Users of Lanark County’s five public libraries are beginning to feel the loss of the interlibrary loan program.
The Interlibrary Loan delivery service was scrapped after the 2019 Ontario Budget saw a 50% budget decrease to the Southern Ontario Library Service (SOLS), which organized the service.
According to the most recent Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport statistics, the libraries in Lanark County have a combined total of 25543 active cardholders, representing well over a third of Lanark County residents. Together, they brought in about 7500 interlibrary loan books for County residents in 2018, an estimated value of $225,000 worth of materials.
“This is a huge loss for rural communities like ours” says Carleton Place Public Library CEO Meriah Caswell. “Small public libraries like the five in Lanark County try very hard to meet the information needs of our communities, but no library can offer everything. The loss of the delivery service effectively cuts us off from the world, and each other.”
Library patrons with specific format or language needs are feeling the hit the most.
“A Francophone patron came in to return a French book that she had received through interlibrary loan. She was close to tears,” says Monica Blackburn, Deputy CEO of the Mississippi Mills Public Library. “She is a Francophone in an Anglophone community. The Library has a very small French collection, because the population doesn’t warrant a larger one. She was close to tears because interlibrary loan was the only way she could continue to read French material.”
“We are a homeschooling family of 5, on one income in rural Ontario” says Joleen from Drummond/North Elmsley Township. “Our curriculum is heavily supplemented by books available at surrounding libraries. Books not available in our town, and books we cannot afford to buy.”
When asked what the Interlibrary Loan service meant to him, Drew from Perth was effusive: “It means that queer folks can access LGBTQ books from other branches that they may not be able to read otherwise. It means that people can get books to help them research unique topics that their library may not stock. It means smaller remote libraries can still have as big a selection as Toronto branches. It means we aren’t punishing folks for not having access to large city libraries. It means we aren’t limiting knowledge.”
Local libraries will be able to access the online portal to make Interlibrary Loan requests in June, but will be required to pay for all shipping costs through Canada Post. “This is a blow to our budget that we were not anticipating this year” says Smiths Falls Public Library CEO Karen Schecter. “It will be a difficult decision for our Board to make to decide whether or not we can afford it. The money will need to come from somewhere, and library budgets are already stretched.” Those wishing to show their support for their public libraries are encouraged to visit library tables at their local Farmers Markets on Saturday May 18th for a day of “Library Love”. Anyone wishing to do more can write the Minister of Tourism, Culture, and Sport Michael Tibollo. 6th Floor, 438 University Avenue, Toronto Ontario M5G 2K8, or contact Randy Hillier at 613-267-8239 to share how changes to the Ontario Library Services budget affects you.