Electronically oriented

Now a week into school, many students are getting down to business and discovering, or rediscovering, the James Gibson Library. It’s a common complaint that the library is that it’s out of date. A quick glance at the libraries section of Macleans university rankings will reveal the phrase “shortage of journals, and up-to-date holdings: heavy reliance on interlibrary loans.” According to statistics held by the library there are almost 675,000 actual hard copy books and government publications, many students still find it difficult to find anything published in recent memory. With the 2001-2002 acquisition budget set at $1.85 million (up from $1.3 million in 1997-1998), many students are left to wonder where the money is going.

According to Margaret Grove, head librarian for the Gibson library, “roughly 70 per cent of the budget is spent on print journals and electronic resources.” This means that only 30 per cent of the library’s budget is allocated for the purchase of hard copy books.

Halifax’s Mount Saint Vincent University is an example of a library which seems to take a different approach to spending its money. Despite ranking 19th out of 21 in the 2001 Macleans ranking of the percentage of the universities budget on maintaining library services, the university climbs all the way up to second in percentage of library budget spent on updating their collection.

Terry Paris, head librarian at Mount Saint Vincent, explains that they have moved “carefully” in investing in databases. “I wouldn’t say we have fully embraced electronic resources,” he said. He continued by stating that the university has maintained their print subscriptions and has a sizable number of subscriptions to monographs (books). The university also has an interesting way of ensuring that there will be a constant source of funding which will allow them to maintain the libraries high standard.”

“We passed a motion in senate, so that our annual acquisitions budget is equal to that of the region,” Paris said. This means that Mount Saint Vincent has grouped themselves with three other Maritime universities (Memorial University of Newfoundland, University of New Brunswick and Dalhousie) and their university budget is derived from taking the average of the three other universities library budgets. According to Grove, Brock is aware of some of the ways other universities operate and fund their libraries, and despite having a lot of cooperative agreements with other universities, our budget is determined internally.

As Grove explains, there is one obvious challenges that the Gibson library faces, in terms of maintaining an updated collection. “I think that one of the areas that does create some difficulties is when we consider all of the new courses and new programs and the rate at which the university is expanding into new areas.”

As a means of ensuring that students enrolling in new courses aren’t left without any resources, is a senate requirement, which has been in place for a year now, requiring proposals for new courses to include an assessment of library resources. Despite this effort, Grove concedes that there are areas in which the library is lacking. “For disciplines that rely heavily on books, I think that there are undoubtedly areas where we just need more, we just don’t have enough depth,” she said.

It is important to note that while the library may be faltering in its ability to provide students with current books and journals, there has been a concerted effort to pick up the slack by providing more electronic resources.

“We have been able to, in the last two or three years, provide access to electronic resources that would never have been possible in the print world” Groves commented. “I am always concerned that students are not fully aware of the extent of the electronic resources that we have to offer, because they are not visible.” One obvious advantage to such resources is the fact that they can be accessed remotely by Brock students 24 hours a day seven days a weeks. According to statistics provided by the library, the number of journal subscriptions available through the Gibson library, increased from 2,640 to 5,944 from the 1998-1999 year to the 1999-2000 year. Most of these new journals are full text electronic journals, which have been made available through cooperative agreements with other universities.

For those students who would still prefer to hold a book in their hand rather than a text printout, the Gibson library has two options. One is the interlibrary loan service, which allows students to have books and journals from other libraries delivered to Brock.

The other option is one that may not be well known to all students. Brock student identification cards, allow students to borrow materials from any university library in Ontario, with the exception of U of T. This means that if a Brock student is in Kingston, they can go into Queens University library and borrow a book, then return it to the Gibson library. All of this means that while yes, Brock students do still have access to a vast array of hard copy books and journals, if you need current information quickly, the best thing to do is become familiar with the electronic resources.

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