Since the inception of e-books and other online resources McMaster’s library has been working to keep up.

One of the most practical modernization techniques, said University Librarian Vivian Lewis, is simply adding more electrical outlets.

“Outlets are huge for us. It is one of our main demands in study spaces. It is very different from when I started here 20 years ago,” she said. “We have to come up with all kinds of ways to get power to different study areas. We run power strips across tables…more and more this is what students are looking for.”

With the Library—Mills, Thode and Innis (The Health Science Library is run separately)—as the largest Wi-Fi center on campus, spaces within the actual buildings are forced to adapt to demand. That means, in some cases, allocating square footage once given to book stacks to study space instead.

In recent years, Mills has transformed much of the sixth floor into quiet study space and added the Lyons New Media Centre, allowing student to use resources like video editing software and green screen. Thode has also added more open study spaces.

The most significant player in the modernization of academic libraries is the move from print to electronic resources.

“The journals that we get have gone almost completely electronic because that is where the users are…where they can get the article they want at 2 o’clock in the morning, even if they’re on the other side of the country,” said Wade Wycoff, Associate University Librarian, Collections.

In 2001, the Library had around 11,000 journal subscriptions that were available to students and faculty only print. Because of the move to electronic publication, e-journals can be purchased in bundles and are more affordable than a decade ago. McMaster students can now access 80,000 different journal titles.

“It levels the playing field in a lot of ways. Now suddenly we’re getting subscriptions of volumes and journals available to our users, that rival U of T and Western,” said Wycoff.

The rise in overall journals does come at a cost, especially for researchers who seek a true print copy.

Wycoff said, “We still have about 2,000 print subscriptions, and those are mostly smaller publishers who just haven’t moved on to electronic versions of their journal yet.”

The same transformation is happening with books. In 2001, the Library purchased more than 40,000 books in print. In 2012, only 6,610 print books were purchased, in addition to 22,000 e-book titles. The combined total of 28,810 still falls more than 10,000 titles short 2001’s book purchases.

Wycoff says that this reflects a focus on serials that many libraries are making.

“More academic libraries are spending more on their journal collection. We have had to shift some resources around,” he said. “We are also seeing things, like in the sciences, how they are using those electronic resources, they are using journals more. So their usage pattern is changing, so the money changes to support what they actually want.”

Wycoff believes that the trend will continue.

“Ten years from now, we’ll still have a physical collection, but its footprint will be much smaller,” he said. “The longer-term trend in academic libraries is toward a collection that is almost fully electronic. In the near term, we expect that the Library’s collection will continue to be a blend of print and electronic materials.”

University Librarian Vivian Lewis sees a general move to a more service-based library on the horizon.

“It is also changing how we’re providing services in general. It’s not really just the collections—the libraries are places for service and so it is changing the way that we answer questions,” she said. “If students aren’t physically coming to the library to use the library, we need to support them where they are.”

She continued, “We have to be all about serving students now, even if they aren’t in the physical library.”

“Sometimes we hear someone say ‘I never use the library.’ Reality is that they are using the library all the time, even when they are just accessing Google Scholar,” she said. “Our students and faculty researchers use the library constantly, probably way more than they did a decade ago, when they physically had to put their hat and coat on and walk over.”

 

Photo credit: Yoseif / Photo Editor

 

Reader, stick a silver spoon in my brain and stir. Because as I sit here confused, a literary lobotomy is in order.

I’m not a surgeon, so I won’t be able to help you. I can barely string together a sentence without a red pen itching for the stitching. But I can say that while my words fail me above and below, I never wanted to write this and I never thought I would have to.

For if the shortest sentence in the language is “I do”, then the following one must be the longest because it took me two weeks to write: “I quit.”

Sure, you don’t know me and those words probably mean very little to you. I am just a column of letters that can sometimes form coherent sentences. I am entirely replaceable. Whoever takes this job after me will do it better, not to mention be a more eloquent writer (or at least, refer to themselves less). This goes without saying and I do not have an inkling of doubt in that fact.

But though I may be second rate, I’d like to believe that I am more than just a few words printed onto a page. I am a twin with glasses that sit diagonally on my face because I can never be bothered to fix them. I usually go places unshaven, just because I have a terrible knack to be lazy. I like to think I am generous, but at the same time I am conflicted with my modesty. I joke needlessly and battle the world with a smile. And I am not a quitter, or I wasn’t until I began this.

I could say that university does this to people: separating their passions and desires with a fine line called a grade point average. But I will not provide excuses for my leave of absence. If you love something, you make time for it, though I’ll admit that I’m finding it hard enough to both have love and give it.

I think back to where things could’ve gone wrong. Jump back to my childhood, and you’ll find a time when I was laughing a whole lot more, a time where limitations were the confines of my imagination and where I gave life to new worlds with a sway of a pen or a whisper of a word.

Hell.

You might even find me praying because I was religious back then. Every night, my knees found themselves on the hardwood floor as I murmured a dream of world peace, a peanut butter sandwich for lunch, and that my family would stop fighting. Other days I implored that I didn’t have to pray as much, especially to the person who created me, the person who knows me best.

But what I prayed for the most was no different than what anyone else did: happiness, even if it meant a sacrifice of my own. I told God I’d wait forever because happiness is that important.

Fifteen years later found me in university and I found myself still waiting. I’ll grant that forever is a really long time, though. So long, in fact, that I wasn’t religious anymore; yet I continued to pray to the ceiling for happiness. I was a walking paradox.

That is, until I found this place. The Silhouette. Now I’m a writing paradox because I consider these words my rosaries, these sentences my beatitudes. Call it old fashion, but if there is happiness anywhere, it is in the news we read and the news we write.

I joined the Silhouette for that reason. Sure, it was arduous. Yeah, it was exhausting. And yes, I’ll admit it was often utterly thankless.

But while I may have been encouraging an onset of early alcoholism and perhaps even more truthfully I have a masochistic penchant for taking on more work, I do believe that the Silhouette, and the work necessary to be a competent editor, has a silver lining.

This is because it is the coal that turns into the diamond; the cocoon into the butterfly. At the end of the Wednesday night and the inevitable crawl into a Thursday morning, when the final page is printed, the cover is folded, and the shelves are stacked, I have faded into a silhouette of words.

With them, I am not simply a shadow or an outline, but rather part of a collective whole that creates the darkened image of McMaster’s journalism: the Silhouette. My name or position doesn’t matter. What I chose to say does.

Now, as I sit here in the darkness of the office, I am leaving this shadow and entering the light. It isn’t because I want to but because I have to. I have to leave this place that provided my happiness - true, written happiness - for over a year.

I am not sure what will happen when I leave it. All I know is that these are among my last words as an Opinions editor, and like the names that faded before me, like the period after this very sentence, I wish I could say more.

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