Inter-library loan service remains suspended due to unclear funding

An inter-library loan service allowing county residents to request and have delivered materials from outside the Haliburton County Public Library’s collection will remain suspended locally for the time being.

As previously reported the spring’s provincial budget included a 50 per cent funding reduction to the Southern Ontario Library Service (SOLS) which operated the inter-library loan program and which ceased the service immediately in mid-April.

The inter-library loan system allowed the Haliburton County Public Library which has a relatively small collection to supply patrons with materials from outside of the county those materials brought to local branches by van.

The cancellation of the service led to widespread public outcry among library users throughout the province and while the service is resuming it’s under a different model than before a model that will likely place increased cost on municipal taxpayers.

“Although inter-library loan services are resuming SOLS is shifting to a different model that relies upon the Canada Post library materials postage rate with a partial provincial subsidy . . .” reads a statement from the Federation of Ontario Public Libraries. “This change puts Ontario out of step with other Canadian provinces most of which fully subsidize inter-library loan in recognition of the important role it plays in ensuring equity of access and cost-effectiveness for public libraries in small rural remote and Indigenous communities.”

“I don’t think they anticipated the public outcry” said Haliburton County Public Library CEO Bessie Sullivan. As Sullivan explained the inter-library loan service included the facilitation of software allowing librarians to search and locate materials from libraries throughout the province as well the provision of the physical delivery service.

“So the software was unavailable to us” Sullivan said explaining that it has now been re-activated.

However the issue remains the physical delivery of materials to the library’s branches. While SOLS has set aside $340000 for reimbursement to 153 libraries for associated costs it’s unclear at this time how much each library might actually receive.

“So basically they’re asking us to spend money without knowing what we’re going to be reimbursed” Sullivan said.

Also using Canada Post would entail library staff members physically transporting materials between the library and the post office.

“The biggest problem for us with Canada Post is it’s a huge amount of staff time” Sullivan said. She intends to include the cost of operating the service in her 2020 budget request which will pass through the library board and then to Haliburton County council. The county is the majority funder of the library. The cost of running the program for a year is estimated to be roughly in the vicinity of $20000.

Until budget time next year it seems likely the service will remain suspended.

“Basically right now my decision is that we can’t afford to do it and do it equitably” Sullivan said.