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Commentary: The Scripps Library---Legacy or lost forever?

Am I being punked? Can it be that the largest dedicated library for oceanography (nationally and internationally), the Scripps Library on the campus at Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO), is in danger of closing its doors forever?
From its birth 100 years ago and throughout the years, the Scripps Library evolved as the gold standard for ocean science holdings. Myriad scholars, students and citizens in the community have benefited from its resources, which include its librarians and their specialized knowledge in researching all things ocean. It took visionaries, time, money and donations to invest in accruing works across the areas of ocean science (historical to present) and have them all conveniently housed under one roof. That this library has become a center of world renown envied by those from other ocean institutes and marine science stations is just a bonus, though scientists outside of Scripps have long benefited from the library's collections and continue to do so today.

Of the nine libraries at UCSD, the plan is to shutter seven. The two remaining (both on the main campus at UCSD) may each absorb some of the holdings of the Scripps Library, and some works may go into storage. In other words, the Scripps Library's collective holdings will be scattered. On the Scripps Library website, it is euphemistically stated that “select” collections and services will be consolidated. What exactly that means is unclear. What is clear is that SIO will no longer have a library on its campus. How's that for an institution of higher learning and one on the cutting edge of research?

Though the loss can expect to negatively impact Scripps students, faculty, and staff, the community at large will be affected, though I guess we are merely collateral damage. Why should you care? If you like reading my “Tide Lines” columns, know that my sources of information have come from researching at the Scripps Library where I have also been aided over the years by the crack staff of librarians. As an ocean educator to the public, I cannot fathom losing this invaluable resource that is housed in one location. If the Scripps Library closes, my research and writing will be compromised.

The Scripps Library, its history, its holdings, and what it represents to the national and international oceanographic community should be preserved, not erased. Operating costs to keep the Scripps Library open are a fraction of UCSD's overall budget. When the powers that be at UCSD toss around promises “to protect the academic core,” what pray tell is an academic institution without a campus library? This is no time to be penny wise and pound foolish. The Scripps Library is not a relic, though at its age it has weathered World War I, World War II, and the Great Depression, to name a few potential budget busting episodes in our country's history.

For those of you who want to voice your views, email Brian Schottlaender, University Librarian (; Tony Hayment, Vice Chancellor, Marine Science (; Gary Matthews, Resource Management/Planning ( Or if you're in on the joke, tell Aston Kutcher to come out of the shadows. We are not amused.



— Judith Lea Garfield, naturalist and underwater photographer, has authored two natural history books about the underwater park off La Jolla Cove and La Jolla Shores. Send comments to