[env-trinity] University of California may abandon its water library

Mark Dowdle - TCRCD mdowdle at tcrcd.net
Tue May 25 15:47:35 PDT 2010

*Why is UC abandoning its water library?*

*S.F. Chronicle-5/24/10*

*By Daniel O. Holmes*



What happens when a one-of-its-kind library at the University of 
California is no longer wanted by its hosting unit? While the strategic 
priorities of a unit may change, reducing the library's relevance to its 
host -- but what about its relevance to the broader university community 
and the public? Is that relevance to be ignored and the library 
summarily disbanded? It looks like that is what is happening at Berkeley.


The Water Resources Center Archives, the premier water collection in the 
United States, is on the UC chopping block awaiting the axe -- not 
because it is no longer relevant (close to 500,000 unique online users 
use it annually) -- but because the Office of the President's Division 
of Agriculture and Natural Resources no longer finds it to be a 
priority. Ironically, the very people who no longer want it have been 
placed in charge of determining the fate of the archives.


Despite its antiquated moniker, the archives is not a collection of 
irrelevant dusty old stuff. It is a modern library with loads of digital 
resources and has the largest Web site on the UC Berkeley library server.


As we all know, fresh water is arguably the most vital natural resource 
in the world. Its worldwide availability is declining as population is 
increasing (for example, see the April 2010 special issue of National 
Geographic Magazine, Water -- Our Thirsty World).


Water is equally vital in California. It is a topic of chronic 
passionate debate and litigation in California among the general public, 
attorneys, engineers, politicians, farmers, recreationists, academics, 
utilities and entrepeneurs. Surely the university should recognize and 
honor the value of this unique collection and its services to all.


More than 50 years ago, the Legislature founded this library to collect, 
preserve and disseminate rare and unique water information to support 
instructional and research programs of the university, the people of the 
state, and of our nation. It would be shortsighted, in fact 
irresponsible, to terminate or seriously undermine the archives' 
survival and functionality for any reason. Of course, proportionate 
budget cuts are acceptable.


Information on water is not just your run-of-the-mill technical and 
popular publications. It has innumerable publishers (like the more than 
800 irrigation districts in California alone), a popular literature, 
one-off digital reports, and the valuable archives gifted from retiring 
water professionals. Gathering and preserving and making accessible this 
non-conventional and unusual water information demands special 
expertise, which the archives has built up over more than half a 
century. No one else has it.#


/Daniel O. Holmes of Orinda is a consulting geographer and librarian. /





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