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Major boost for libraries

Concordia's new Academic Plan prioritizes investment in acquisitions and access
February 27, 2013
By Tom Peacock

Rock's Backpages is a database that contains 14,000 pieces of music journalism, including 630 articles about Pink Floyd! It’s just one of many archives recently added to the Concordia Libraries' online offerings, and one that exemplifies the sheer volume of research materials contained in these new resources.

During the 2011-12 academic year, using funds made available through the Academic Plan, Concordia invested an additional $500,000 in new library acquisitions. This year, that figure increased to $1million.

Improving Concordia's libraries to meet the growing demands of the university's programs and departments is one of the key actions designed to support Concordia's Academic Plan. The plan's three current priorities are innovative and dynamic undergraduate offerings, graduate student recruitment, and investment in the libraries.

"Libraries are a key component of the academic life of our university, and they also directly affect the quality of research and creative activity going on," says Interim Provost Lisa Ostiguy. "Investing in our libraries is an integral part of our plan for moving forward on our academic priorities."

Xavier Ottenwaelder, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and a member of the university Senate's Library Committee, says work to improve the libraries has so far focused on two main areas: new acquisitions and improving access to the library's resources. "In the social sciences areas, there was a lack of resources that needed to be addressed, and that was helped by the increased budget from the Academic Plan," he says.

In recent months, many new databases and periodical or newspaper archives have been added to the libraries' web-based collections. Among them are the Toronto Star's Pages of the Past, featuring issues of the daily newspaper from 1894 to three years ago, the Times Digital Archive 1986-2006, the Financial Times Historical Archive and the Harvard University Press eBook Collection.

"In addition, the libraries were able to meet critical needs in the science and engineering areas,” noted Associate University Librarian, Collection Services, Cynthia Holt.

Ottenwaelder says the new acquisitions are a major step toward bringing Concordia's libraries into line with its diverse and innovative programs. Now, it’s important to raise awareness of new resources available. "We need to increase the visibility of the new acquisitions we have," he says, explaining that the Library Committee is supporting the work of library staff to streamline communications between subject librarians and faculty members and students in related departments.

Improved access
Major changes are also underway to improve access to the Concordia University Libraries' resources for its students, staff and faculty. The first one involves allowing users to log in with their netnames and passwords to access library resources, instead of using the 14-digit library bar code. "The goal is to remove the burden of remembering the 14-digit code with the hope that it will encourage people to go to the library more readily, whether it's just to renew or see what's new," Ottenwaelder says. Currently, the netname access is available for some services in its trial mode.

The second project involves improving access to the library resources in the university's course management system, through a collaboration between the Centre for Teaching and Learning Services (CTLS) and the Instructional and Information Technology Services (IITS). "This involves, for example, making sure professors can access library resources while teaching in front of students and that students undertaking a project in class can also more readily access all the resources the library has to offer," Ottenwaelder says. He adds that the library staff are also busy ensuring that any measures taken to facilitate the academic use of its online and print resources to support classes adhere to Canada's current copyright laws.

The final project to improve access to Concordia's library resources involves the development of a new, simplified search platform. Anita Sinner, assistant professor in Concordia's Department of Art Education and a member of the Library Committee, says the project is a key step for graduate and undergraduate students, and faculty. "From a research perspective, this is critical," she says. "The new platform promises to improve the speed, scope and discovery potential of scholarship."

The new platform would provide a simple Google-like search function for all the libraries’ resources, which could be used to find books, articles, and even materials available through interlibrary loan.

New study space
The Collection Reconfiguration Project is currently underway to free up more study space in Concordia's R. Howard Webster Library, located on the downtown Sir George Williams Campus. So far, all print journals more than five years old (10 years old for fine arts) have been moved to compact shelving units on the ground floor of the Vanier Library on the Loyola Campus.

In the coming years, a major renovation is planned for the Webster Library to update the new study spaces, and make them user-friendly. "The trend is to create an enhanced space that is intellectually stimulating," says Guylaine Beaudry, director of the Webster Library. "We want to offer the kind of technology you cannot afford at the individual level.”

Related links:
•    Concordia Libraries
•    Academic Plan
•    CTLS
•    IITS

New acquisitions at the libraries:
•    "History of fashion goes online" — NOW, January 17, 2013
•    “World history through newspapers” — NOW, January 29, 2013
•    "A window onto the 19th century" — NOW, February 5, 2013
•    “Online archive of the Toronto Star now available” — NOW, February 11, 2013
•    “Eighteenth-century works available online” — NOW, February 18, 2013
•    “A world of research online” — NOW, February 25, 2013

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