Education and the Economy

Funding Crisis May Marginalize SC Online Library System

Education and the Economy

A consortium of university and other libraries in South Carolina faces the prospect of shuttering the bulk of its online library system in the face of state budget cuts. The Partnership Among South Carolina Academic Libraries (PASCAL) lost $1.8 million--90 percent of its funding--in cutbacks, forcing the organization to cancel database and electronic journal subscriptions and reduce its services to three days a week from five. The organization has projected that it will be able to maintain the scaled back delivery schedule through the middle of 2009.

Since 2004, a $2 million state appropriation has been used to develop and maintain two initiatives: PASCAL Delivers, a rapid book delivery that allows participating institutions to centralize book sharing; and Electronic Resources, a central annual licensing of electronic resources for higher education.

PASCAL staff and supporters have gone on the defensive, plastering the organization's site with banners and text messages, encouraging users to "save PASCAL" by communicating with legislators and sharing how they use the system through the group's Web site. "As a doctoral student, I fully depend on PASCAL and these electronic resources for all of my research and I humbly implore all decision makers not to cut funding," wrote one anonymous user from the University of South Carolina.

"Without PASCAL," the site stated, "the research materials we have licensed simply will not be accessible to most of our 230,000 students and faculty, especially those served by rural or smaller two and four year institutions. Even at our research institutions, trade-offs are being made. Similarly, the loss of our efficient book delivery service will translate into lost availability of research collections to many at smaller and rural schools, and higher individual transaction costs for services."

By early January 2009, PASCAL had canceled subscriptions to 800 titles to publications in nursing, allied health and the sciences. The remaining 7,000 titles will be canceled in July 2009 unless additional funding is found.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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