Inter-library loans part of budget cuts
Inter-library loans have been cancelled following a provincial funding cut to the Southern Ontario Library Service (SOLS), reducing patrons’ access to library materials.
“It is with great sadness that I have to inform public libraries in southern Ontario that the SOLS inter-library loan delivery service will permanently cease to operate, effective April 26,” said SOLS CEO Barbara Franchetto. “I know this is very sad and disappointing news but given the enormity of the cut to our operating budget, there is no alternative. Even under our previous budget allocation, it was becoming difficult to sustain the service because of ever increasing operating costs.”
In response to a 50 per cent funding cut, SOLS has terminated its courier delivery service, said Clearview Public Library CEO Jennifer La Chapelle.
“To expect any corporation, if you suddenly slash their revenue by 50 per cent, how do you expect them to continue doing what they are doing? Is this the death knell for the Southern Ontario Library Service? I certainly hope not,” she said.
In 2018, Clearview made 1,396 interlibrary loan requests to other libraries and fielded 967 requests for material.
“Something that has been in existence prior to 1989 has now gone the way of the dodo,” said La Chapelle.
This week, library staff put a call out to people asking them to return inter-library loan items ASAP and that current requests would be cancelled. The last delivery is April 26 and after that libraries face the risk of having to pay postage to return library materials. Even using the special federal rate for libraries, it could get expensive.
“I think I speak for most public libraries, when we went into our budget year we certainly didn’t put money for postage in the budget that would cover all the inter-library loans we need. So financially, that is not a feasible option,” said La Chapelle.
In addition to specific requests for inter-library loans, individual libraries put items in pools that are rotated to other libraries; they could be large print books or DVDs. The SOLS courier moves them around from library to library, so that service has also been cancelled, but items from the County Library Cooperative will still be delivered through that separate service.
“There are so many items that we have to get from other libraries because, despite the fact that council has been generous and we have a good collections budget, we can’t buy everything. We also don’t have the shelf room to keep everything that we’ve ever had,” said La Chapelle, adding years ago they would have kept everything by popular authors but now they take it out of the collection to make room for new things knowing that they are still accessible through inter-library loans.
SOLS is looking at alternatives for some of the materials sent through the courier service. It has committed to providing all Summer Reading program materials to participating libraries this year but La Chapelle is not certain about future plans.
Inter-branch borrowing is delivered by Clearview Public Library employees so it will not be affected.
The end of the SOLS delivery service means that 24 drivers will lose their jobs. Last year, they drove almost one million kilometres to deliver over 710,000 packages to 153 main library branches across southern Ontario. They also made reciprocal agreements between libraries possible, brought newly purchased material to over 100 libraries at cost effective rates. SOLS said, this is truly the end of an era in provincial resource sharing.
Trina Berlo photo: The new branch of Clearview Public Library taking shape in Stayner.