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UND director of libraries takes time away to study trends

To get a better picture of what tomorrow’s university libraries will look like and offer, UND’s Director of Libraries Wilbur Stolt is doing some digging.

Stolt will step away from his duties as director until Dec. 31 and focus on studying university libraries that are moving to a new model of service as his own library manages changing needs and reduced funding.

“This is in light of trends and realities of information sharing and publication that we’re seeing today as more and more materials are available electronically and remotely,” Stolt said.

The move was announced earlier this month by Provost Thomas DiLorenzo, who also has been working with Stolt and Chester Fritz Library staff to find long-term solutions to the facility’s budget troubles. Earlier this year, DiLorenzo promised to come up with the money for about a $600,000 budget shortfall the library faces.

“It is important that we consider how we continually address meeting the needs of a changing academy, including faculty, students and staff,” DiLorenzo said in an Aug. 5 email to campus. “At this point in our history, it is especially important to assess the changing nature of research university libraries for the decades to come.”

In transition

Stolt will return to his duties on Jan. 1, but in the meantime will be reviewing literature and contacting colleagues at other libraries as part of his research project.

He’ll also visit libraries that have undergone renovations to better serve the next generation of users.

Features these libraries have that could be included in a future renovation of the Chester Fritz Library include collaborative workspaces for students, faculty and library staff that would include amenities that would make group learning and studying easier.

“When you look that the Chester Fritz Library, there are tables that are set up for students to use but it’s difficult to plug in multiple laptops,” Stolt said. 

In his email, DiLorenzo also noted these facilities are moving toward round-the-clock access to materials and including space for coffee shops or dining areas.

Money would be needed for a remodel, and so part of Stolt’s discussion with other libraries will include talk of fundraising efforts and partnerships the libraries may have sought with donors or corporations.

 Stolt couldn’t say if his research would give any insight to a solution for the library’s financial troubles.

Moving forward

With Stolt taking on the full-time research project, his duties fall to Associate Provost Julie Anderson.

Anderson said she’s pleased to help out with managing the library and wants to continue its transition to a “library of the future” and address its budget problems.

Among the effects of the budget deficit is a hiring freeze that has been in place since last year. Six full-time jobs and one part-time position remain unfilled.

Laura Trude, a former Chester Fritz librarian who left UND earlier this month to work at North Dakota State University, said the freeze has left the staff strained.

“They’re feeling very overworked and under-staffed and worried because they don’t have a lot of information about what is going to happen,” Trude said. “There are a lot of uncertainties.”

A process to collect ideas and opinions on the library from the campus community, and Anderson said the library staff will not be left out of the process.

“The Chester Fritz Library staff want to be and should be in the position to be leaders,” she said. “A lot of the ideas will be generated through their work on some initiatives they will be undertaking.”

Trude said she hopes to see a permanent solution to the library’s money problems come out of the process.