ILLO Service evolving, serving readers in Ontario

I am still being asked about our Inter Library Loan system (ILLO).

After losing this resource for the month of May, it is now back and gaining momentum. Through the system we are able to borrow books from other libraries in Ontario on behalf of our patrons. These are books that we don’t own ourselves, or books we require more copies of because one of our many book clubs are reading the title. Thanks to our partnership with Lennox & Addington Public Library we were not entirely bereft of auxiliary resources during the month of May, but we certainly felt the loss of the other Ontario libraries.

On June 1st when the system came back up only a few libraries jumped back in. The reason for this was that the provincial government did not make any monetary concessions to Southern Ontario Library Service (SOLS). Instead, this agency had to make additional cuts to provide for some postage reimbursement to ILLO participants. We didn’t know how much money would be available to offset the postage costs, and that uncertainty held many libraries back from participating. To illustrate – Prince Edward County lent 6000 books last year. As the lending library we pay the postage and we include a return postage paid label. This costs on average $1.19. Although this sounds like a very favourable rate, it would cost us an extra $7,140 yearly if we assume the same rate of lending as 2018. This is $7,000 not in our 2019 budget. There were also concerns expressed about staff time involved and the added materials required to package and mail books. Jenn Kingma, our ILLO librarian, makes on average two trips to the Post Office a day. Whereas previously, when the SOLS van was delivering and picking up our ILLO materials, Jenn comments: “I had gotten it down to a virtually paperless system, everything was online. Now I am generating up to five pieces of paper for every loan.” She goes on to say, “We are not nearly up to our usual ILLO numbers yet. In 2018 from June 1st to June 15th we shipped out to other libraries 445 books, we received from other libraries 534 books. This year numbers are reduced drastically.”

Though there currently is a huge disparity in the figures year over year, the good news is that things are looking up. While at the beginning of June many libraries were holding back and not participating, now a few weeks into the new order of things about 90 per cent have returned. However, in an attempt to contain costs some libraries are choosing to limit the types of items they will loan. We know that for every $1.19 that we spend, we will only be reimbursed .81 cents. This means that based on last year’s numbers we will expend over $2000 in 2019 that we have not budgeted for.

For this reason many libraries plan to cap their loans and withdraw from the ILLO system at some point in the year.

In Prince Edward County we will continue to participate fully. The ILLO system is far too valuable to allow it to be compromised in any way.

Sometimes it takes a little creativity, but we can always find ways to make things happen.

Barbara Sweet