By Michael Czobit
The quantity of students in the library is not necessarily an indication of quality service, judging by the results of a recent survey of the library and its facilities.
Last month, more than 1,500 students, staff and faculty answered questions about their library usage. Most respondents — 91 per cent — were undergraduates. Their biggest concern, according to the survey, is a lack of space. Take last Tuesday morning.
A computer in the Ronald D. Besse Information and Learning Commons, on the library’s main floor, would tell you it’s a little past 10 a.m. That is, if you could find a free computer. The library has been open for less than two hours but, already, every computer in sight is in use.
Some students circle around the Commons, waiting and ready to pounce if someone vacates a desk. Erica Gonzalez, a second-year social work student, skipped the waiting game and took the stairs to the third floor where she found an available computer. “I had to do some cardio,” she said of her three-flight climb. Gonzalez said she usually only has trouble finding a computer between noon and 3 p.m. In past searches, shehas gone as high up as the sixth floor.
This morning’s search wasn’t so bad for Gonzalez, but it was only a little past 10 a.m. According to the survey, conducted in mid-October, Gonzalez’s experience is common among library users. Crowding was listed as the number one comment the library received from their questionnaire, which was set up to help the facility with long-term space planning. The Eyeopener reported earlier this year that chief librarian Cathy Matthews had short-term plans to add study space for students. Now, she has exact numbers. In January, the library will add 26 individual study carrels on the fifth floor and a total of 10 group study rooms on the fifth and seventh floors. A demand for longer hours was also seen in the survey results. Starting in January, the library will respond to that demand by staying open later, said Matthews.
But students who hope the library will someday match libraries at the University of Toronto are dreaming. “U of T is the fourth largest academic library in North America. It is big leagues,” said Matthews. “We’re just never supposed to be there.” If the comparison to the University of Toronto wasn’t enough, the Globe and Mail and Macleans compare Ryerson to university libraries across the country in their annual rankings.
In the Macleans’ rankings this year, Ryerson was eighteenth of 21 primarily undergraduate universities for the percentage of the university’s operating budget devoted to the library. Matthews said that category is the most important, but she doesn’t think the low rank is a negative. The percentage was 4.16, an improvement from the previous three years. “We need a signal from the university that they value the library,” Matthews said, adding that the progress in the operating budget category shows just that.
While the Globe and Macleans rankings have fostered a bad reputation for the library, Matthews said she remains committed to improving the library’s services. “We’re trying very hard. It’s going to take us a long time to really make a difference.”