to North Dakota and the United States. This collection is still in the works, but will enhance the CFL as a center for research on a variety of subjects.

While the library is not perfect, it is a wonderful part of our campus and is the heart of UND. It is more than bricks, mortar, and books. It is working to improve its technological capabilities every year and engaging in digital humanities in a number of ways. It also houses collections for research that are unique to North Dakota and afford students and the general public countless opportunities to satisfy their intellectual curiosity. To me, the Chester Fritz Library is an important place that has changed in several ways over fifty years and will continue to improve in the next fifty.

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