Being able to access top scholarly journals is probably something that many students and researchers take for granted. But librarians like Wendy Merkley know the value of those resources goes far beyond what first meets the eye.
On its own, the University of Lethbridge simply can’t afford to subscribe to all the journals it needs. The U of L is one of more than 70 institutions that are members of the Canadian Research Knowledge Network (CKRN), a consortium of academic libraries across Canada that joined forces to have more bargaining power with the vendors and publishers of research material.
“That buying power was instrumental in giving academic institutions of a smaller size access to collections of materials online that we would never have been able to purchase had we gone and tried to do it as one institution,” says Merkley. “CRKN, as with many library consortiums, really formed to increase the availability of research materials for all institutions. We have access to literally thousands of journals online through CRKN.”
The CRKN was first known as the Canadian National Site Licensing Project, which started in 1999. It became the CRKN, a non-profit organization, in 2004. The research material accessible to U of L faculty and students through CRKN is costly but the resource materials it brings are used thousands of times every year. The U of L directs some of its Research Support Fund towards the cost of membership in the CRKN.
“I think faculty here would say that the packages we can access through CRKN represent the key and critical resources that researchers are looking for. They also represent a large portion of the journals that our researchers are publishing in,” she says. “The money that we get through the Canada Research Support Fund is really critical to enabling us to continue to support those collections. If it were to disappear, we would have to cancel subscriptions.”
Belonging to the CRKN is key when new programs are being developed or additional courses are being planned to enhance a program. Without the benefits of the CRKN, the U of L couldn’t support the growth of programs or sustain current ones. The CRKN also helps the U of L recruit both faculty researchers and students.
“When we’re looking for new faculty to join our institution, one of the selling points is having access to the range of resources that most researchers now require to continue to do their research,” says Merkley.
The Research Support Fund supports a portion of the costs associated with managing the research funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, such as salaries for staff who provide administration support, training costs for workplace health and safety, maintenance of libraries and laboratories, and administrative costs associated with obtaining patents for inventions.