Students fight loss of books, journals with "Stop the Cut" movement (Updated)

Stop the Cut has organized a letter-writing campaign to Dalhousie President Richard Florizone, urging him to reconsider the cuts to the library budget, estimated by Health Sciences Librarian Patrick Ellis to be $600,000.

A student searches for a book at the library. (Photo: Jacob Baker-Kretzmar)

[box type=”info”]EDITORS’ NOTE: By the time this issue went to print, the library had started reinstating journal
access and acquisitions temporarily using their “strategic initiative fund.” This line in Dalhousie’s
budget is largely undefined and is used for special occasions that “address strategic priorities.”[/box]
Finding sources for a research paper can be challenging, but the recent cancellation of over 400 online journal and database subscriptions by the Dalhousie library is making it even harder.
This year every department at Dal suffered a 3.5 per cent cut to funding, and the library suffered an additional 1 per cent cut to its acquisitions budget.
On Oct. 28, Dr. Carolyn Watters, academic vice-president and provost at Dalhousie, released a memorandum stating that the acquisitions budget was in shortfall. She pointed to inflation, a devalued Canadian dollar, and the 1 per cent cut, as causes.
Overall, it was a “convergence of nasty events,” she said over the phone. However, Watters also says there is some confusion over why the acquisitions budget has already run out (usually this happens around February or March, the end of the fiscal year).
While the university has dipped into the Strategic Initiative Fund—intended for use on a one-time basis— to cover the shortfall, there is a freeze on new acquisitions while the exact status of the budget is assessed.
The loss of access to journals, as well as new books, has prompted the rise of a movement called “Stop the Cut”.
Dalhousie and King’s students from all departments have become involved.
“Everyone uses the library and everyone needs those resources to do their research,” said Amelia Wilding, a fourth-year Contemporary Studies student. As a CSP student, she was upset to see the Canadian Journal of Philosophy on the cancellation list.
Stop the Cut has organized a letter-writing campaign to Dalhousie President Richard Florizone, urging him to reconsider the cuts to the library budget, estimated by Health Sciences Librarian Patrick Ellis to be $600,000.
They are also gathering signatures for the Petition to Restore Adequate Funding to the Student Academic Experience.
This is a separate initiative that addresses funding cuts to education as a whole, including the library cuts. It was brought to a provincial government student roundtable by KSU president Anna Dubinski in November.
A student sits at a desk at the Dalhousie Killam library. (Photo: Jacob Baker-Kretzmar)

On Nov. 3, the KSU voted to oppose the cuts made to Dalhousie libraries and support the Stop the Cut Campaign.
Posters immediately went up around campus urging King’s students to get involved. The KSU has also posted the list of cancelled subscriptions.
Because the cuts were based on usage, Dubinski believes King’s students could be among the most affected, as many choose to focus on more specialized areas of research.
Anika Roberts-Stahlbrand, a fourth-year History of Science and Technology (HOST) student and Board of Governors representative, agrees. She was unable to access the Wellesley Index to Victorian Periodicals, a source she intended to use for a HOST research paper.
Her roommate Brenna Sobanski, also a HOST student, encountered similar problems with Socindex, a source she had used for her thesis.
“I definitely plan on signing the petition,” Roberts-Stahlbrand said. “The library is crucial both to research and to learning. It’s not something we should sacrifice.”
Matt Musgrave is another King’s student involved in the Stop the Cut campaign. He says he is most concerned about the loss of access to World Health Organization publications.
“It makes it difficult for political science and international development students to get to the nitty-gritty of the institutionalism of health,” he said. “I feel that cuts like these truly threaten the value and legitimacy of our educational institution.”
Carolyn Watters will be reviewing the library’s budget and releasing a report in two to three weeks. Her aim is to discover how the budget ended up in shortfall, and develop a sustainable plan to ensure it does not happen again.
At the same time, the library will be reviewing the list of journals cut. Some have already been reinstated. “It is a principle of the university that students have access to material they need,” she said.
Ultimately, the library has been forced to make these difficult decisions about which services to let go because of dwindling funds. Wilding connects this to an overall decrease in provincial government funding to universities.
“It’s a visible… way to get people to realize the cuts to education that are being made,” Wilding said. In these cuts, Wilding sees a “systematic undervaluing of a university education, specifically an arts-centred education”.

By David J. Shuman

David is the current editor-in-chief of The Watch and writes on student issues and events. Find him on Twitter: @DavidJShuman

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