Toward Faster Access
Today it is not as important to own every book in the world as it is to give people rapid access to as much information as possible. This idea drives much of the effort of the University of South Carolina's libraries. From the first books purchased in 1802, the University's library holdings have grown to millions of titles. Every conceivable source of knowledge is represented on the shelves in print form, in microform files, and increasingly in computers that bring information to students and faculty from the far reaches of the globe.
Today's library is truly a world without walls, a universe of scholarships and information. The catalogs of all the USC libraries in Columbia and at the other campuses are on-line through USCAN, which provides bibliographic information, stack location, and even whether the book has been checked out.
Some workstations provide access to CD-ROMs containing specialized information, while others are part of the campus-wide computer network available to students, faculty, and staff wherever they may be on campus. Through this campus network and the Internet, faculty consult with colleagues around the world, students access research anywhere, and discoveries dart between scholars at the speed of light. The University of South Carolina recognized the importance of new technologies and has consistently been a leader, ahead of many other major universities, in the use of electronic resources and information technology.
Technology allows more people to explore the worlds of knowledge. The Center for Adaptive Technology in the Thomas Cooper Library offers specialized equipment for the visually impaired. One computer allows the user to scan a page, document, or book and have the computer provide voice output. Three computers with speech synthesizers speak information as it is typed or retrieved from a disk. There is also a braille printer and a closed-circuit TV that magnifies pages.
The communications pathways throughout the University and to and from the Internet are not free. Some of the resources are inexpensive, others — especially the more complex academic databases — cost thousands of dollars a year. Nonetheless, they are indispensable tools to many disciplines, and the University must provide them. Even as increased Internet access is encouraged, the University faces constraints in providing adequate communication capacity. To meet these needs, private support becomes increasingly essential in USC's efforts to become a great university.
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