Interlibrary loans back at library

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The interlibrary loan service is returning to the North Grenville Public Library (NGPL) and Merrickville Public Library (MPL).

At the end of May, the Southern Ontario Library Service (SOLS) and the Ontario Library Service North (OLS-N) released a joint statement saying that while the delivery service for interlibrary loans is still cancelled, they will be partially reimbursing libraries for Canada Post postage that will now be used to send books between libraries in Ontario. They will also be continuing to offer the platform used to coordinate interlibrary loans that was suspended as of April 18, 2019. The platform has been up and running again since June 1.

CEO of the NGPL Rachel Brown says that while this is good news overall, it will take some time for library staff to get used to using Canada Post to send and receive books. Although SOLS has said they will be reimbursing the libraries for part of the postage costs, how much they will get and where the money is coming from has yet to be determined. It will also take more staff time to package, print off labels and get the books to the post office. “We are going to do it but there are a lot of logistics to work out,” Rachel says.

In a written statement to CBC, SOLS CEO Barbara Franchetto said the amount of money libraries will receive “will depend on the volume of lending this year.” According to library records, the NGPL lent out 1714 books in 2018. Rachel estimates that should that number remain roughly the same, it would cost about $4000 a year in postage fees to participate in the interlibrary loans system. This does not include packaging costs and staff time. Rachel says the NGPL would welcome any donation of gently used packing envelopes as she is expecting to have to acquire hundreds of them to keep up with the demands of the service.

Librarian at the MPL Mary-Kate Laphen agrees that it will take some time to get used to the new process. She says it is worth it for small libraries like the MPL to participate because they borrow more than they lend. At this point postage costs will be shouldered by the library that is sending the book, rather than the one receiving it. “Asking lending libraries to shoulder the cost is awkward,” she says, adding that it might be fairer to work out a system where the library borrowing the book pays the postage fee. “I am sure we can work it out,” she says. “It’s still early days.”

Mary-Kate says it is likely that the interlibrary loan service will not be as efficient or wide-spread as before. Ontario libraries will have the choice whether to participate in the system and larger library systems who already have a large and varied catalogue may not want to bother with lending out their books to smaller libraries in Ontario. This would mean that there is a smaller pool for those in the system to draw from. “Some libraries might put a limit on how many books they are willing to lend,” Mary-Kate says. “I’m not sure what this new world of interlibrary loans is going to look like.”

Despite the fact that the press release from SOLS and OLS-N says they worked with the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport to find a way to re-instate the interlibrary loan service, there has been no announcement of funding from the province to help with postage costs. Funding to SOLS has still been reduced by $1.6 million. “SOLS is cutting back in other areas,” Rachel says, referring to the possibility of more job losses at SOLS.
Interlibrary loans at the MPL is now up and running, while the NGPL should start offering the service again at the beginning of July.

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