The Stratford Public Library. (Galen Simmons/The Beacon Herald)
While the recent announcement the Southern Ontario Library Service will cease operation of the provincial interlibrary loan delivery service has been a shock, area libraries are committed to maintaining service levels locally as best they can.Following a 50 per cent funding cut to both the Southern and Northern Ontario library services in the province’s 2019 budget, both agencies announced last Thursday they would be shutting down the delivery service that libraries across the province have relied on to share materials.In Perth County, the interlibrary loan delivery service was also responsible for making deliveries between libraries in Stratford, St. Marys, West Perth, North Perth, and Perth East in addition to delivering resources to and from libraries across the province.
Stratford library public service director Wendy Hicks sorts through roughly two days of books, DVDs, CDs, video games, and more that will be delivered to libraries across Perth County through the Perth County Information Network’s interlibrary loan delivery service. (Galen Simmons/The Beacon Herald)
“We piggyback. … All of the loaning that happens between the Perth County public libraries (uses) that same (delivery) van system,” said Wendy Hicks, the public service director at the Stratford Public Library. “… That is something that the support agency, (the Southern Ontario Library Service), has provided for a number of years. Across Ontario there are 24 drivers that link up the public libraries. Because we are separate library systems with our own boards, we were able to opt in to use that system to send thing very efficiently across the county.”Last year alone, Stratford library users borrowed nearly 25,700 items from Perth County’s other libraries, while more than 72,500 items were shared in total. According to the Perth County Information Network, interlibrary loans have been a useful resource for everyone from students and authors to book clubs and local academics.“Interlibrary loan provides equalized access to materials, especially for those who are members of rural libraries with smaller collections,” said Kendra Roth, management chair of the Perth County Information Network and CEO of Perth East Public Library, in a press release.While the loan service itself hasn’t been discontinued by the Southern Ontario Library Service, it has been temporarily suspended as the organization determines how to manage the physical movement of items. In the meantime, the member libraries of the Perth County Information Network are trying to figure out how to continue the delivery service locally.“We can’t even ask for service from, let’s say there’s a reliable carrier out there who’s looking for good business, we don’t really know exactly how to extricate the provincewide stuff from the (Perth County items),” Hicks said. “I mean we know the numbers, but what does that look like on the ground?“… What is important is that users understand that the loaning service between the (Perth County libraries) is a priority because we have grown together for so long. We share one catalogue, and it allows users in very small libraries access to a much richer resource, and it allows users in our library to see what else in our there in the county.”As Perth County Information Network management of local libraries work to determine the logistics of handling deliveries themselves, users across the county should expect some delays in receiving materials through the local interlibrary loan system.However, if operating a local library delivery service turns out to be cost prohibitive, Hicks said there is a remote chance the loan service could be shut down in Perth County.firstname.lastname@example.org