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The Fritz at 50: UND's library evolves with students' needs

Half a century after its completion, a building towering over the center of campus remains a hub of knowledge and a haven for UND students seeking a quiet place to study.

Chester Fritz Library

Half a century after its completion, a building towering over the center of campus remains a hub of knowledge and a haven for UND students seeking a quiet place to study.

The Chester Fritz Library, dedicated Oct. 13, 1961, will mark its 50th anniversary Thursday.

"We have the largest physical book collection in the state, and in the region for that matter," said Wilbur Stolt, library director since 2000.

The Chester Fritz' shelves are home to roughly 1.4 million pieces of print material. "Christmas Eve in Omaha," by the late Minnesota novelist Jon Hassler, who received his masters degree in English from UND, was designated the library's one millionth book in 1996.

Among the special collections is the Arne G. Brekke Bygdebøker, which consists of more than 1,000 books of Norwegian local history. The volumes contain genealogical and historical information for over 520 communities and parishes in Norway.


The oldest book "A seminary of the Platonic and the whole of Aristotle", published in 1599, is housed in the rare book collection along with the library's smallest book "Addresses of Abraham Lincoln" (½ inch wide and ¾ inch long) and a book called "World libraries of artist'books :1 april 2007-2017" made from edible micro-card published 2007 in Belgium.

Turing the page

Originally built with 65,000 square feet of space, the Chester Fritz Library received $4.5 million from the state in 1981 for an addition that expanded the total space to 153,000 square feet.

The structure isn't the only thing that has changed in 50 years. New technology has had the most significant impact, Stolt said. The college students of the past could only get what they needed for research in one brick and mortar place.

"The information they needed was only available within our facility," Stolt said.

Since the advent of on-line data, things have changed at the Chester Fritz.

"We adopted technology quite rapidly," Stolt said.

The library moved to a digital card catalogue in 1989. The library's first digital collection was established in 2005 with the Stuart McDonald Cartoon Collection.


Academic digital collections are also being offered. The library owns more than 20,000 electronic books and it subscribes to approximately 28,000 electronic journals.

During the next ten years, Stolt wants to see the library's electronic resources expand even further, granting students greater access to academic journals and databases. He also wants to reevaluate and potentially restructure student and faculty workspace.

Despite tech changes, Stolt says he is confident the library will be used by the campus community for decades to come.

"It will continue to be a valuable part of the institution," he said.

The man behind the name

The Chester Fritz Library was built with a $1 million donation from one-time UND student Chester Fritz, who made his fortune in finance. Fritz was born in Buxton, N.D., on March 25, 1898. After graduating as valedictorian from Ligerwood High School in 1908, he enrolled at UND, staying for three semesters before setting off to see the world. Fritz graduated with a B.A. in economics from the University of Washington in 1914.

Between 1950 and 1969, Fritz donated more than $2.25 million to UND. The university established the Chester Fritz Scholarship Fund in 1956 to promote a Chinese studies program. The Kathrine B. Tiffany Scholarship Fundwas also created from these funds in 1969. His donations also financed construction of the Chester Fritz Auditorium in 1965. Fritz died July 28, 1983. He is buried in Memorial Park Cemetery, Grand Forks.



The Chester Fritz Library is holding several events in honor of its anniversary and publishing an online archive of its history.

A presentation by Dan Rylance, co-author of "Ever Westward to the Far East: The Story of Chester Fritz," is 7 p.m., Oct. 19 in the Library Reading Room. Rylance is a former associate professor of history at UND and a former Grand Forks Herald staff member.

A reception open to the entire community will be held in the Reading Room 3-5 p.m. Oct. 21.


Want to know more about the Chester Fritz Library's history? Read the library's blog and explore its digital collection of historical photographs and documents at http://library.und.edu/fritz-at-50/.

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