It’s a much-loved service at Huntsville Public Library, but interlibrary loans will be no more as of April 26 thanks to budget cuts by the Ford government.
Interlibrary loans are one of the services overseen by the Southern Ontario Library Service (SOLS), which learned that their funding had been cut by 50 per cent in the provincial budget tabled earlier this month. SOLS serves public libraries in almost 200 municipalities as far north as Muskoka. Their counterpart, the Ontario Library Service – North, also had its funding cut by 50 per cent.
In a statement on April 18, SOLS CEO, Barbara Franchetto, announced that the interlibrary loan service, which allows patrons to borrow items from other libraries for pick up at their local library, would be cancelled. “I know this is very sad and disappointing news but given the enormity of the cut to our operating budget, there is no alternative,” she wrote. “Even under our previous budget allocation, it was becoming difficult to sustain the service because of ever increasing operating costs.”
The service will be missed by many patrons at Huntsville Public Library (HPL), said CEO and chief librarian, Deborah Duce. She said that last year HPL received over 4,000 requests for items from other libraries and lent out just over 3,000 to them, and HPL patrons borrowed almost 2,800 items from other libraries in the SOLS system.
“The Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport said that the cut isn’t going to impact the day-to-day operations of the library,” said Duce. “It is going to have a definite impact on people.”
People like seniors looking for a large print book that might be out of print or not part of the HPL collection. Or homeschoolers looking for more information on a topic than what the library has available on its shelves. Or members of HPL’s three book clubs who borrow the books to read so they don’t incur the expense of buying every one.
People who read for pleasure enjoyed having the option of borrowing books beyond what is available on the HPL stacks.
Even people who like to watch DVDs could be affected. “We noticed that since Blockbuster closed, people really want DVDs,” said Duce. “We have a pretty good budget for DVDs but those are for new materials. If we have to cut into that budget to order old DVDs that people want, we will have to say no to some of that.”
Library staff are upset, said Duce, and they feel for the people they’ve gotten to know who will lose their jobs with these cuts. “We see the couriers three days a week, and they are three people who are going to be losing their jobs who are very helpful and kind. They deliver thousands of books, and it’s really hard that we’re not going to see them after this Friday.” They are just three of 24 who will loose their jobs as a result of the cuts.
There are currently almost 100 interlibrary loans out to HPL patrons which, if not returned by the end of the day on Thursday, will have to be shipped back to their individual lending libraries. “SOLS doesn’t have the money for that so we will have to assume the cost,” said Duce.
While no jobs at HPL will be lost as a result of the cuts, Duce said that there is one library in Muskoka that has a staff member whose sole job is interlibrary loans. “If she doesn’t have that job then what is that person going to do? It’s a huge deal.”
HPL staff met this morning to discuss ways to fill the hole left by the cancellation of the interlibrary loan service, “but I think that whatever we do, it will be just a little bit of dirt in the hole. It’s not going to fill that hole.”
They even broached the idea of a local van to deliver books between Muskoka libraries, at least. “But we’d have to buy a van and pay for maintenance and we’d have to pay for someone to drive it. That’s pretty expensive,” said Duce. “It’s better to just go with an efficient service that we already have in place and a database that works.”
SOLS was established in 1989 and delivers programs and services on behalf of the Ontario Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport.
“I don’t remember a time when SOLS wasn’t an incredible support to libraries,” said Duce of the organization, which also provides support to libraries for board governance, training, professional development, and buying. “Interlibrary loans is one of the services that people use literally every day and I think it is going to have the biggest impact.”
Duce added, “I don’t see us getting more money from the government to increase our collection development budget. Funding to public libraries has been on hold since the Harris government. They made cuts of almost 50 per cent so none of us have seen increases in our provincial funding. We can accept donations but where are we going to put them? We have limited shelf space. Do we reduce budgets in other areas to cover that?”
She will be submitting a letter to the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport and MPP Norm Miller “expressing our sorrow and letting them know what the impact is.” She will also be asking for Huntsville Council’s support of the letter.
“It’s such a valuable resource,” said Duce. “I don’t think people take it for granted. I think there will be a lot more disappointment. I think we’re all just going to have to figure out how to get the government to change their mind on this cut.”
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