If internal policies and procedures in libraries are determined by administrators, who may base their decisions solely on financial considerations and efficiency rather than on wider principles, we may not achieve the goals of the inclusive university library. As I have described, purchasing easily catalogued books from mainstream publishers can be very cost-effective, but at the expense of inclusivity. Declining budgets are a great excuse to limit the kind of purchases a university library may make. I have mentioned the importance of the library collections policy in determining what will be bought; there must be wide representation on committees which determine library policy if we are to ensure that the collection will be as inclusive as possible.
Academic Inclusivity, Educational Equity
Just as technology creates some of the barriers, so technology will open some of the doors. The recent National Summit on Information Policy recognized the role of technology in enabling access. Yes, we select and purchase materials through a system made easy because of automated procedures which may exclude materials not in the mainstream. However, the automation of library catalogues has created global libraries. Researchers can know about materials in libraries around the world from personal computers in their own homes, offices or libraries.
With machine readable cataloguing, researchers can find materials using specialized language that the author has used in the title or table of contents, and Boolean logic can link different concepts for more precision. Special personal computers can provide voice-read screens of library catalogues for those who require this assistance and library users in wheelchairs can access library catalogues independently, now that we have freed ourselves from card catalogues.
Systemic barriers to the creation of the inclusive university library do, indeed, exist but many Canadian librarians are aware of the issues and problems before them and are attempting, despite hard economic times and diminishing acquisitions budgets, to ameliorate them. Lobbying by groups such as the Canadian Association of University Teachers and the Canadian Association of Research Libraries can bring forward issues such as the restrictions imposed by the GST and the lack of funding for granting agencies. The shape of the library collection, access to the collection, and the place of the library in our institutions are important determining factors in weighing how far we have come toward the goals of academic freedom and the inclusive university. And if we are to achieve educational equity, all avenues of study must be supported; all members of the academic community must have access to information resources.
Margot Schenk is Head of Library Services at Saint Mary's University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. This paper was originally presented at the Learned Societies Conference in June 1993.