History of Welder Library

Library services had their beginning long before Mary College’s incorporation in 1959. The Library Committee, chaired by Lillian Lord, planned for consolidating the collections of books, periodicals, and audiotapes at St Alexius School of Nursing, housed in Boniface Hall, with those of Priory High School, and other titles already acquired for the future college. All materials were eventually shelved in the library spaces below the Chapel of Our Lady of the Annunciation when it was completed in 1962-1963. Prior to that the library was housed in what later became a large classroom in the original school wing of Priory High School. The first staff consisted of a full-time clerk assisting the professional librarian, Lillian Lord, who worked three days a week.

Sister Martha Clare Kilzer became the full-time librarian in the fall of 1962 and was assisted part- time by members of the Benedictine community. The collection began to show systematic growth, often based on consultation with faculty. In 1967 Sister Martha Claire adopted the Library of Congress classification system though this entailed reclassification of the collection from the Dewey Decimal Classification system. Annual library expenditures during the first five years average $2600.00 with the collection increasing by about 10,000 titles for a total of more than 30,000 in 1964. Sister Marie Schuster became library director in 1968 and held the post for three years. Brother Paul Nyquist served as library director from 1971 to 1977. Cheryl Bailey assumed the directorship in 1977. David Gray followed as the Director of Library Services in 2015. The University of Mary Library joined with the public libraries of Bismarck and Mandan in 1993 to form the Central Dakota Library Network (CDLN) to establish an online public access catalog (OPAC). The system now includes more than 20 libraries in the central North Dakota area.

For many years there were recurring library problems recorded in accrediting bodies’ reports. The library’s inadequate size and the relative inconvenience of the library location on South Campus impeded use. After almost 40 years the library collection moved from the lower level of the Priory to its permanent home in the new Welder Library building.

Constructed on what was once known as "Gift Hill" in recognition of the 40-acre gift to the Benedictine Sisters from local farmer Charles "Chick" Swenson, Welder Library is dedicated to the Benedictine Sisters of Annunciation Monastery and "to our friend and University leader Sister Thomas Welder, O.S.B., for her wisdom and leadership in growing the University of Mary" by Matt and JoAnn Butler, of Fargo, N.D., their children Twylah, Debra, Francis, and Dan and other supporters. Sister Thomas served as president of the University of Mary from 1978 to 2009. Sr. Thomas now serves the University as President Emerita. In addition to the library, the building houses a gallery, classrooms, and faculty offices for the School of Arts and Sciences.

The Welder Library serves over 75,000 patrons each year, seats 204 students, has 30 computer workstations, five study rooms, and currently has approximately 50,000 print volumes, more than 300,000 eBooks, over 3,000 multimedia items, and databases providing access to over 40,000 journals.