By Andrew Ross
The University of Calgary Students’ Union’s recent donation of $105,625.84 to the MacKimmie Library is making waves. The donation was raised through a student fee, and will go towards the purchase of new books and journals for the undergraduate collection.
"This type of thing shows [the community] that students really do care about their education," SU Vice-president Academic Mark Hoekstra said. He also noted that the SU fund is presenting a very positive image of students to the community, and has influenced private sector donations.
The library also matched the $90,000 of the donation allotted to the purchase of new materials. Director of Information Resources Frits Pannekoek explained that the money–taken from the library’s $3 million contingency fund–is intended to reward the students’ initiative.
Pannekoek also agrees with Hoekstra’s assertion that the private sector is responding to the program. He estimates the $200,000 is worth approximately $1 million in leverage; in other words, it brought in an additional $1 million in donations from the business community that might not have been donated otherwise. Given the library’s
$6 million annual budget, this is a very significant amount.
"This has allowed us to do things that just wouldn’t happen otherwise," said Pannekoek.
For example, the library purchased copies of all required textbooks priced over $100, as well as additional copies of titles in high demand. To date, 2,673 new titles have been purchased.
The reason for the SU’s assistance lies in the events of the last decade. While education funding declined, library costs skyrocketed, with the price of journals alone rising 20-30 per cent each year. To make matters worse for the library, which purchases materials mainly from the U.S. and Britain, the value of the Canadian dollar floundered over the last few years. Still, despite this confluence of inflation and exchange rates, the library did not cancel a single journal in the last two years thanks to the endowment.
"[The U of C is] one of the few Canadian universities where students have taken on this kind of a leadership role, and it has made an incredible difference," concluded Pannekoek.