[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?*
*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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