Bring Back the CD-ROM Station?

I suppose I must have noticed that our 2007 copy of the Florida Statistical Abstract was out-of-date before now.  It is seldom used, but when you need it, nothing else will do.  It's not available free online, as the United States Statistical Abstract is.  By November of this year, now two editions behind, I made a fuss.  The 2008 and 2009 editions were duly ordered.  The 2010 was available on CD or as a download, but not yet as a printed book.  Were we interested?

I thought we should wait for the book.  It needs to be available for use by patrons, not only librarians.  The only way a CD or download would work would be to have it on a dedicated public-access PC, like the pre-Web CD-ROM stations of yore.

Back in the 1990's, the library made a number of programs available on offline CD-ROM stations:  Car Shop, American Business Disc, Phone Disc, Family Tree Maker, Bible Explorer, Discovery encyclopedias of Native American and American History, a job-search app.

As the Web grew, the CD-ROM stations were used less and less, and they were converted to additional public-access Internet PC's, for which there was a greater need.  All the vendors wanted to migrate to a web-based, online format, and to sell libraries on providing their products remotely to users at home.

InfoUSA combined American Business Disc and Phone Disc into a single, web-based app, ReferenceUSA, designed for remote access through libraries at a breathtaking higher price than the CD-ROM products, many thousands of dollars.  The web-based Ancestry for Libraries replaced Family Tree Maker, also at a steep price.  When times got tight, these pricier web-based resources got axed from the budget.  Now the library doesn't have them at all, in any format, and is the poorer for it.

The Foundation Grants Index disappeared as a fat, printed volume and went web-based only, which the library declined to subscribe to.  For a while we were able to refer people to the State Library down the street to use it, but then they dropped it.  There is presently no place in the Tallahassee area for people starting a non-profit to do free grant research that could bring money and tangible benefits to the community.

I think a case could be made for dedicating a few PC's to provide single-seat licensed, in-library access to worthwhile information resources which the library can't afford otherwise.

No comments: