In Praise of Libraries

Apr 6, 2016

Dean Trevor YoungDean Trevor Young In the digital era, libraries have become more relevant than ever. We depend on librarians to organize, archive and help us navigate the overwhelming amount of information available online.

Take UpToDate®, a point-of-care medical resource broadly used in clinical settings, as one example. It allows our students to quickly access well-organized, peer-reviewed, evidence-based information to provide quality care to their patients. It’s a highly valued resource, and one that we are able to provide our students thanks to U of T Libraries. Because of their support, especially that of University Chief Librarian Larry Alford and Associate Chief Librarian for Science Research and Information Neil Romanosky, we have renewed our license and will be able to continue offering UpToDate® to registered learners (MD students, residents and fellows) for the next five years. This is a big financial undertaking, but it will continue to be supported because of the partnerships built between our students, faculty and librarians.

The University of Toronto Libraries system is the largest academic library in Canada and is ranked third among peer institutions in North America, behind only Harvard and Yale. U of T Libraries don’t just provide access to other resources; they are resources themselves, teaching students how to find and access the information they need, such as in our Health Science Research course. Through “Ask Gerstein,” skilled librarians are also available online or in-person to answer questions and provide consultations. That’s in addition to online training videos, workshops and help with citations.

But it’s not just students who can count on U of T Libraries’ support. Our faculty can draw upon the expertise and resources our library system has to offer. This includes support in their teaching, and less commonly known, with their research. Gerstein Library recently organized a formal unit – Research and Innovation Services – to group together many of the research-support services it has long offered. This includes conducting systematic reviews, preserving and sharing your research data, and determining the impact of your research. We also often get valuable support from our faculty liaison librarians in collecting data for grant applications.

U of T has 44 libraries on three campuses, with more than 12 million volumes in 341 languages, 1.5-million electronic resources in various formats, and 500 terabytes of data. It is a huge resource that is made personal and familiar thanks to the thoughtfulness of its staff. It’s integral to our work, and tireless in the support it provides to our teaching, learning and research efforts. Next week marks National Library Week, so perhaps now is a good time for us to give thanks – maybe even a little praise – for U of T Libraries.

Trevor Young
Dean, Faculty of Medicine
Vice-Provost, Relations with Health Care Institutions

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