Budget problems may force Scripps oceanography library to close

View from Scripps library, by daniel_clark

California is broke, largely thanks to incompetent stewardship and Proposition 13, which limits the amount of income the state can bring in from property taxes. Education in particular is being heavily cut – and this is hitting close to home for me personally as well as the oceanography community as a whole. My home institution, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at University of California, San Diego, may be forced to close its world-famous library.

The Scripps library is the largest oceanography library in the world, and has many collections found nowhere else. While about 100,000 volumes of the over 227,000 volumes have been digitally archived by Google, many scientists need resources that aren’t online – and you know that the Deep Sea News crew is generally in favor of Things Online.

Just in my time at graduate school, I’ve used the library extensively for taxonomy resources (not online) and data from cruises from the early 1970s (not online). Other resources that are at the Scripps library but not online are historic charts and maps, monographs from early oceanographic expeditions, archival material from Scripps’ history, and countless other material.

It’s very sad that we’ve come to this. I certainly understand the need for hard choices –  for another example close to home,  UCSD undergraduates’ tuition is going up by 8% after their fees went up 30% last year, and many of them can’t even graduate in four years because it’s so hard to get into required classes.  But the potential closing of the Scripps library breaks my heart. So much work, time, and resources have been put into building this priceless collection over the past 100 years, and we’re going to lose it just as we need ocean science the most.

If you’d like to speak out regarding the closure of the Scripps library, check out the Save SIO Library Facebook page. You can also sign a petition to keep the library open by emailing your name and affiliation to SaveSIOLibrary at gmail dot com.

7 Replies to “Budget problems may force Scripps oceanography library to close”

  1. It does seem a travesty that taxpayers will be forced to continue subsidizing Amtrak while first rate organizations like Scripps Institute flounder financially. All of these hardships reveal the original paradigm of public funding for private endeavors was deeply flawed. First rate organizations like Harvard spend a disgusting amount of time cultivating donors, investing donations, and looking for teachers not for their quality, but for their ability to generate grant moneys. With the advent of sensitive equipment to further our understanding of the sciences have come huge bills, mirroring the problems modern medicine has been facing. We, as a society must consolidate our research efforts because of its expense. This will mean less researchers having access to the equipment, thus less research openings, and less demand for these courses of education. We can see how quickly the new paradigm effects everyone from the researcher to the equipment maker (DOD is having to cut back on equipment because of the expense as well) to the research facility and higher education interests. More people on earth and fewer resources equal greater poverty for everyone.

  2. The 100k books Google digitized from Scripps Library are almost entirely not available fulltext cover-to-cover due to copyright. Only the public domain books published before 1923 are available fulltext, and they number a thousand if I recall correctly. Google Books is an excellent tool for searching text within books, but it is not replacing books on shelf due to copyright. You can’t read those digitized books within Google Books. If you’re lucky you will see a ‘snippet’ of text and from what I’ve seen mostly not.

  3. Thanks very much for stopping by and for clarifying, Peter. This makes keeping the library open all the more critical.

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