June 20, 2016
Dr. David T. Bernard, President and Vice Chancellor
Office of the President
2002 Administration Building University of Manitoba Winnipeg,
MB R3T 2N2
Dear Dr. Bernard,
Re: Comments in “UofM, union disagree strongly on library staff cuts” Winnipeg Free Press, June 6, 2016
On behalf of the Canadian Association of Professional Academic Librarians / Association canadienne des bibliothecaires academiques professionnels (CAPAL/ACBAP), we write to express our support for concerns raised by the University of Manitoba Faculty Association (UMFA) in the wake of drastic cuts to the Libraries’ shelver and assistant technician positions. These cuts will exacerbate what appears to be an already untenable situation. It has been reported that since February, the University of Manitoba Libraries have had six instances of library closures due to “unforeseen staffing situations.” We also wish to express our dismay at the University of Manitoba President’s remarks made in the Winnipeg Free Press, specifically:
Bernard said that there have been significant changes to university libraries. When he was a student, everything was stacked on shelves, and if he needed a book not available, he’d have to wait for an inter-library transfer. Now, ‘It’s possible for a student sitting with a laptop’ to access almost instantly information which no longer requires the assistance and expertise of a librarian.
While we concur that university libraries have changed significantly in recent years, this dismissive statement about the profession ignores the expertise that librarians bring to the academic enterprise and profoundly conflates the library as place with academic librarianship as a profession.
Intellectual freedom and access to information are foundational principles for academic librarianship and indeed for universities. Academic librarians uphold these principles through the development of library services, systems, collections, and programs in support of research and teaching. In the 21st century, academic librarians are no longer the “keepers of knowledge” but rather are partners in the cultivation, facilitation, and sharing of knowledge. We are intimately tied to the research life cycle and bring valuable expertise to matters of knowledge production, dissemination, and preservation including intellectual property, copyright, scholarly communications, bibliometrics, and open access issues.
Few understand the academic librarian’s role as an educator and teacher. Yet, information literacy is a key pillar of our professional practice. Academic librarians not only connect users with the information they need, but more importantly, they help students situate, evaluate, and contextualize such information. Critical engagement with information is essential to a democratic society, and in a democracy, universities play a key role in developing an engaged citizenry. As professionals committed to facilitating access to uncensored and unbiased information, academic librarians are integral to the fulfillment of the university’s academic mission and its responsibility to society.
CAPAL/ACBAP is a national organization representing academic librarians and the profession of academic librarianship in Canada. Our mission is to promote, advance, and support the profession of academic librarianship for the advancement of research, teaching, and learning at accredited post-secondary institutions and to further the professional interests of our members. We believe that our academic communities are enriched when academic librarians are respected, supported and recognized as equal academic partners in the building of excellent teaching and research communities.
Respectfully, CAPAL/ACBAP Board of Directors
Colleen Burgess (Western University)
Douglas Fox (Victoria University in the University of Toronto)
Leona Jacobs (University of Lethbridge)
Mary Kandiuk (York University)
Eva Revitt (MacEwan University)
Lisa Richmond (Wheaton College)
Harriet Sonne-de-Torrens (University of Toronto Mississauga)
Ali Versluis (University of Guelph)
Anna Wilson (University of Alberta)
cc: Mark Hudson, President University of Manitoba Faculty Association