The library at Humber College serves one of the biggest student populations in Canada. With over 31,000 students at Humber, the library has the daunting task of serving all of their specific needs.
That can be hard when the library sees climbing annual costs after no increase in funding for five years, library staff told Skedline.
“The college supports us with about 70% of the collection dollars for the budget that we need. The other 30% depends on how many students there are,” said Alexandra Ross, Associate Director of the Humber Library.
“Traditionally, the library has received some money from the student library fee.”
The library has applied for a 20-cent increase in student fee money for the 2020 – 2021 year, bringing the cost for each student up to $6.94. This follows the $1 increase for the 2019 – 2020 year.
However, money is still tight.
With the Canadian economy potentially looking forward to some tough times ahead, expenses only look like they’re going to get higher. “The majority of our electronic resources are payed for in US dollars… Until a bill is actually payed, we’re never 100% of what the exchange rate is going to be.”
Forecasters believe the loonie may drop to 62 cents on the American dollar.
That’s not the only issue the library has to adapt to. “Almost all of our online collections and databases are annual subscriptions. This gives publishers the opportunity to review their prices each year. Most subscriptions increase 3% annually, at least. Sometimes as much as 6%. There was one this year that actually doubled,” Ross said.
To make matters worse, the cost of many library subscriptions are tied to enrolment at the college. While the library may get more funding with more students, costs can pile up too. With more and more programs offered by the college, the library also has to subscribe to more online collections to serve them.
“Humber’s programming becomes even more diverse, so the library is challenged to find resources that are in more and more subject areas.”
Humber offers over 180 different full-time programs, each of which require several library subscriptions. Just last year, Humber introduced eight new graduate certificate programs and two new degree programs.
“We do have to buy a number of resources that are useful to all kinds of students in different subject areas, and that adds up,” said Ross.
While not all students use the collections available through the library, it’s hard to deny that the resources play a vital role to students.
Amani Youssef, a first-year Advertising Communications student, is a regular visitor to the library on the Humber Lakeshore campus. For Youssef, the library is a safe place where she can collect her thoughts and study without being interrupted.
“I think it’s important to have a space where students can come in and feel safe and just work on their studies,” she said.
Though Youssef doesn’t use the online resources herself, she thinks it would negatively affect the learning environment at Humber if they were to start disappearing.
“It wouldn’t be good, because they wouldn’t be able to offer everything that they do right now. There are definitely students who use [online resources,] and I’m sure teachers use them as well, for easy access to books and articles and things like that.”
If the Library doesn’t get the extra funding it need from student fees, a reduction in subscriptions could become a reality.
“If the increase doesn’t go through, then we need to re-evaluate. Are there things that aren’t being well used? We have a team who looks at this from a broad perspective, they try to keep everything in mind. If there is a database or anything that isn’t being well used, we have to seriously consider not subscribing to that in the future,” Ross said.
“We do work hard to maximize the dollars we receive from students and the College. We are constantly re-evaluating resources to decide if anything can be cancelled and what additions are needed to support new and evolving programs.”
Ultimately, the goal of the library is to give students everything they need to learn and pursue their education.
“It’s really about providing the enriching materials that students need to excel. It’s all about student success. That’s all we’re here for… The last thing we want is for people to be disappointed.”