A number of students and faculty were upset when, because of budget concerns, Temple’s Paley Library was forced to cut the online version of the Oxford English Dictionary, an essential source for research. Last week, however, University Librarian, Maureen Pastine, announced the library plans to reinstate the OED.
Robert Lannon, a sophomore majoring in English, who campaigned for the return of the OED, is excited by the news.
“I’m floored,” he said. “I really didn’t expect it.”
When Lannon learned of the termination of the OED, which occurred in July 2003, he was devastated. “Last year,” Lannon said, “I used it to write an entire paper. It was a welcome help.”
After learning the OED, which costs the library an annual subscription of around $5,000, was cut in order for the library to balance its budget, Lannon was determined to pursue the matter. “The more I researched the issue,” he said, “the more I realized it was just the tip of the iceberg.”
Lannon discovered not only was the OED subscription cut, but other important research materials had also been discontinued. In addition, he noticed other academic institutions provided the OED, including Penn State and Rutgers.
“I realized then,” Lannon said, “they’ll keep cutting corners if we let them.” An inspired Lannon drafted a petition highlighting the issue. The petition was subsequently passed around English classes and received roughly 300 signatures. It was then directed to University President David Adamany, and Vice-Provost of Undergraduate Education, Dr. Stephan Zelnick.
The petition, combined with emails from various professors, and the sudden use of available funds from a recently vacated position, convinced the library it could afford to bring back the OED.
“We like to listen to our users,” Pastine said.
Library officials have no set date as to when the OED will be reinstated.
“It’s difficult to say how long it will take,” Pastine said, “but we’d like it to be as soon as possible.”
Many faculty members had asked that the OED be brought back. Says Frank Immler, the library’s University Collection Development Officer, “The first complaint I received was from a professor at Temple’s Medical School.”
The majority of complaints, however, were from the humanities departments. Dr. Muffy Siegel, an English professor who specializes in linguistics, is especially happy that the OED will be back in service.
“Students who take linguistics are interested in the origin of words,” said Siegel. “I’m relieved that Temple once more has an important basic reference work [that is] available at all major universities. My students clapped and cheered when they heard the news. ”
The Oxford English Dictionary is the largest most comprehensive source of its kind in the world. In print, a complete set can span 20 volumes and costs several hundred dollars. The library has a print version of the OED.
Originally, the library chose to cut the OED because “usage online, while substantial, was not huge,” Pastine said. Usage of the resource is one of the main factors in determining whether the OED will remain part of the resources available to Temple students.
“Use is going to important,” said Jonathan LeBreton, Director of Administrative Services for the library, “when next year rolls around.”
This is not the first time the library has been forced to choose between resources. Part of the problem, Immler said, is the libraries of other schools have a much greater budget both for purchasing new materials and maintaining present ones.
“Our overall budget for collections is around $4 million,” he said. “The budgets of Rutgers and Penn State run in the double digits.”
Another problem, LeBreton said, is the increasing cost of online resources. “When the enrollment increases, costs for online resources go up,” he added. “Libraries do not benefit from a tuition hike.”
Pastine agreed. “Libraries tend to be forgotten,” she said. “We are still hoping to get funds to reinstate other important resources.”
Kishwir Vikaas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.