Saturday, 3 November 2018

Genealogists Benefit from Research Libraries

I recently had the pleasure of a brief conversation with Susan Haigh, Executive Director of the Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL). She mentioned that changes in copyright have been occupying much time recently. I mentioned the aggravation experienced by genealogists and other independent researchers when online databases are only available to academic institutions.

That encounter stimulated a visit to the CARL website where I found a publication CARL Statistics | Statistiques de l’ABRC 2016-2017 (pdf) published last month. The statistics provide an interesting perspective on the cost of the benefit non-university users receive and on Library and Archives Canada.

Most of the 31 libraries in the survey are at universities, from U. Victoria to Memorial. The exceptions are Library and Archives Canada (LAC) and the National Science Library.

Library Materials

The median university has a collection of nearly 2.3 million titles in all formats. They range from over 9 million titles at the University of Toronto to 800 thousand at Brock. LAC holds 12.4 million titles.
With legal deposit the major source for the LAC collection its total library materials expenditures of  $352,539 is low compared to the median for the universities of $10.7 million. However, the major reason for the difference is that LAC spends much less on ongoing resource purchases such as databases ($274,598) compared to the median for the universities ($8.8 million).

Total Library Expenditures

Adding costs of salaries and wages to that for library materials shows LAC with annual library expenditures of $35.6 million whereas the median for the universities was $22.8 million. The University of Toronto ($97.5 million), University of Alberta, University of British Columbia, and McGill all had library expenditures greater than LAC.

For each title in the collection the median university spends $9.59 annually, whereas LAC spends $2.87.


1. LAC makes major savings in maintaining its collection through legal deposit passing on the capital cost of acquisition to the author/publisher.
2. LAC spends much less on ongoing resource purchases than one-time purchases compared to universities.
3. As occasional visitors to a university library, perhaps to examine a resource that you are the first to consult for years, we genealogists and independent researchers should be aware the annual cost of maintaining that title is $9.59. The same title consulted at LAC costs $2.87 to maintain. Let's be grateful for that service offered by university libraries, while recognizing that they too receive funding, directly and indirectly, from the public purse.

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