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Feature

University Libraries has more than 6.2 million volumes and 36,000 serial subscriptions to send out to libraries all over the world.

Bringing the University Libraries to every citizen

University of Minnesota Libraries loans more books, articles, and other material than any other North American research library

January 12, 2006

The University of Minnesota Libraries is the top-ranked research library in North America when measured by the number of books, articles, and other material it loans to libraries throughout the continent and the world.

This success is a testament to a wildly successful program begun in December 1968 called MINITEX (MINITEX Library Information Network), a system for sharing books and other documents among libraries. Although now international in scope, its primary goal was best described by a University Alumni News headline from that era: "Bringing the University Libraries to every citizen of Minnesota."

Last fiscal year, the Twin Cities U Libraries sent out via MINITEX more than 142,000 pieces of valuable material from its collection of more than 6.2 million volumes and 36,000 serial subscriptions to libraries in the Upper Midwest and all over the world. Sixty-five percent of those loans were to people in Minnesota--everyone from eighth graders working on science fair projects to college professors developing scholarly articles.

From its humble beginnings, when requests for information were sent to the U via teletype machines, MINITEX has expanded to include other legislatively funded programs such as the Electronic Library for Minnesota (ELM). ELM provides every Minnesotan with electronic access to more than 10,900 publications, 13,200 electronic books, and a host of online encyclopedias, almanacs, and other resources 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"We are a small district and can't afford quality electronic databases on our own," wrote a teacher from Stewartville, Minn. "Without ELM, it's only books and the Internet for us... Our sixth graders use ELM extensively to research their Minnesota History Day projects. Truth be told, they would be lost without it."

In the spirit of Thomas Jefferson, who founded the University of Virginia and promoted the idea that everyone--not just the privileged few--should have access to higher education, the University of Minnesota and MINITEX bring knowledge directly to the desktops of Minnesotans.