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A Resource for Students

Note: This is the 26th profile in a series of 90 stories highlighting individuals who have shaped Notre Dame and/or live the College’s mission of personal, professional and global responsibility.

By Christian Taske ’07

For Karen Zoller it’s all about the hunt.

The director of Notre Dame College’s Clara Fritzsche Library has a passion for helping NDC students track down the most obscure facts so they can proudly display them in their research papers. Zoller’s search may take her all the way to Alaska, Europe or South America. That’s how far requested materials have traveled to the library.

“I love the detective aspect of library work,” Zoller says. “The approach to problem-solving fascinates me. It’s almost like a scavenger hunt.”

Zoller considers herself a reference librarian, someone NDC students should come to first when they need to find facts for a research paper – even in the age of the Internet.

“They need someone to teach them how to evaluate information, to determine what information is good, and how to use that information,” Zoller says.

Many Notre Dame students, particularly those in the graduate programs, take advantage of Zoller’s impeccable research and fact-checking skills, which she harnessed in Case Western Reserve University’s Master of Library Sciences program. But her individual assistance is just one of many services she offers in the library. Since she started as a cataloger in 1988, Zoller has expanded the library’s collection, connected it to the World Wide Web, and made it the home of the Tolerance Resource Collection.

“In a way I consider the library my creation. I have a special bond with it,” Zoller says. “There’s still a lot to do here but we’re not very different from the larger libraries. In many ways we offer superior service.”

Zoller joined NDC 24 years ago after working at Geauga County Public Library and Booksellers. When she was hired the library had no computers, let alone Internet access; there was no interlibrary loan service in place for students and staff; and no electronic catalog of the less than 90,000 volumes existed. Today students have access to over 95,000 books, periodicals and audiovisual materials on campus, in addition to countless print and electronic resources via the Ohio Library and Information Network (OhioLINK). There are several specialized collections for intelligence analysis, Holocaust studies, nursing, education and the Eastern Churches; and Zoller works with faculty to offer bibliographic instruction classes. 

“We are making this into more of a research library so that we can support our graduate programs,” Zoller says. “It’s very gratifying to know that we have an impact on our students.”

Karen Zoller has been in charge of the library since 1993.
Karen Zoller has been in charge of the library since 1993.

During her first four years at NDC Zoller also instituted semiannual book sales to raise money for computers and other equipment. After she was named library director in 1992 she also reactivated the Book-A-Year Club as a major fundraiser.

Her chief goal was to get a new computer system implemented and to put together an electronic catalog. The job involved taking a complete inventory of all books, assigning barcodes and putting new labels on every volume. The process took several years and Zoller had help from her mother, Sonia Klodor, a familiar face to library patrons, who volunteered at NDC four or five days a week for 16 years.

  In recent years Zoller oversaw the renovation of the library and the shifting of its collection to accommodate the Falcon Café expansion. She has also turned the renovated Book-A-Year Club room into an art gallery space that has hosted more than 80 artists.

Zoller was also instrumental in giving the Tolerance Resource Center a home in the library. The center was the brainchild of adjunct faculty member Maggie Kocevar ’95, who died before it opened in 1997. A student of the Holocaust, Kocevar had envisioned the center as a place for research, outreach and education on the Holocaust, anti-bias issues and diversity. After Kocevar’s death Zoller worked with professors Sr. Mary Louise Trivison ’50 and Rachel Morris to see Kocevar’s vision through.

“I remember sitting down in the library with Sr. Mary Louise and Maggie to talk about her idea,” Zoller says. “We had a little storage room on the second floor that we cleaned out in one day. The maintenance department painted it. Rachel Morris arranged for some furniture to be donated and I helped with PR.”

The center quickly got the attention of the media and the public, and thanks to donations it grew to house about 2,000 books, educational curriculum guides, periodicals, multimedia resources, maps, posters and photographs. In 2009 it evolved into the Abrahamic Center, which offers the opportunity to study issues of racial, cultural and religious diversity. Today the Tolerance Resource Collection contains the research materials of the Abrahamic Center.

Zoller continued her work for the Tolerance Resource Center over the years. In 2008 she received the President’s Appreciation Award, along with Morris, Sr. Trivison and Candy Fischer, for their management of the 10th anniversary of the Tolerance Resource Center. Today she sits on the Abrahamic Center’s advisory board.

 Zoller is also on the committee of the Eastern Church Resource Center, which hosts the Eleanor Malburg Eastern Churches Seminar, an annual dialogue between the clergy, bishops and laity of the Orthodox, Byzantine and Roman Catholic churches in the Greater Cleveland area.

If all of these responsibilities weren’t enough, Zoller regularly volunteers for campus events like midnight breakfasts, art shows or judging essay contests. For going above and beyond job expectations, she received the President’s Outstanding Staff Award in 2006.

“There’s something about this place,” Zoller says about her commitment to Notre Dame College. “I see it moving into a really good direction. I just like it here.”

She likes it so much that she doesn’t mind spending late nights in the library assisting students with their research projects.

“Helping our students is the most important thing,” she says. “And it’s very fulfilling.”

Christian Taske ’07 is the director of print & digital communications at Notre Dame College.