June 15, 2001
Ingles receives honours in a field with rich rewards
Peer recognition is nice, but there's more to it than that
Gilbert A. Bouchard
For Ernie Ingles, the best part of winning the Canadian Library Association's Outstanding Service to Librarianship Award is knowing that he's receiving the full recognition of his peers.
"It's always great to get recognition via an institutional award, but getting peer recognition is extra special - it means I've made a mark," says the University of Alberta's Associate Vice-President (Learning Systems) and Chief Librarian.
The service award, presented to Ingles at the opening ceremony of the annual conference of the Canadian Library Association earlier this week in Winnipeg, is the highest honour granted by the association and marks outstanding, long-term achievement of lasting significance in the development of Canadian library service. Ingles' work in the field is certainly vast and definitely of national scope, including work on more than 120 professional associations and related committees.
Highlights of this service include: acting as founding executive director of the Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproductions, playing a key role in the creation of the Northern Exposure to Leadership Institute, and holding the presidencies of the Canadian Library Association, the Bibliographical Society of Canada, the Council of Prairie and Pacific University Libraries, and the Saskatchewan Library Association.
Ingles, who held library positions at the University of British Columbia, the University of Calgary and the University of Regina before joining the U of A in 1990, is currently Chair of the Advisory Board of the Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information, and the Steering Committee of the Canadian Initiative on Digital Libraries.
As euphoric as the award leaves him feeling, the ever-modest Ingles is quick to share credit with his dedicated, hard-working staff. "An award like this means that you have so many good people standing behind you," says the Calgary-raised academic, who earned a B.A. and M.A. in history, and a M.L.S. from the University of British Columbia. "So many things that I'm known for are the product of many hands. We have one of the best libraries in North America that has itself won numerous awards because of this wonderful group of folks."
Ingles is especially proud that the U of A's vast library holdings (5.4 million volumes, 31,000 current serial titles) are ranked second in Canada and 26th among North America's 110 major research libraries. That ranking is a feat that's especially stunning given the reduced resources Ingles and his staff had to work with during the last decade. Budget cuts in the mid-90s, for example, saw his staff reduced from 420 to 280.
"It's a measure of the resilience of the staff that they maintained such a high level of service despite the cutbacks - it demonstrates a real creativity and the ability to adapt," he said, noting that the financial outlook for the U of A libraries is much improved.
"Libraries, public and research, are always second on everybody's list and it's always a tough sell, but people do see the value and the service provided by good collection building," he said, A good library, he added, can be a factor in luring talented researchers and teachers to an institution. "No library can provide everything for everybody, but a good indicator of our service is the 80,000 requests we receive a year for inter-library loans - the fifth highest."
The service provided by a library is long-term. "It's building a collection for future generations as well as for current researchers," says Ingles. It's also a task that is growing increasingly complicated, given the demands for the collection of electronic and digital information. "It's more than just buying books and putting them on the shelf. So much of the information in the sciences are in electronic form."
A life-long fan of libraries and their value to society, Ingles believes that libraries have always been in the business of "life-long learning" and were doing so long before this concept became a business buzzword.
"You can't imagine the feeling you get seeing a mother learn to read alongside her children, working in a library literacy program," he said. "There's no better feeling and that was the reason I went into library science: I know that at the end of the day I've made a difference."