Little Big Horn College To Double Library Size

May 15th, 2008 | By | Category: 19-4: Success by Accountability and Assessment, Tribal College News
By Brett Thomas-DeJongh

EAGERLY AWAITING LONG-ENVISIONED NEW LBHC LIBRARY. L to R: Mary Agnes White Hip, Aide, Tim Bernardis, Library Director, Edwin Springfield, Technical Assistant, and Patty Brown, Assistant Librarian. Photo by Mary Hudetz

Children sit around the fireplace, listening to a storyteller weave a tale. A college student—ready to start work on a term paper—searches rows of book shelves. On the periphery, a couple of teens update MySpace pages. Little Big Horn College (LBHC) administrators take care of business on the second floor, and below them the college archives hold the history of the Apsaalooke, the region, and more.

This is the vision that LBHC Librarian Tim Bernardis has for the $7 million library center that is being built a stone’s throw from the school’s administration building in Crow Agency, MT. “Hopefully, everyone will find something here,” he says.

At 25,000 square feet, the new building is double the size of the current library, granting Bernardis room to expand the book collection and add computers. Plans for more comfortable furniture and office upgrades for the staff are in the works, too, says Bernardis, who has been librarian at LBHC for 23 years.

The students also are looking forward to the new digs. Lakisha Flores, a LBHC freshman, says she anticipates seeing more fiction on the shelves. “I know we’re college students, and we need to do research,” Flores says, “but the library we have now doesn’t have books you can read on your own time.” Leslie Smith, president of LBHC’s student government, says the increased number of computer workstations will solve a shortage she has noticed at the current library.

The college plans the library ribbon-cutting for June 11, 2008. Shane Ridley of Fisher Construction, a Billings-based company, says that construction began in late 2006. Though the foundation was finished that December, the ground froze, and they couldn’t backhoe, he says.

Larry Kindness, LBHC’s construction liaison and building inspector, acknowledged the weather delays and other setbacks. Had the college not received $3 million from a special tribal budget bill, Kindness says construction might have been halted indefinitely. “We wouldn’t have been able to finish or furnish the building,” Kindness says.

Bernardis and Kindness spent weeks brainstorming about ways to make the college’s building a community center, too. Bernardis envisions creating photo exhibits of Crow families by researching the tribal archives to trace family trees. “We would start with an old photo,” he says. Digitizing the tribal archive is a priority, he says, because putting the archives content online provides a way to both preserve and share content with other museums.

He is working to gain access to the digital archives at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center’s Plains Indian Museum in Cody, WY, where the one-of-a-kind Paul Dyck collection will be housed. The Cody museum acquired the Paul Dyck Collection of Plains Indian artifacts and art work in September, a fact not lost on Bernardis. “Initially, [the Paul Dyck Foundation] wanted to give the collection to the Crow tribe,” he says. “Somehow it slipped through our fingers.”

The collection will not go up for several more years, as the museum catalogs and restores the items, according to the historical center’s website. If the library eventually gains digital access to the collection’s bear claw necklaces, war shirts and other beaded items, then Bernardis and other staff members could display them on flat screen televisions mounted to a wall in the new building, Kindness says.

“I don’t think any other college in the country will have that,” Bernardis says.

Reprinted by permission from

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