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CAUT Bulletin Archives

October 2003

Canadian Libraries Falling Behind

Most Canadian university research libraries continue to fare badly according to the latest report of the Association of Research Libraries on "Holdings of University Research Libraries in U.S. and Canada." Fourteen Canadian institutions were included among the 114 surveyed.

While the University of Toronto kept its position (#4), other Canadian universities dominated the bottom of the list: Manitoba (#106), Queen's (#108), Saskatchewan (#111), McMaster (#112), Waterloo (#113) and Guelph (#114).

"Years of government underfunding are taking their toll on our university libraries," said CAUT executive director James Turk. "Most telling is that Canadian university libraries prevailed in the ARL's list of the 15 institutions where total expenditures fell or increased the least between 1996-1997 and 2001-2002."

Laval experienced the biggest drop in expenditures (-11.9%) since 1996-1997, followed by Western Ontario (-6.2%), Guelph (-4.9%) and Saskatchewan (-4.3%). Expenditures increased the least at Waterloo (+1.6%), York (+1.8%) and Manitoba (+3.4%). UBC had the 11th worst record (+5.7%) over the five years followed by Alberta in 13th place (+8.5%).

"Of the 10 institutions that fared the worst over the past five years, seven are Canadian," Turk said. "This is remarkable because there were 100 U.S. universities and only 14 Canadian universities measured."

These findings are in stark contrast to many American public universities that saw substantial increases during the same period - outdistancing their Canadian counterparts. For example, library funding at the University of California at Berkeley was up 52.2%, Oklahoma was up 50.4%, Texas was up 48.7%, North Carolina State was up 47.2% and Alabama was up 44.9%.

"Canadian researchers, teachers and students are seriously disadvantaged by what is happening to our university libraries," Turk said. "This situation will not be corrected until governments provide adequate core funding. It is time politicians match their rhetoric about the importance of post-secondary education with the level of resources Canadians deserve."