You might already recognize the reference librarians at the Chester Fritz Library: they are usually the the ones sitting behind the Ask a Librarian desk that sits straight ahead as you walk into the Library. If you want to know more about these helpful people, you’re in luck! We’re continuing the “Get to Know Your Reference Librarians” series, giving you the scoop on some interesting facts and stories from your favorite reference librarians.
Today, we’ll learn more about Denyse Sturges, the subject specialist for these departments: Biology, Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Geology & Geological Engineering, Mathematics, Mechanical Engineering, Petroleum Engineering, and Physics & Astrophysics. To contact Denyse or to learn more about her educational background, be sure to visit her Chester Fritz Library webpage.
Where did you grow up?
Mostly the Midwest – South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, Thailand. As an adult I also lived in and loved Chicago.
How did you make your way to the Grand Forks area?
I missed the wind. And the geography of North Dakota. I spent many years here in Grand Forks, graduating from Red River and attending two years at UND. When I was in college, I even worked a summer at Hugo’s. So I kept watching for a job here at UND. It took 30 years, but I’m back!
What is your favorite place to eat in the Grand Forks area and what do you usually order (or what would you recommend)?
Other than drive thru windows, probably China Garden Restaurant (2550 32nd Ave S). Mushroom egg foo yung. Or Kon Nechi Wa’s (Menard’s strip mall – 3750 32nd Ave S) – I order a bento box and ask to be surprised.
We need an Indian restaurant!
What is your favorite spot in Chester Fritz Library?
4th floor, east side. The windows overlooking Centennial Drive. Or any of the south side windows on any floor. 1st floor has nice study rooms and group areas. Room 112 is great. And next to it is the big group study area with tables, whiteboards, and south windows – super!
Why did you decide to become a librarian?
I discovered that I really, really like computers, and I really like discovering new ideas and sharing them. I was a history major with an interest in documentary photography, working in archives and special collections. I heard about a computer class offered over in the School of Library and Informational Science, took it during the summer and was hooked. That class took the fear out of computers and made me want more. Learning how to make machines do my bidding was a very powerful feeling and helping others see that computers and technology are ways to get the information needed is very satisfying. I’ve learned that not everyone is comfortable with new technologies and since I work well as an interface, I enjoy stepping in and helping. Learning something and then sharing is a joyous experience for me.
The next step is to teach or remind people that finding the information is often the easy part of research – having to read, interpret, and analyze these materials to make sense of them is where the work and research begin. There still must be time to reflect and build information into knowledge.
What is the craziest or most interesting job you’ve ever had?
I was hired to create the first satellite information center for the National Agriculture Library. I spec’d our computers, servers, and scanners; worked with people in three sub-branches across the country; hired student workers; built databases; identified and built content; worked with city planners, farmers, researchers; built and ran a website that went public in January 1995; traveled the country, explaining the Internet, the Web, e-mail, and why it could be useful to them professionally and personally. Also designed and built series of print handouts for the majority of people who had no access to the Internet because they chose not to or they lived in rural or core urban areas. Amazing experience.
What strange skill do you have that many other people don’t?
Not particularly strange – I dye fiber, spin, and then use the yarn for knitting or weaving. One fun thing is to dye with snow…a 5-gallon bucket, clean snow, fiber or cloth, and dye. Put a lid on it and wait for the snow to melt. Beautiful stuff emerges.
What skill or talent do you wish you had?
Bobbin or needle lace. Race car driving. Ability to learn and use non-English languages. Cycling so I could do the Tour de France route – not the race.
What do you think your life’s theme song would be?
Eine kleine Nachtmusik by Mozart. Only because I thoroughly know the opening movement because of my ‘introduction to conducting’ class taught by Maestro Thomas Facey at UND, when the Music Department was in the basement of the Education building. Over and over and over, trying to signal everyone to start and stop at the same time. Conducting is not for the shy. Just saying.
What books do you think everyone should read?
Books that changed my life (in no particular order):
- Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck. Will fill you with wonder and the urge to explore and discover. [CFL doesn’t own.]
- How to Lie with Maps by Mark Monmonier. Accidentally or on purpose, maps can lie. Scale, color, placement, naming – it’s all important.
- Seeing Voices: A Journey Into the World of the Deaf by Oliver Sacks. Discovered I have been unaware of a rich culture that surrounds me. What else don’t I know?
- History of Public Land Law Development by Paul Wallace Gates. A total gem of a book. Proves that this country is truly built by its laws. In reading this book and old plat maps, I discovered that a big patch of dry prairie in Missouri had been declared swamp land at one time, not because it was actually a swamp but all due to a glitch in the wording of a law.
- Anything by Edward Tufte: Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative; The Visual Display of Quantitative Information; or Beautiful Evidence. He’s a master at showing you better ways to share your information. Visualization. Seeing really is believing!