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ODIN reaches a major milestone – 30 years

On February 2, 2019, our statewide library consortium, ODIN, reached a milestone - 30 years of providing North Dakota libraries the resources and services necessary to enable access and use of the ever-expanding body of worldwide knowledge and information. A page has been setup on ODIN’s website http://www.odin.nodak.edu/30-years-odin to highlight key events in the history of ODIN as well as communicate upcoming events as they happen.  A traveling “Flat Odie” will be arriving at member libraries throughout the year hoping that you’ll share pictures (new & old) of your library & staff as well as stories about ODIN that you’ve lived or heard throughout the 30 years. We also plan to have a few celebratory events across the state when the weather gets warmer.

From the beginning, ODIN was envisioned as a collaborative effort. The foundations for ODIN began with UND’s Director of Libraries (Ed Warner) determining that library automation was an eventual necessity; prompting UND’s President, Tom Clifford, to add it to his campus computing plan in 1983. Simultaneously, the State Library began developing plans for statewide library automation to serve all libraries in North Dakota. The two efforts combined to create a committee that produced the Library Automation for North Dakota (LAND) report. The committee interviewed over 50 librarians in 40 libraries representing academic, public, school, and special. Much of the governance for how ODIN operates today comes from this report.

Unfortunately, the LAND project did not make it out of committee for the 1987 legislative session as the state of the state in the late 80’s was a time of economic downturn. A follow-up proposal (LEND) presented to the State Board of Higher Education (SBHE) also met a similar demise by not being included in the Governor’s 1989 - 1991 budget proposal.

With extensive planning already developed and a growing recognition of the need for an automated library system, the last hurdle of initial funding was met when UND determined that a financial gift from philanthropist Chester Fritz could be used as seed money for the project. After a bidding process, Minnesota’s own PALS software running on a UNISYS system was chosen as the vendor. Numerous individuals from academic, public, private, state agencies and other libraries played roles in developing the organizational and operational documents ensuring broad representation. In June of 1988, the project was given the go ahead with the council of Presidents of the SBHE supporting the project financially with both one-time buy-in and annual fees. Less than two weeks later, the Grand Forks Public Library also voted to join ODIN, becoming the first of many non-academic libraries to automate.   

Frank Slater, Assistant to the Director of the Chester Fritz Library, was appointed the first Director of what would become ODIN. Frank was a natural fit for the young library network that sought to maximize value for its members by adopting a ‘pay-as-you-go’ model with new features added as resources permitted while delivering a reliable and functioning network. At a time when serials subscription prices were skyrocketing, ODIN provided a way for member libraries to save costs while expanding access to resources.

On February 2, 1989 – less than 6 months from signing a contract with UNISYS/PALS, the Chester Fritz Library became the first library to go live on the system marking the official birthday of ODIN. Shortly after Chester Fritz, the other participating Grand Forks libraries were added and soon thereafter, the network grew and spread across the state to the rest of the originating NDUS libraries, the North Dakota State Library & the Fargo Public Library.  With the initial success came more libraries wanting to join the consortium from private universities like Jamestown College, more public libraries like Dickinson Public, as well as K-12 and teaching hospital libraries across North Dakota.

Through the years, libraries have joined and left, software and vendors have changed along with the needs of the member libraries for additional access to electronic resources and services.  ODIN has strived to remember its founding mission.  In 2019-2020, our academic libraries will transition to Alma, an Ex Libris product and our public/k-12/special libraries will transition to Polaris by Innovative Interfaces, Inc. Change is inevitable.  Thanks to everyone associated with ODIN – people are our greatest asset.