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UWO giving e-books a chance
By Wes Brown
Curling up with an electronic book will be a download away as Western's library system, along with several other universities is looking to computers for options.
Loraine Busby, co-ordinator of collections management at Western, said 12 universities, including Western, are co-operatively exploring the idea of getting electronic books for around-the-clock use.
"This is a trial period," she said, of the service currently provided by Net Library, an on-line book company. "Users can browse the book on-line for 15 minutes, or if they want to download the book, it would be the equivalent of signing it out."
Matt Kolb, an administrator at Net Library, said the universities are currently in the process of choosing 2,000 books from a total of 6,000 in the Net Library database.
"The titles come from areas such the Canadian Presses and various Business publications," he said, adding Net Library is hoping to get the service up and running by Feb. 1 so that any of the libraries can have access.
Busby said libraries also have the option of purchasing the right of the book or renting it on a short term need. "This will allow for savings in library staff time, student time savings, as well as saving on the book budget," she said, dismissing any fear of eliminating hard copy books all together.
Carol Moore, director of libraries at the University of Toronto, said U of T is also a member of the co-operation and e-books at U of T are in high demand.
"The reality is we can't buy enough copies of certain books so having those titles electronically would be very valuable," she said. "As long as we can save costs, it will be beneficial."
Last Friday, however, at a Western Senate meeting, Patrick Deane, a faculty senator and a professor in Western's English department, expressed his concern with the trend of libraries heading down the electronic path.
"A large centre of the world's knowledge lays in print," he said, as he questioned whether budget constraints have moved the emphasis away from a print library and towards a digital library.
"A shift in library emphasis could hurt some programs more than others," he said, citing the arts and humanities as potential victims.
Joyce Garnett, Western's chief librarian and faculty senator, agreed that the library is focusing more on its digital collection, but added there are a large amount of information resources still non-digital.
"I think the library must be applauded for its strength in maintaining access during times of budget cuts," said Greg Moran, Western's VP-academic. "They have given an honest attempt at balancing available resources with the academic needs of the university."