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Western University Be Extraordinary The Campaign For Western

Faculty Focus: Western Libraries

Q&A with Catherine Steeves, Vice-Provost and Chief Librarian, Western Libraries

March 30, 2016

Faculty Focus: Western Libraries
Catherine Steeves, Vice-Provost and Chief Librarian, Western Libraries

Q: What are some of the ways in which Western Libraries contribute to the Western Experience?
Western Libraries is integral to student success and research excellence at Western in a number of ways related to teaching, research and learning. In our traditional role – which is as important today as it always has been – we provide access to a world-class collection of print and digital scholarly resources for students and researchers. We are also an academic and intellectual commons for the University. Libraries are a place where we, students and faculty, come together from across the disciplines to collaborate and exchange ideas. Another way we support the success of students is through the instruction by our librarians and archivists to students in the development of critical information literacy and academic research skills. These skills are becoming even more important with the flood of information available on the Internet and the challenge in identifying what information is coming from a place of authority, what is scholarly information and what is not appropriate for academic work. In addition, we are very involved in work related to the e-learning environment on campus, working to integrate digital resources, online services and learning modules into the curriculum. Through our open-access platforms and open education initiatives, we also support scholars from across the region, the nation, and around the world.

Q: What are some of the challenges currently facing Western Libraries?
Our largest challenge currently is the falling value of the Canadian dollar. Over 85 per cent of the resources we acquire to build our collections are bought in U.S. currency, so that represents a significant loss. With every cent the dollar declines, we lose $100,000 purchasing power. As a result, we have created a cost reduction strategy to review and reduce subscriptions to academic journals and materials in order to work within our budgetary means. Another challenge we’re facing is the need for anticipating and responding to rapid changes in higher education research due to the advancement of technology. An area for growth is defining our contribution to research and research data management in this era of digital scholarship, big data and data analytics. We are creating new services, expanding our digital collections, digitizing our rare and unique collections and participating in expanding e-learning and the open access movement.

Q: What makes Western Libraries unique?
The first thing that comes to mind is our people – those who create the collections, deliver great service, and provide instruction – and their level of commitment. We’re proud of our strong reputation for service excellence and the fact that our students, faculty and staff feel Western Libraries advances their work and scholarship. In our collections, we have a number of exciting, rare and unique materials, including Emma Donoghue’s personal papers and an early draft of her acclaimed novel Room; first editions of many important works, including Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species and John Milton’s Paradise Lost; corporate collections such as the Labatt Collection and the Canadian Tire Collection; and numerous artifacts and sculptures.

Q: What are the key priorities for Western Libraries as part of the Be Extraordinary Campaign?
As part of Western’s Campaign, Western Libraries is working to raise $25 million to ensure we have the necessary facilities and resources to be among the top research-intensive universities in North America. We are seeking support for space renewal initiatives as we create technology-rich research and learning environments for collaborative and individual study and community engagement activities. Contributions to the Digital Zone Fund will allow us to advance digital scholarship and provide global access to unique and rare collections that support Western’s academic priorities and scholars around the world. Donations will also enhance the student experience by providing student co-op placements and other experiential learning opportunities for students of library, archival and information sciences.

Q: Why should people consider supporting Western Libraries?
Western Libraries is often called the heart of the University. As a “home away from home” for many students, we have an incredible impact on the student experience and our students’ success. Today, as much as ever, students need quiet space for studying in addition to access to collaborative group study spaces, as well as the resources and expertise to support their work. With over two-million visits to our physical libraries in 2014/15 and virtually the same number of visits to our website, we continue to serve students, faculty, staff and the community in whichever space they choose.

To learn more about Western Libraries or to make a donation, contact Julie Ryan, Development Officer, Western Libraries (519.661.2111, ext. 88078 or

This article appeared in the Spring 2016 edition of Impact Western
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