Kingston – St. Lawrence College will have newly renovated libraries but no college librarian to support students, staff, and faculty, says the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU).
The college’s libraries in Kingston, Cornwall, and Brockville are staffed with five library technicians and one college librarian. As of January 12, 2018, the college librarian position will be eliminated and replaced with a new management position, Associate Director of Libraries and Student Success.
“Where once we had two librarians – back in the 1990s – we will soon have none,” said Grant Currie, president of OPSEU Local 417, representing faculty at St. Lawrence. “Yet the information needs of students are only growing more complex, particularly those in degree and advanced programs. Who will support these students after the college librarian position is eliminated?”
Jill Baker has been the college librarian for 13 years. She works one-on-one with students, often in degree programs, helping them find and evaluate non-traditional sources of information. She also helps the library technicians answer students’ more complex reference questions. She ensures information resources get into the hands of off-campus students, many of whom are on work placements. She works with other faculty to select and provide the information their courses require. Finally, at the invitation of faculty, Baker goes into college classrooms to teach sessions tailored to course requirements, such as how to find and use peer-reviewed research.
Only 20 per cent of the new Associate Director’s duties will support the college’s libraries and staff, according to the position’s job description. As well, since instruction is not included in the list of key duties in the job description, it is not clear that the Associate Director will be available to do any of the teaching the college librarian currently does.
In April, St. Lawrence announced it was the recipient of a $1.7-million provincial grant to upgrade the libraries at its Kingston, Cornwall, and Brockville campuses with new furniture and equipment, including smart boards, study pods, and improved IT systems.
“It’s great that St. Lawrence students will get improved libraries, but it makes no sense that the college is robbing them of the expert guidance they need in order to get the most out of them,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “When it comes to information, navigation is the new literacy, and we’ve just lost our last navigator.”
For more information: Grant Currie, 613-893-2505