History of the Libraries

Putnam Hall.

Putnam Hall, NDSU's original library building
Image courtesy NDSU Archives

The North Dakota Agricultural College Library did not have a building of its own until 1905, even though library service began in 1891 with the appointment of Mrs. C.B. Waldron (Lois Hooper) as librarian. Before the library building was erected, the library collection was housed in the President’s Office in Old Main. Mrs. Percy Evans, who was also postmistress, took over as head librarian from 1893-1897, but it was not until Mrs. Ethel McVeety arrived in 1897 that the library was on its way to being technically organized. Mrs. McVeety brought in card cabinets and cataloging began, and she also organized and classified the volumes, which numbered 3,100 then. Mrs. McVeety attended library school in 1903 and 1905 in Madison, Wisconsin to learn the newest techniques in the organization and running of a library.

As enrollment grew, the library struggled to house the ever-increasing number of volumes. Through the diligent efforts of President John H. Worst, and generous donations of Andrew Carnegie, a new building was erected in 1905. The dedication ceremonies took place on January 18, 1906. The new building, which would later be known as Putnam Hall, was the first Carnegie-funded institution in North Dakota.

In 1913, incoming freshman took a course for one credit called Library Methods, which would help them become acquainted with research techniques. A course called Introduction to Library Research is still offered. A reserve system was set up in 1923, and by then the library was so crowded that every chair was occupied, and up to 25 students were sitting on the steps or standing in order to use the facilities. By 1926, the twenty-year anniversary of the dedication, the library housed almost 40,000 volumes for 1,117 students. By the time Mrs. McVeety retired in June of 1945, the library contained almost 80,000 volumes.

In 1944, Mr. Elliot Hardaway (Master’s Degree, University of Illinois), was appointed the head librarian with the understanding that a new building would be constructed as soon as possible. He, along with Professor Knute A. Henning, drew up plans for the new building while administrators tirelessly sent proposals for funds, but in 1947, with the new building still three years away, Mr. Hardaway resigned. Mr. H. Dean Stallings (Master’s Degree – University of Illinois) succeeded Hardaway in 1947, and the plans for a new building continued.

_Dedication of the new library, 1950.

Dedication of the new library, 1950
Image courtesy NDSU Archives

The new building funds were the result of the 1945, 1947, and 1949 legislatures. Two hundred thousand dollars was granted in 1945, another $200,000 in 1947, and in 1949, the legislature appropriated $100,000 for equipment. Construction began in 1949, and the building that NDSU students currently know as the library was dedicated on October 6, 1950. Spreading over 58,000 square feet and with a capacity to seat 500 students and house 300,000 volumes, the building was praised for its functional design that included reading rooms, staff and faculty lounges, conference rooms, multiple study unit cubicles, an order and catalog department, a periodical checking room, public card catalogs, and a circulation area, among many other fully functional rooms.

In 1951, the university offered licensing in library science for juniors and seniors majoring in education. The license would enable the graduates to fill in as a librarian in smaller high schools. This program lasted until 1971, but courses in library science and research are still offered. In 1966, H. Dean Stallings left the post as head librarian, and Mrs. Barbara Wetterstrom became the acting director of the library during the 1966-1967 school year. In 1967, Mr. Kilbourne L. Janacek, an M.L.S. graduate of the University of Denver, was appointed the director of the library, and many changes took place. In the late 1960s, the Dewey Decimal System was abandoned in favor of the cataloguing system of the Library of Congress.

The architecture, chemistry, and pharmacy libraries came under the main library administration in 1969, creating the branch libraries. The North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies became part of the library in 1975.

By the early 1970s, a need for additional space became apparent. In 1974, a major renovation occurred that allowed more space for students and stacks, but the new design did not accommodate the growing needs of the students for long. In 1975, NDSU requested funding from the legislature for an addition to the overcrowded building. The amount of 2.7 million dollars was appropriated, and plans for the 41,000 square foot addition began.

On May 23, 1980, thirty years after the original library was built, the new addition was dedicated. Dr. Beverly P. Lynch from the University of Illinois was the featured speaker, and both she and Senator Quentin N. Burdick were given honorary doctorates from the university. The addition accommodated up to 700 readers and could house 400,000 volumes as well as government documents, maps, periodicals, audio-visual materials, and microforms. The addition also included a self-contained 24-hour study room. That same year, staff began developing an on-line system of cataloguing.

In 1986, after 19 years of service as the director of libraries, Mr. Janacek retired. Mr. John W. Beecher, an M.L.S. graduate of the University of Illinois, succeeded him and served as director for 11 years. Beecher supervised a reorganization of the library in 1988 that focused on service and the integration of the latest technology. After his resignation in 1997, Dr. Richard W. Bovard, professor of English, was appointed as interim director.

In June 2000, Pamela Drayson was hired as director. Shortly after becoming director, Ms. Drayson faced a crisis. During the night of June 19 and the morning of June 20, 2000, three ―super cells‖ dumped over seven inches of rain on the Fargo-Moorhead area. Every building on campus sustained damage, but the library was hardest hit. The windows on the basement of the new addition gave way due to the pressure of the water, flooding the basement with over three feet of water. For over one year, Ms. Drayson focused her attention on rebuilding the library. It was during Dr. Drayson's tenure that the position of head of the Library was changed from Director to Dean.

After Dr. Drayson left in 2006, Dr. James Council, professor of psychology, was appointed Interim Dean. After an extensive national search, Michele Reid, took the reins as Dean in 2008. She accepted a University Fellowship position on January 1, 2014. On January 17, 2014, Michael J. Robinson, Interim Associate Director of the Libraries and Director of the NDSU Archives, was named Interim Dean of the Libraries.

On September 15, 2014, Bridget J. Burke became the Dean of the NDSU Libraries. Burke most recently was associate university librarian for special collections and the digital library at Boston College. Previously, she was an assistant professor and department head for the Alaska and Polar Regions Collection at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

Today, servicing a student population of over 14,000, the library houses over 1,000,000 items including books, periodical subscriptions, maps, government documents, audio-visual materials, and microforms.