As UND students enter the newly renovated Chester Fritz Library, they may find it a bit easier to get around or ask for help if they need it.
Work on the library’s south tower and south entrance was completed earlier this semester, which meant the completion of the majority of the construction at the Chester Fritz Library. While there are still some adjustments to be made, library staff say they are excited for students to experience the new space.
“So much of it was structural, so that needed to be fixed,” said Stephanie Walker, dean of libraries at UND. “We really did need a fire system, and we really did need to improve the lighting. We needed new carpet, a lot of it was torn. That was from the '60s and '70s and it was a trip hazard. … It's pretty cool (to have it done.)”
The renovation, which was completed over the last three years, included making the space easier to walk around in, a redo of the “fishbowl” study room that is now outfitted with new lighting and a facelift to the outside of the building.
While the original price tag for the project was estimated around $42 million, Walker said the final cost estimate was closer to $18 million. The university used about $7 million from a fund left behind by Chester Fritz, meant for library renovations. It also used deferred maintenance dollars and money from other funds to make the upgrades possible.
Even at a lower price tag, Walker said the university was able to do about 90% of the updates it wanted.
The university decided to hold off on redoing some study spaces and was able to save money on brand new furniture by claiming what was in the old Memorial Union and adding it for study space throughout the library. Most of the furniture was only a couple of years old, Walker noted, so while it wasn’t brand new it was much better than the previous dated furniture scattered throughout the library.
Numerous upgrades, like to the staircases and a fire suppression system, were health and safety updates, Walker said.
There will also be a skyway added between the library and new Nistler business college next door as that project continues.
The library was also outfitted with more contactless technology during the pandemic. Students and faculty can now check out books at various kiosks throughout the library with their university identification card. They can also buy snacks, more than just the typical candy bar or bag of chips, downstairs in a self-serve vending machine.
The library will also serve as an academic “one-stop” shop for students. They will be able to get help with their research projects, go to the writing center and check in with IT at the library, Walker noted.
Additionally, there’s space for students to record speeches or videos in the one-button studio. Graduate students and faculty can utilize the technology labs upstairs for various kinds of research, Walker said.
“People are coming in and they're using stuff and I think that's good,” she said. “And then they can see each, other meet each other and they get that sort of serendipitous connection: ‘Oh, you're working on this.’ ‘Isn't that cool?’”
The pandemic did impact the use of the library, Walker surmised. She said she had hoped more people would have visited the library while the Memorial Union was closed down for new construction, but the pandemic meant less traffic, unfortunately.
Due to COVID, the university plans to wait until the fall to host an official grand opening.