Tonight: Dan Rylance will discuss the life and legacy of Chester Fritz as part of the Library’s 50th anniversary

Tonight:  Dan Rylance will discuss the life and legacy of Chester Fritz as part of the Library’s 50th anniversary

**Media release from President Robert Kelley’s Office**

Dan Rylance, coauthor of the biography on the UND benefactor Chester Fritz, will discuss “Reflections on the Life and Legacies of Chester Fritz” Wednesday,  Oct. 19, at 7 p.m. in the Chester Fritz Library’s Reading Room.

The thrust of his address is to discuss the “Fritz challenge.”  According to Rylance, the term “Fritz challenge” comes from Fritz’s Oct. 13, 1961, library dedication speech, which said: “But now that we have this building, I am trusting that from time to time, alumni and other friends of the University will augment with private funds the regular legislative appropriations to the University for the growth of the library, so that this library will always be well-stocked with the type of books, magazines, and other materials needed for scholarly work in every department of the University.”

Rylance came to UND in 1964 as a graduate student in history and left in 1989 to become the editorial page editor of the Grand Forks Herald, a position he held until 1993. While at UND, he was coordinator of the Elwyn B. Robinson Department of Special Collections at the Chester Fritz Library and an associate professor of history.  Largely elected by UND’s students, Rylance served two terms in the North Dakota House of Representatives from 1975-1979. He co-authored Ever Westward to the Far East with Chester Fritz in 1982 and Quentin Burdick: The Gentle Warrior in 2007.

Dan Rylance’s presentation is part of the 50th anniversary celebration of the Chester Fritz Library.


UND Libraries Through the Eyes of Louis Geiger – Part 2 (1908-1928)

Louis Geiger was a member of the UND History Department in the 1950s and 1960s and was a central figure in the creation of the Department of Special Collections at the University of North Dakota. For the seventy-fifth anniversary of UND, Geiger wrote The University of the Northern Plains which remains an important examination of the University’s history from 1883-1958. This installment reflects Geiger’s interpretation of the library facilities at UND through seventy years. The majority of content recited here is taken from Geiger’s The University of the Northern Plains.

In Part 1 of “UND Libraries Through the Eyes of Geiger,” we reviewed the history of library facilities on UND’s campus from 1883-1908. Before 1908, the newly founded University committed few resources to the establishment of a library; mainly because it struggled to remain open and barely received sufficient funding from the state legislature.

However, by 1908 UND experienced a small amount of prosperity and began rapidly expanding. Not only were student and faculty populations increasing, but also more departments were created and more courses were offered. This growth demanded the construction of new buildings. With over 5,000 volumes in the reading room in Old Main, there was an obvious need for a separate library building. In 1906 a $30,000 dollar grant for the library was approved, and in 1908 the new library building was donated by Andrew Carnegie.

Carnegie (1835-1919) was one of the most successful businessman in the steel industry, and conveniently lived at a time when the steel industry was enormously prosperous due to railroad development. Later in life, Carnegie became a philanthropist, donating millions of dollars to build over 1,500 libraries across the U.S.! In North Dakota alone, Carnegie donated funds for eleven libraries.

The new UND Carnegie Library was a vast improvement compared to the old reading room, however Geiger explains that it “was to prove inadequate almost from the beginning. [President Webster] Merrifield was fully aware of this but was unable to persuade the legislature of 1907 to add $30,000 to the Carnegie gift.” (143) The building’s original blueprints had a third floor, however limited funds prevented such construction, and space was always limited. In addition, President Merrifield donated the land on which the Carnegie Library was built, and he funded the book stacks.

The red brick and stone trim style of the Carnegie Library, designed by the architectural firm Patton and Miller of Chicago, set a precedent for the appearance of buildings on campus that is still followed today. The Carnegie building housed UND’s book collections until 1928, when, over 60,000 volumes were moved to the Commons. Since 1928, the Carnegie building has been used for multiple purposes; today it houses the Office of Enrollment Services. This ends the second installment of “UND Libraries Through the Eyes of Geiger.” The next installment will discuss more about the Carnegie Library between 1908 and 1928, as well as introduce the Commons, the third building used as a library at UND.

To visit the Carnegie Building, set up a tour of UND’s Campus, or to speak with Enrollment Services call (701) 777-4463, visit, or stop by Carnegie Hall Room 100, 250 Centennial Drive.

Check out the Fritz at 50 celebration at

Our Twitter feed!/Fritzat50

And our Omeka page

A Library Dedicated Fifty Years Ago

Our local paper, The Grand Forks Herald provided a well-written article sharing with the public what we are working to commemorate, the fiftieth anniversary of the Chester Fritz Library. Their linking to our site is quite appreciated.

Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of the dedication of the library. The University sent out many invitations to library staffs across the country inviting them to Grand Forks to share in our happiness and celebration of a new library facility. While most were unable to attend due to the distance to get to Grand Forks, they sent well wishes and some shared similar experiences of recent library constructions on their own campuses, which reflected the major changes coming to college and university campuses as they adjusted to different and expanding student populations both from veterans on the GI Bill to baby boomers entering adulthood.

Our library has changed much over the last fifty years. It has expanded in size, grown its collection, and incorporated new technologies to increase its accessibility to patrons, while changing how those patrons use it. It is the largest library in the state and is the heart of the UND campus. Chester Fritz’s donation of $1 million has certainly returned well in the thousands of students who have gained knowledge and their education through the library. Congratulations to the staff of the Chester Fritz Library on fifty wonderful years.

Check out the Fritz at 50 celebration at

Follow us on Twitter

And our Omeka page

UND Libraries Through the Eyes of Louis Geiger: Part 1 (1883-1908)

Louis Geiger was a member of the UND History Department in the 1950s and 1960s and was a central figure in the creation of the Department of Special Collections at the University of North Dakota. For the seventy-fifth anniversary of UND, Geiger wrote The University of the Northern Plains which remains an important examination of the University’s history from 1883-1958. This installment reflects Geiger’s interpretation of the library facilities at UND through seventy years. The majority of content recited here is taken from Geiger’s The University of the Northern Plains.

Eighty years before the Chester Fritz Library opened, The University of North Dakota began collecting books under President William Blackburn (1884-1885). The need for a library was not high on the University’s priority list, mainly because the institution was struggling to remain open in an isolated location that produced few interested or qualified students. Additionally, UND struggled to find a balance between a practical education needed in a farming community, and an intellectual education that was extremely popular during this time period; intellectual education including  the instruction of Latin and Greek. In the University’s first years, the demand for practical education won. This is exemplified by the absence of funds appropriated for buying books or constructing a library. As Geiger explains “the absence of a library, for which no funds at all had been appropriated, was felt less keenly than it would have been at a later date, for instruction in the non-scientific courses was mostly by drill and recitation from textbooks.” (40)

Blackburn tried to fix this deficiency by personally donating over two hundred volumes, magazines, and pamphlets, and by asking the public for donations. One significant donor was W.R. Bierly – the Secretary of the Grand Forks Chamber of Commerce. However, these donations were ignored and “lay neglected in a corner throughout the term (1884) because there was no facility to handle to books and no one with the time or inclination to make them available for use.” Instead, focus was aimed at creating a museum comprised of animal bones, used for natural history lectures. In the summer of 1885, the first purchases were made, and shelving and lending arrangements were developed. The following legislature (1885) finally appropriated $1,000 dollars for the creation of a reading room. By 1887, the book collection numbered a thousand volumes.

The historical interpretation that Geiger conveys is that the need for library facilities and books were under emphasized and neglected until 1887 “When the legislature appropriated $2,000 dollars” despite the faculty’s recommendation for $5,000. Again, the need for library facilities was downplayed. After receiving the $2,000, of which $1,900 was spent on purchasing books and $100 on shelving, the reading room “should remain open only a half hour, from one to one thirty in the afternoon, five days a week. No books could be taken from the reading room except on the weekends, when borrowers were limited to one book each.” (57)

By 1892 the collections had expanded to 2,300 volumes, and when Professor Webster Merrifield became a librarian in 1889 the reading room remained open from eight to five daily, and students were allowed to take out books without the requirement of a note from a professor. Most of the works in the reading room are described by Geiger as “standard works” in History and English – the “most useful departments” (70)

From 1891-1899 the library received only $3,000 dollars- all in 1891- and by 1893, there were 5,000 volumes. However from 1893-1899 the collection only increased by 500 volumes. This dramatic decrease in the growth of library collections must be viewed in a national context. Eighteen ninety three is significant because of the Panic of 1893, which was a serious economic depression across the United States, caused by, among other things, railroad overbuilding and a series of bank failures. This Panic was considered the worst depression that the U.S. had ever experienced. With very little funds available for anything, it is understandable why the University did not see library expansion as an important undertaking.

The next major event in library history at UND, came in 1908 when a large sum of money was donated by Andrew Carnegie. This ends the first installment of UND Libraries Through the Eyes of Geiger. The next installment will begin with Andrew Carnegie’s donation, and the building of UND’s first library building – which is still standing on campus today.

Check out the Fritz at 50 celebration at

Our Twitter feed!/Fritzat50

And our Omeka page


To read Louis Geiger’s The History of the Northern Plains check your local library, Amazon, or Google Books.

Elwyn B. Robinson Department of Special Collections

Elwyn B. Robinson, does that name sound familiar?  Ask most students on the University of North Dakota campus and they will tell you it does, but most of them cannot place the name specifically.  The reason the name should sound familiar to UND students is because the Department of Special Collections, on the fourth floor of the Chester Fritz Library, was renamed for Robinson in 1986.

Elwyn Burns Robinson was born on October 13, 1905, on a farm in Ohio.  He earned a B.A. in English at Oberlin College and at Western Reserve University he earned both his M.A. in 1932 and Ph.D in 1936.  In 1935 he moved to Grand Forks, ND with his new wife Eva Foster to take a teaching position at the University of North Dakota.  After he began teaching at UND, he contributed many works to North Dakota History, most prominent among these was his book “History of North Dakota.”  Other important works of his were his radio broadcasts “Hero’s of North Dakota” and his essay “The Themes of North Dakota History.”

Sure, Elwyn Robinson was a great history professor and scholar, but why did the university decide to name the North Dakota Archive after him?  The answer lies with his work outside the classroom at UND.  During his tenure at UND, Robinson fought continuously for more research material and collections on North Dakota history.  In 1961 the Chester Fritz Library was built and there would be from then on a permanent department in which to store collections on North Dakota history.

After his death in 1985, the University, along with Robinson’s two sons, Stephen and Gordon, set up an endowment fund to honor Elwyn Robinson.  The fund was to be used to acquire collection material for the Special Collections Archive.  A decision was made by the University to rename the archive The Elwyn B. Robinson Department of Special Collections.  The dedication ceremony included beautiful programs, a portrait of Elwyn Robinson just outside of the department, and many attendees (also, a letter from Governor Sinner congratulating the Chester Fritz Library and apologizing for missing the event).  Before the event there was also an invitation sent out to all history department alums inviting them to attend the dedication and partake in a historic reunion.

Elwyn Robinson’s donations to the discourse of North Dakota history along with his determination to contribute anything and everything he could find on the history of North Dakota earned him the honor of having the very department he worked so hard to expand and nurture renamed for him.  I would urge anyone interested in North Dakota history to refer to Robinson’s works on the subject.

Creating Video from an Oral Interview

In our previous blogs we have discussed how to upload documents, digitize photographs, and how we have used those sources to explore the history of the Chester Fritz library. More recently one of our colleagues conducted an interview with Wilbur Stolt, the Director of Libraries for the University of North Dakota, which provided an opportunity to illustrate the role of oral interviews in public history.

Oral history of course has been around a long time. Many societies have relied on oral tradition as a means of recording and preserving the past, particularly in the absence of written histories. The use of oral history developed in the United States in the nineteenth-century when anthropologists began collecting recordings on phonograph cylinders. Later, in the 1930s the Federal government paid interviewers through the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to collect oral accounts from various groups, particularly Civil War survivors and former slaves. Today, oral history has developed into an accepted and useful discipline that provides information from different perspectives, especially when they cannot be found in written sources.

In our particular case, the interviewer was able to explore the changing role of the Chester Fritz library from the perspective of the person responsible for the overall operations of the library. Mr. Stolt’s perspective is one of management and general operations. He provides an overview of the major changes he has witnessed during his tenure. Here’s our video.  Later we hope to provide different perspectives as we interview others of the library staff. .

Of course one of the advantages of conducting oral interviews today is the way we incorporate various media formats into a single presentation. The interviewer may take notes of comments of interest for future reference, or for follow-up questions. However, at the same time the answers provided by the subject can be digitally recorded in both audio and video formats. There are several software applications for capturing, editing, and burning videos or slide shows. In our case we have elected to use Nero Vision, from Nero Multimedia Suite 10 Platinum HD. With this software we were able to overlay music in the introduction, insert titles, still photos, and edit separately the video and audio from the interview.

This raises an important issue regarding oral history. Because what you see is an edited video, it reflects the emphasis that we wished to portray. When conducting research it is always important to check the unedited primary source, rather than rely on secondary sources.

Working at the Fritz: A play on a great song and library

We received the following email and song lyrics, which were too cool to pass up.

Dearest Bill Caraher,

Word on campus has it that you are the man to talk to about having
entries posted to the “Chester Fritz at 50” blog. CFL means quite a
lot to me, as I have both worked and studied there, not only as a
student, but also as a budding library information professional.

I had composed the following stanzas (sung to that great old Fred
Astaire jazzy black cane and top-hat tap-dancing hit “Puttin’ on the
Ritz” a few years back when I was working at CFL as a Government
Document Copy Cataloger. Yesterday evening, I had emailed them to
Wilbur Stolt who has been cursing my name ever since as I got this
tenacious little tune stuck in his head all morning. It is my dearest
wish to bequeath upon you these lyrics in honor of Chester Fritz
Library’s 50 birthday bash. Attached is a word file with the original
lyrics and the new (parodied) version. It should be noted that I have
not received any copyright permissions from any authoritative persons
to re-print said original lyrics. I just thought it would be a gas.

A very happy birthday to you, Chester Fritz Library.

Kalan Davis
Serials Associate

Thanks Kalan for your contribution. I provided a video of Fred Astaire dancing to the original “Puttin’ on the Ritz” as a frame of reference.

Working at the Fritz

Have you seen the library?
The one on University.
On that famous thoroughfare
Piles of books in the air!

Ideas grow into research kernels
Spine labels and magazine journals
Crowds of patrons all the time
We answer questions on a dime

Now, if you’re blue
Have more inquiries than you knew?
Why don’t you go where librarians sit?
Working at the Fritz.

In circ, there is a dude named Stanley
Downstairs, a binding guy named Randy
(how Super Dandy)
Workin at the Fritz

Acquisitions, and Bibliographic Control,
Aren’t in the public eye at all
But they are (in truth) the library’s heart & soul
Let’s get our fix, Working at the Fritz

Come lets mix where Bygdeboker inflicts
American-Norwegian heritage sticks
Let’s all get our kicks
Working at the Fritz

Patrons study, but it makes them happy
Ace on the test, makes another library groupie
How very snappy.
Working at the Fritz

You’ll declare its simply show stopping
Talking in whispers, but how very alluring
Can you resist?
Working at the Fritz.