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To Augment Collections

It was a relatively simple matter, at the beginning of the last century, to build a library collection for a college. When the first nine students arrived at the South Carolina College in 1805, two faculty members taught fewer than a dozen courses, but the college already had over 3,000 books for its library. Early librarians did their jobs so well that, by the mid 19th-century, the book collection was considered to be one of the best in the country and had the distinction of being housed in the nation's first free-standing college library, now known as the South Caroliniana Library.

As the number of courses, faculty, and students increased over the decades, so did the need for additions to the library collections. From a few thousand books, the University's holdings now reach into the millions. The Thomas Cooper Library, South Caroliniana Library, and music, mathematics, business, and film libraries enrich the campus with books, journals, periodicals, maps, documents, films, and video tapes totaling more than seven million items.

Impressive as that number is, it is not enough. A library at the heart of a great university must constantly grow to support the broadening mission of the institution. New discoveries, even new fields of study, emerge frequently in this world of constant change. As faculty members explore their disciplines, and as new faculty arrive on campus, they often need books and journals not already on the shelves, and they must have access to the latest scholarship in their fields.

Although the USC libraries' annual budget for materials acquisition has risen more than $2 million in the past five years to almost $4 million, it barely keeps up with the materials inflation rate. Only through dramatically increased private support will library acquisitions be able to keep pace with such growing demand.

The cost of subscriptions to scholarly journals — essential for faculty research and teaching — increases an average of 10 to 12 percent a year. Some increases are even more dramatic. The cost of one chemistry journal, required for a department's accreditation, has risen from $500 to $5,000 in recent years. There are nearly 100 departments and academic programs on the Columbia campus, each with its own book and journal needs. To help eliminate duplication and hold down costs, a library representative in each department works with bibliographers and selectors on the library staff to identify essential acquisitions and advise faculty of new publications.

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This page was last updated on 4 February 1999.