The popular interlibrary loan service could be restored at the Orillia Public Library in the coming weeks.
But it will come with a cost and there may be limits and conditions placed on the popular service.
In April, the province slashed funding to the Southern Ontario Library Service (SOLS) by 50 per cent. That forced the service to discontinue the interlibrary loan service that allows library patrons to go to the library in their community and borrow materials from other libraries throughout southern Ontario.
Because of the budget cut, SOLS permanently cancelled the van delivery service used for the program; 24 drivers were suddenly out of a job.
However, the goal was always to restore the service.
A few weeks ago the province and SOLS hammered out an agreement to restore some of the funding. As a result, SOLS will provide partial reimbursement to libraries to offset delivery costs.
“The government is allocating $340,000 to support interlibray loans which will not cover all the library costs,” said Suzanne Campbell, the CEO of the Orillia Public Library.
That means local libraries have to make up the shortfall. And that’s no easy task for cash-strapped libraries.
Campbell estimates in Orillia, it would require about $4,200 to restore the program based on statistics from 2018.
“That’s money we don’t have in our budget,” said Campbell.
She said options to raise the money include a public campaign, appealing to the Friends of the Library group, funnelling money from reserves or other options such as reducing the collections budget.
“What you’re trying to do is increase your collection by going out to other libraries, so we don’t want to reduce our collections budget,” said Campbell.
She said she will be presenting options to the library’s finance committee this week. Ultimately, it’s up to the library’s board to make a decision on the matter.
This is a process happening throughout the province, noted Campbell.
“Out of 190 libraries in southern Ontario, 90 still haven’t put back interlibrary loans yet,” said Campbell, noting Orillia is in that boat. “We’re still trying to determine how best to go about it.”
She said libraries may be forced to put limits on the amount of materials loaned, for example.
The bulk of the increased cost is a result of the change from using a custom delivery service to moving to Canada Post for delivery.
“The book rate through Canada Post, for libraries, ranges from $1.38 to $3 depending on where you send it and the weight of materials,” said Campbell.
But the change will also increase the workload of library staffers. In the past, materials were placed in reusable cloth bags and sent, via vans, to other libraries.
Now, the materials will have to be placed in bubble-wrapped Canada Post packing, weighed and labelled.
Despite the challenges, the goal is to restore the service, said Campbell.
“Certainly, we want to restore it,” said Campbell. “It’s definitely a high demand service.”
She said many people have expressed concerns about not being able to borrow materials.
“We’ve definitely heard from people who are upset and we’ve had community members going to our MPPs office asking for restoration of the service,” said Campbell.