Survey impugns Western’s libraries
By Marshall Bellamy
Western’s library system has fallen steadily in some
rankings over the last several years, although most still claim
the university’s libraries are just fine.
Chronicle of Higher Education, a journal published by the
Association of Research Libraries last year, ranked its member
libraries and placed Western in 93rd, down from 79th in 1996-97,
said Mike Carroll, a sociology professor and Western senator.
“There has been a significant drop in Western’s
rank between the two terms,” Carroll said, noting other
universities have been able to hold their ranking between the
At last Friday’s Senate meeting, Western VP-academic
Greg Moran explained that funding cuts were made in the late
1990s to non-faculty units at Western, including the libraries,
as a result of cuts in university funding from the provincial
government. “It’s difficult to quantify, but they
do a good job,” he said.
According to Carroll, the drop in the rankings was not mentioned
in the chief librarian’s presentation to the Senate,
leaving him with the impression that there is nothing wrong
with the library system.
“I wasn’t hiding anything; I was highlighting
the achievements,” said Western’s chief librarian,
Joyce Garnett about the presentation, adding Canadian universities
do not usually look at this study seriously. “We want
to look at the quality and not just the quantity.”
Since the budget cuts, Garnett said Western’s libraries
have been focusing on improving quality rather than quantity,
citing the electronic resource system as an example which the
ranking does not take into account.
The report in the journal takes the number of volumes in the
collection and the number acquired, along with library staff
and university funding for the libraries, Garnett said. “It’s
limited in its scope and based on a historical view of libraries,
which says the bigger you are, the better you are,” she
The library system at Western is currently attempting to use
other methods of gauging its success, Garnett said, citing
the high ranking Western’s libraries received in The
Globe and Mail’s survey and efforts to survey students
at Western to get their comments.