Library collections previously located in the Life Sciences Library and the Education Library & Curriculum Resources Centre are in the process of being relocated, with the intention of redesigning the empty libraries into new student study spaces. The relocation project is the result of a $1.8 million cut to the McGill Library’s budget, following the Quebec Government’s announcement last December that McGill’s operating budget would be reduced by $38.3 million.
The plan to restructure these libraries was announced last April, and involves merging the Life Sciences Library’s collections with that of Schulich Library for Sciences and Engineering. The Education Library & Curriculum Resources Centre’s main education collection is being moved to the second floor of the McLennan Library.
The decision to close down the Life Sciences Library was proposed by Dean of Libraries Colleen Cook, who said that action had to be taken quickly due to the university’s financial situation.
Merika Ramundo, McGill Library’s Officer of Communications, explained that the decision to close the libraries was influenced by their low rate of use.
“Attendance at the Life Sciences Library has dropped 31 per cent in the last five years [and] loans of print materials […] have dropped 45 per cent,” Ramundo said. “Loans of print materials from the Education Library & Curriculum Resources Centre have dropped 61 per cent since 2005. This trend is expected to continue as the library continues to expand its extensive digital holdings.”
Consultation reports from sessions completed in May detailed the need for “more access to space for study and group work; more online resources; and continued access to reserve collections.” However, some people have criticized the way McGill decided to relocate its library collections, especially because the Life Sciences Library was the first and largest medical library in Canada.
Angella Lambrou, a librarian at the Life Sciences Library, started a Facebook page in April titled “Save the McGill Life Sciences Library from closure.” Lambrou claims the consultation sessions held last May to discuss solutions to McGill’s library budget were not held out of consideration for students, but as a response to media attention.
“Make no mistake about it, [if] the media had not picked up the story, the consultation process would not have taken place,” Lambrou said. “Nothing happened because of the consultation, and I knew that nothing would happen. The decision had been made.”
Lambrou expressed doubt that repurposing the libraries would benefit students.
“Overcrowding is already a problem for libraries around the McGill campus, and the closure of the Life Sciences Library will not remedy that,” she said.
“A preliminary redesign of the library space is being prepared by the Faculty of Medicine to better meet the needs expressed by students, residents, faculty and staff during the consultation last spring,” Eidelman said. “For example, [there will be] more space for study, learning, and research.”
One student from the Faculty of Education, who asked to remain anonymous, expressed frustration that libraries now face reduced budgets, and suggested that students who protested against raising tuition fees for Quebec students in 2012 may not have taken outcomes such as these into consideration.
“I [pay] Quebec tuition, and I think that with all of the fuss that everybody put up over a […] relatively small increase over three years […] it has a lot of other side effects that maybe they didn’t really anticipate coming out of their own educational balance,” the student said.
Other students said they were concerned about the library closure’s effects on their own research and education.
“I took books from the library, and it was great to have it right here because […] I only had snippets of time in between experiments,” Mark Jacunski, a first-year Masters student in physiology, said. “Having it there is not only a convenience, but in a certain sense a necessity for students in these high requirement programs.”
The relocation of the collections is slated to be finished around mid to late September. Staff from the Life Sciences Library are currently at McLennan and Schulich to help ease the transition, and to provide students access to the collections being moved.