January 28, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 65  

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Survey impugns Western’s libraries

By Marshall Bellamy
Gazette Staff

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 two periods.

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 said.

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.



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