Thanks in large part to Maine's Tom Abbott, the University of Maine at Augusta has a unique role in both distance and library education. According to his online resume, Thomas E. Abbott, Ph.D., has been: "Project Administrator and primary author of a new Associate Degree Program in Library and Information Services, first UMA degree program designed specifically for web-based delivery worldwide (for library support staff). Coordinated satellite delivery of Masters in Library and Information Science degree from University of South Carolina to Maine. Originally responsible for developing the concept, program and staff who manage statewide Off-Campus Library Services for students and faculty in the Educational Network of Maine – Now part of UMS."
Tom shares that the undergraduate offerings in library science at UMA were consumer-driven, having had their origins in requests by the library community for continuing education and formal certification. A non-accredited MLS program at the University of Maine had shut down in the 1980s, and while the MLS was technically the minimum requirement for a position as a librarian, the reality in Maine was a great many people working in various kinds of libraries needing some kind of preparation or certification with "classifications all over the map." Tom and his associates subsequently proceeded through the bureaucratically strenuous process of establishing the program and its curriculum at UMA. Because the program was founded on the distance education model, it provided support for the emergence of a strong role for UMA as an online program service center for the University. Following a natural evolution from a correspondence course via tapes and early email to ITV and Blackboard, the undergraduate programs in library science at UMA now serve more than 100 students enrolled from 25 states and internationally, graduating about 10 students per year. Beloved Maine library leader Walt Taranko was another key collaborator of Tom's, working to create opportunities for a distance MLIS for Mainers through the University of South Carolina.