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Netz Leaves legacy of service

By Sally Jongsma

David Netz (’66) has retired as vice president for information services at Dordt College. An academic librarian for most of his life, Netz began and ended his career at Dordt College. He served as reference librarian and part-time English instructor from 1968 to 1972. After working in several university libraries over the next twenty-three years, Netz returned to Dordt College in 1995 to head information services.

David Netz

David Netz

The information services office at Dordt College includes both the library and computer services.

“The collaboration between our library and computer services staff is somewhat unique in higher education,” says Netz. “They respect each other and look to each other in developing new services.” In fact, that spirit of collaboration tops Netz’s list of what made his job enjoyable. Their team spirit and sense of purpose in serving the college community also created a good working environment, and it benefited faculty and students.

There is often a conflict between the library and computer services in institutions, says Netz. As a result libraries aren’t always as innovative as they could be and new ways of accessing information are not as publicly accessible..

Librarian Sheryl Taylor says, “Dave has done a very effective job, even when he first arrived, at providing solid leadership for our division. He helped us bridge gaps and find ways to work together for the benefit of the college.”

Director of Computer Services Brian Van Donselaar says, “Dave has been instrumental in shaping information services at Dordt into a highly effective organization that will meet the needs of students and employees for years to come.”

Under Netz’s leadership, the library has been a testbed for a variety of new technologies. Some efforts have been more successful than others, but Netz believes that the Dordt College library is a match for most university libraries.

“We’re not early adopters—we wait until technology has been tested, because we can’t afford to purchase products without a track record or products that won't work well for us,” Netz says about both the library and computer services. Nevertheless, he and his staff are always on the lookout for new ways to make information better available to the college community.

As Van Donselaar says, “Dave has encouraged cautious creativity.”

During his years as vice president, Netz has stressed professional development for all of his staff—including student workers. Employees participate in training sessions, video conferences, and off-campus conferences. Students go through a careful training process and their performance is evaluated and available for inclusion in their resume. Through all of this Netz has instilled a strong customer service focus in information services, says Van Donselaar.

“Our staff members are more than service providers; they’re educators,” Netz says.

The challenge has been to “stay ahead of the curve.” Netz tried to keep abreast of new services to see how Dordt could continue to effectively meet the needs of our increasingly technological society.

“We’re in a competitive position,” he says. “The next generation of students will be a multi-media generation expecting to have access to the most current technology as part of their college education.”

Yet Netz doesn’t simply see information services’ role as one of keeping up but as opportunity. “It’s exciting to be part of a global learning environment—to think about how Dordt College can share what it offers with people in Latin America or around the globe.”

It’s also exciting to see what has developed in the last decade. The library no longer has a card catalog—all searching is done online. Many computers are available for research; laptops can be checked out and used as wireless stations in areas on campus. Dordt TV allows students to tune in to watch movies, videos, or programs assigned by professors. The vastness of information available is incredible—which also presents challenges for Netz and his staff.

“Students think they can google their way through college today,” says Netz, adding, “They think anything in print is out of date.” That presents new educational challenges for staff as they help students learn the value of a variety of sources and learn how to verify and authenticate information they obtain electronically.

Looking back, Netz is pleased with the developments that have taken place over the past ten years. He also believes his department has been resourceful. By working together with Mutual Telephone, the local internet provider, Dordt College has five T-1 lines coming into campus at a lower cost than most institutions pay. The network on campus is well maintained with little down time. Service is good—“at least we don’t get many complaints,” he says.

“It’s been a privilege to serve in a Christian college,” says Netz. And while he’s helped increase the information available to the college community, he’s also grown in knowledge and understanding as he’s come to see a bigger world through his work in information services.