The PACS-L LISTSERV List Was Established 30 Years Ago Tomorrow

Imagine the Internet without the Web. Imagine that there is no Google or similar search engine. Imagine that the cutting edge Internet applications are e-mail, LISTSERV, FTP, and Telnet. Imagine that the "Internet" is made up of a number of different noncommercial networks, and that the connections between them are not always transparent. Imagine that Microsoft only shipped one million copies of the second version of Windows last year, and you are using MS-DOS without a graphical interface. Imagine that no established publisher has even experimented with an e-journal.

That was the situation on June 29, 1989 when I launched PACS-L, a LISTSERV mailing list. PACS-L was one of the first library-oriented mailing lists, and it was unusual in that it had a broad subject focus (public-access computer systems in libraries). Although PACS-L's greatest contribution may have been in raising librarians' awareness of the importance and potential of the then fledgling Internet, it was also the platform on which my soon-to-follow open access journal, The Public-Access Computer Systems Review, was based.

In Remembering PACS-L, Roy Tennant said:

For quite a while this list was where everything new in librarianship was happening. Despite its name, topics well beyond public access computer systems were discussed and debated. It was, in a nutshell, an essential place to hear and be heard. Its like was never to be again, as since then online communication channels have burgeoned and diversified. But for a little while, at least, there was a single place to be. And it was PACS-L.

In its heyday, it became one of the largest LISTSERV lists as Walt Crawford recounts in "Talking about Public Access—PACS-L's First Decade":

PACS-L kept growing, reaching 4,000 subscribers in June 1992; 5,000 subscribers that December; 6,000 by April 1993; and 7,000 that October. The 8,000 mark was reached by March 1994, 9,000 by February 1995, and 10,000 by February 1996. The list itself never reached 11,000 subscribers, and by 1996 many other specialized library lists had joined the fairly general PACS-L.

PACS-L was a collaborative effort that involved a number of staff from the University of Houston Libraries, including these list moderators:

  • Nicole Abbott
  • Amelia Abreu
  • Charles W. Bailey, Jr.
  • Marianne Stowell Bracke
  • Nancy Buchanan
  • Diane Gwamanda
  • Jill M. Hackenberg
  • Jack Hall
  • Gretchen McCord Hoffmann
  • Sara Holland
  • Rafal Kasprowski
  • Anne Mitchell
  • Joan O'Connor
  • J. Michael Thompson
  • Linda Thompson
  • Dana C. Rooks

PACS-L ceased operation at the end of 2013.

You can find out more about the list at "PACS-L (The Public-Access Computer Systems Forum)."

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Author: Charles W. Bailey, Jr.

Charles W. Bailey, Jr.