Library website Blue Skyways a victim of budget cuts

07/17/2014 8:13 AM

07/17/2014 8:14 AM

When the Internet was becoming popular back in the 1990s, Wichitans John and Susan Howell created Blue Skyways.

They launched it in December 1995 as a website for Kansas communities, libraries, schools and governments to have an online presence. It told the histories of and served as the homepages for roughly 200 Kansas communities, 105 Kansas counties, plus school districts and organizations. The project was funded by the Boeing Co. and the Kansas State Library.

But after nearly 19 years of an online presence, Blue Skyways was shut down at the end of June due to state budget cuts, state library officials say.

Throughout its existence, Blue Skyways served as the sole online presence for the State Library of Kansas and held all of the library’s resources, including Kansas library collections, according to Candace LeDuc, communications coordinator for the State Library of Kansas.

“In 2013, the State Library was faced with a cut in its budget and had to take a look at areas for cost savings as well as satisfy online needs,” LeDuc wrote in an e-mail. “The State Library made the internal decision to discontinue the Blue Skyways site/service and move to develop a new website for the State Library with more flexibility and substantial cost savings.”

In the beginning, the website served as a great way to learn about Kansas.

“It was a wonderful arrangement between government, industry and individuals,” said Susan Howell. “We did a lot of training and used html so people didn’t have to buy software.”

But its time has come.

“While Skyways was highly successful and beneficial in its day,” LeDuc wrote, “with the widespread availability today of affordable, functional web hosting options, many of its contributors had already found more flexible and easier to use platforms.”

Indeed, Howell said, many of those communities in Kansas are now on their third- or fourth-generation website.

LeDuc said now houses the library resources once found on the Kansas State Library and Blue Skyways website.

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