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CAUT Bulletin Archives

June 2000

Cuts Hurt Our University Libraries

Canada's university libraries are conspicuous victims of provincial and federal underfunding of post-secondary education.

The annual survey by the Association of Research Libraries found that only 11 university libraries suffered a decline in total expenditures between 1993­94 and 1998­99 – two out of 98 American university libraries and nine out of 13 Canadian university libraries.

The most precipitous decline was at Laval (-25.0%), followed by Waterloo (-12.8%), Western Ontario (-9.7%), McMaster (-8.5%), Guelph (-8.5%), York (-6.7%), McGill (-5.0%), Alberta (-3.7%) and UBC (-1.0%).

Also, in order of relative size, 11 of the 13 Canadian university libraries ranked in the survey fell from their positions in 1993-94. Only the University of Toronto rose from ninth spot to fourth overall and the University of Alberta from 34 to 30.

"The fact that most of our best academic libraries have slipped so badly in this ranking indicates the worsening funding crisis faced by all university libraries in Canada," said Chris Dennis, chair of CAUT's Librarians Committee, "and therefore by the academic work that depends on them."

Dennis said the ARL survey shows Canada is losing its ability to support independent, diverse, broad-based, world-class research and the production of people educated to the same high standard.

"Collectively, our university libraries are a national treasure which is being thoughtlessly run down. This is an issue of public funding: Canada is not that much poorer than the governments in the United States which do see fit to support the libraries of their public universities."