It’s hard to imagine ASU’s Porter Henderson Library without Dr. Maurice Fortin, but now it’s time for the campus community to do just that.
After 22 years as the executive director of the library and assisting thousands of students, faculty and staff in their academic ventures, Fortin is retiring.
“One of the reasons I am retiring right now is I think it’s time for some new ideas,” he said. “I feel like I’ve done a lot, but I’m getting tired and someone needs to come in with new ideas and new energy. Most of what is left to do in the library is three- and five-year projects.”
When Fortin first arrived at ASU in 1996, the Mathematics-Computer Science (MCS) Building was the newest structure on campus, construction was about to begin on the Junell Center, and the Porter Henderson Library didn’t have a third floor.
“One of the reasons I wanted to come to ASU after being at a much larger institution was I felt I could have a bigger impact,” Fortin said. “I had actually applied once before in 1992 and didn’t get the job. But when it came open again in 1996, I applied the second time and I got it.”
Fortin’s impact was felt almost immediately. He quickly brought the library up to speed for accreditation while also enhancing the library’s technology.
“We took a library that was behind the times and transformed it with the help of great staff and great ideas,” Fortin said. “Very early in my tenure, we made a partnership with the director of Information Technology, Doug Fox. IT and the library have been working side by side for the last 22 years, and that’s what made possible so many changes in the library.”
And with the worldwide move from print to electronic access, as well as ASU offering more online graduate classes and dual credit opportunities for high school students, the library was forced to modernize.
“We’ve gone from 2,200 print journals to 100,” Fortin said. “But we have access to 72,000 online. That’s the revolution of electronic access. We’re buying fewer and fewer print books. We don’t need a million volumes in this library. What we need are the volumes that best support the curriculum on campus and the research needs of students and faculty.”
“I will truly miss the interaction with students. I appreciate the support I’ve received over the years from the administration. It’s been fun – but it’s time for a change.”
Perhaps one of Fortin’s most notable accomplishments was the addition of the Library Learning Commons to the first floor. Opened in 2011, it features a completely moldable space for students. The furniture can be rearranged, there is a coffee bar located directly in the space, and the technology is state of the art.
“It changed from a very traditional library style,” Fortin said. “When you think of academia, you think of the library as being the heart of campus. Well that was starting to fade away, particularly because of electronic access. The whole point of the Learning Commons was to refocus the library as the heart of learning on campus.”
“The library is not only a place where you come to study, write papers or work on a group project,” he continued. “It’s also a point of destination on campus. The Learning Commons creates a physical space that facilitates interaction. Students interacting with students, faculty, staff, technology and information, regardless of the format.”
Another notable change were the library’s hours of operation. Thanks to a partnership with the Student Government Association to create the student library fee in the early 2000s, the library gradually went from being open 87 hours a week to 137 hours a week.
“That extra money made it possible to do immediate changes,” Fortin said. “Everything you see, that we’ve done, has been made possible by that library fee.”
“I’ve been blessed with some very good staff that are very hard working,” he continued. “We have one of the smallest staffs in ratio to students and faculty, and yet we are open 137 hours a week and are still able to do all of these things that cause accreditors to say we have great services. To me, that is what we’ve been benefiting the campus with.”
And while the campus will work to fill the void created by his departure, Fortin is looking forward to spending time with his family and traveling the world.
“I will truly miss the interaction with students,” he said. “I appreciate the support I’ve received over the years from the administration. I’ve had some good bosses and supportive bosses. It’s been fun – but it’s time for a change.”