What is an ‘academic library’ ? How do we define ourselves at the University of Toronto?

The recent circulation of the report, Redefining the Academic Library: Managing the Migration to Digital Information Services by the American University Council discusses many ideas and emerging trends that have surfaced in the recent past. We are familiar with many of them. It is a ‘generalist’s report’, which makes no distinctions between the various types of libraries, national, college or large research institutes nor does it take into account the institutional roles or mandates. We should scrutinize these seemingly ‘authoritative’ and ‘broad statements’ from our American colleagues with great care, both for the short-term gains and the long-term implications, as we assess the impact of these ideas on our particular areas of responsibility and our institution. For example, the University of Toronto Libraries, while it shares many concerns with other Canadian post-secondary libraries, it is the largest library in Canada. By defacto and recent changes in Ottawa at the national Library and Archives Canada, it is, by some, considered our future, national library – this can be supported by scholars’ views of our collections, the extensive inter-library loans that we support and many other reasons, too numerous to mention.  Our responsibility  as academic librarians is to support current academic teaching and research, to adapt to change and embrace new ideas and grow, but we are also custodians of Canada’s largest and valuable, growing body of knowledge in all media. Moreover, we have some 50 library units, each with their own unique profiles. Generalist theories are fine in an abstract way, they can be thought provoking and inspiring. They can also be misused by those who want quick changes.  Often, when you dig deeper there are concerns and issues which need to scrutinized and assessed by the academic librarians working in the specialized areas and in other academic libraries with distinctive profiles and mandates. It is vital that academic librarians participate in the decision-making processes at all levels, pooling their expertise and knowledge to ensure that the academic values and principles guiding our professional responsibilities are maintained for the benefit of the communities we support and serve for the long-term.

This entry was posted in Academic Librarianship, Academic libraries, Uncategorized, University of Toronto, University of Toronto Libraries. Bookmark the permalink.

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