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Disposal of UND’s law volumes prompts questions

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With little notice, the UND Law School has discarded about 37,000 books over the past eight weeks.

Thormodsgard Law Library Director Rhonda Schwartz sent a letter to people at the university Wednesday explaining that the books in the garbage containers outside the building are nothing more than discontinued or outdated law journals that can be accessed online.

“The removal of selected materials from the law library collection is part of, and is indeed in preparation for, the upcoming law school building and renovation project,” the letter said.

Rob Carolin, director of law school alumni and public relations, said the books are state property and therefore cannot be donated.

“I can’t even donate the table from my office, for instance,” he said.

Assistant Director of the Chester Fritz Library Mary Drewes said while the three libraries on campus are independent of each other, she has noticed a higher demand for digital access instead of print.

“Most faculty and students want access to things online,” she said. “That’s the availability 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and it’s also good for long-distance students who want access.”

This is true for nontraditional student Michael Haukass who said he is only on campus during class.

“I use a lot of the library’s resources that they have online,” he said. “It makes it a lot easier when searching in databases and journals.”

Digital editions

The law library will be subscribing to Westlaw for the Public, an online reference material service that will be available on a computer terminal in the library, and there are currently still about 164,000 volumes available in print form.

Schwartz said there are no plans to eliminate print books entirely for the upcoming law school renovation.

“We will have plenty of books to fill the library but also plenty of digital collections,” she said.

While the directors of the law library, the Chester Fritz and medical school library have been in contact with each other throughout this process, miscommunication with campus officials may have created confusion over the disposal of the books.

As of Tuesday, UND spokesman Peter Johnson said he wasn’t aware the books had been thrown away, but wasn’t surprised.

“The library usually does it once a year,” Johnson said. “Sometimes the stuff we have is out of date and is actually providing misinformation.”

Victor Lieberman, reference librarian at the Chester Fritz, said in the case of his library, people don’t need to worry about losing access to materials when paper copies are discarded because they purchase digital access to older publications for students to use.

“It’s not because it’s digital it’s ephemeral, it’s going to go ‘phooey’ and go away or something like that,” he said.

While Drewes said she had heard a few students mention the books in the large trash container in passing, and there have been posts on Facebook expressing concern, Schwartz said she had not received any complaints from students.

Anna Burleson

Anna Burleson is the higher education reporter for The Grand Forks Herald. She is a 2013 graduate of the University of South Dakota's Mass Communication program and is originally from Watertown, S.D. Contact her with story ideas or tips by phone, email or Twitter, all of which are listed below. Examples of her work can be accessed here.

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