Commentary, Opinion

In appreciation of the McGill Library

When I look at the McGill Library, I am grateful for its extensive variety of academic sources, which have been vital to my studies. Recently, the University of Ottawa decided to cancel thousands of individual journal and database subscriptions in order to make up for a $1.5 million budget shortfall in the 2016-2017 fiscal year. This should be concerning for university students on any campus, and must serve as a reminder of the importance of preserving and growing the range of scholarly resources available in university libraries. Although students may forget to take time to reflect on the significance and importance of their university library, students should never take it for granted. What is currently happening at the University of Ottawa is a travesty; fiscal responsibility is necessary, but it should never be at the expense of the university’s purpose, which is to equip all members of its community with the most amount of tools and resources possible in the pursuit of knowledge. 

As a McGill student, I am always impressed by the sheer magnitude of resources available for research through the library. With a $33 million annual budget—ranked the highest in 2015 among Canadian universities for “percentage of the budget devoted to library services”—the McGill Library provides students with a wide variety of resources, made easy through the online search function on the WorldCat database. Over half of its budget is spent on information resources, including access to 1,342 databases, thousands of academic journals, and millions of print and e-books. McGill also has an interlibrary loan system which allows students to borrow from a host of other university libraries, such as Concordia. This is indispensable for all students, as  access to the largest amount of books, articles, and even unpublished theses is essential in producing the best possible work. 

The availability of the accumulated knowledge within a library is an essential pillar to the McGill University Mission Statement, which states, “The mission of McGill University is the advancement of learning and the creation and dissemination of knowledge, by offering the best possible education, by carrying out research and scholarly activities judged to be excellent by the highest international standards.” This mission statement holds McGill to its commitment to providing an inclusive range of academic sources to the university community. Many professors use these resources as the foundation for their research and their curriculum in classes. In addition, exposure to differing academic points of view help students to develop their critical thinking skills. McGill must continue to promote the exposure of its students to a broad range of academic perspectives. The contents of the McGill Library, such as its Rare Books and Special Collections, primary sources, and academic research, are all part of an academic heritage that should be preserved and accessible to members of the McGill community. 

The University of Ottawa’s recent budget cuts will hinder access to a diversity of sources and research. In contrast, despite the high costs of journal subscriptions and recent budget cuts, McGill University continues to prove its commitment to its students’ learning experience through its impressive collection of scholarly resources. This should not be taken for granted, but celebrated and appreciated by every university student. 

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