Throughout the decade of the Nineties, the library, like the rest of the university had to face the problem of budget cuts. The budget for the purchase of books, magazines and other forms of media has often been frozen or even cut. Due to inflation, the loss of purchasing power has often led to a loss of journal titles. To add to the problem, the library must also pay tens of thousands of dollars each year for databases that are deemed essential now, but were not even in existence ten years ago. One way in which the library has been attempting to cope with this is by forming consortiums with the other University of Wisconsin System libraries to enhance purchasing power.
A second way in which the library has found help in dealing with the budget crunch is through grants and gifts. For example, the Rakstis Endowment Fund gave $50,000 to the library to fund acquisitions of manufacturing engineering resources. The David P. Bamard Family Endowment, presented by David and Kathleen Bamard, provided much needed funding for staff development. There have also been numerous grants given to the library's staff for new computers, machines to help the disabled, microfilm copy machines, scanning machines and other equipment. Two grant proposals were also successfully awarded to enable the library to implement full text information delivery for faculty and students. Student Technology Fees have added further funding for computers and related technologies.
Instructional Resources Service
Following a $248,000 remodeling project, Instructional Resources Service (IRS), formerly Rental Resources Services, left Ray Hall and moved into the Library Learning Center building in 1996. IRS is now housed in what previously had been the second floor computer lab, academic skills center study rooms, and library conference room. A second major project, costing close to $225,000, began later that year to improve air quality.
When the Stout library first opened its doors in the Yellow Lodge ninety years ago, perhaps the one word that would best describe what it was about is "books." Today that word would be "technology." As the library approaches the new millennium technology affects all aspects of its operation. Reference librarians are much more likely to refer a user to an electronic format rather than a paper one. Instead of talking about the Library of Congress method of classifying and cataloging books, library instructors are teaching how to search the World Wide Web and the Internet. Instruction itself has changed from teaching in a crowded room to hands on experience in an enlarged and technologically enhanced library instruction lab that opened in 1998.
Reference Area in the Library
It will be interesting to see what lies in store for the Stout library in the Twenty-First Century. Already there are several indicators. At the circulation desk a student could be asking to check out a laptop computer or a digital camera rather than a book. The original twenty dumb terminals that replaced the card catalog have in turn been replaced by approximately 150 personal computers with capabilities that few people even envisioned ten years ago. The number of off-campus patrons in such areas as reference and instructional resource services will continue to increase, as distance education grows in popularity. The future of the library cannot be known, but it is strongly believed that quality service and dedicated employees will continue to be the tradition in the "heart of the institution."