Robarts’ shelves closed to Rye grad students and faculty

Ryerson faculty and graduate students will now have to fork over an extra $310 if they want to borrow from the largest academic library in Canada.

On Sept. 1, Ryerson decided not to renew its borrower’s agreement with the University of Toronto Libraries due to a decline in usage and increasing costs. The decision was made after a discussion between the academic planning group, deans and associate deans. Feedback from graduate students was also taken into consideration.

The annual borrowing price is $310, but there is a pro-rated cost if you buy later on in the semester. There are also separate prices for alumni or seniors.

Under the terms of the agreement, which began in fall 2010, Ryerson University Libraries and Archives covered the costs of borrowing from U of T.

According to a report released by RULA, Ryerson paid a flat rate of $90,000 last academic year, but only 220 students and faculty borrowed from U of T’s libraries, working out to around $410 for each individual. This is a decrease from the 2012-2013 school year when 350 individuals borrowed from U of T.

Paul Moore, the communication-and-culture graduate program director, feels the decision to not renew is justified because “the numbers and degree of usage just doesn’t merit the cost.”

Moore’s department had the most students borrowing from U of T’s libraries. However, communication and culture is a joint program with York University, which may account for the extra students borrowing from U of T.

Moore said Ryerson and York lack historical, specialized, foreign and non-commercial material when compared to U of T’s Robarts Research Library, but there are alternatives to borrowing.

He said browsing collections is a more productive way of doing research, and Stack Access Cards are a cheaper alternative to buying the library card. They cost $50 annually and give visitors access to U of T’s collection, although they cannot borrow using the Stack Access Card.

Marta Braun, who also teaches in the communication-and-culture department, feels that a separate alternative would be sharing resources at no cost, since all Ontario universities are the beneficiaries of provincial funding.

“Ontario is a province that subscribes to the idea of a knowledge-based economy,” said Braun. “The provincial government needs to ensure that the intellectual resources of the university, our libraries, are shared as well.”

She added that Ryerson was right not to renew the agreement because the transaction “never should have been made in the first place.”

According to the U of T library, 41 per cent of the titles borrowed by Ryerson students and faculty are already available at RULA. A library survey of graduate students says the reason for choosing U of T’s libraries over RULA may be U of T’s more readily available study space.

Ryerson has a solution to this.

The seventh floor of the Student Learning Centre will be a graduate student study area, which Julia Hangsberg, vice-president of administration and finance, said “will make an extraordinary difference in the lives of our students.”

The Yeates School of Graduate Studies’ community-engagement team declined comment.

By Steven Gelis

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