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Thread: Libraries, books, inter-library loans

  1. #1
    Senior Member bae's Avatar
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    Libraries, books, inter-library loans

    My community has one of the highest library-use statistics in the state. Probably because of an over-educated, elderly population, and our remote location.

    We just built a very expensive addition to our already very-nice library. (Which seemed more focused on more meeting rooms, and more rooms for "technology" - seems the library is a center for people working on their phones, laptops, and pads, due to good Internet connectity, desks, light, power, and heat...)

    My mother works as a volunteer at our library. At a recent dinner, some of us were complaining to her that the library's physical book collection is problematic - in particular they'll often not have the entire series of a trilogy (or longer), likely having only the latest book, or one in the middle. She informs me we do a lot of inter-library loans for solving this problem.

    She then called me back - inter-library loans cost us about $16 on average. And take 1-2 weeks to be delivered. This charge isn't passed along to the borrower, it comes out of the general operating budget.

    I observed that it would be cheaper to Amazon Prime the book directly to the borrower, if for some reason they needed a physical book... (The library already has a sizeable collection of loanable e-books.)

    Curious.

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    I wonder whether the inter-library loan program is a net money-maker for the library, which, in addition to borrowing books from other libraries, is presumably lending out its own.

    Does the library literally not own the other books in the series or are they just not on the shelf? Our tiny community library is a branch of the bigger downtown library and there is so little shelf space that we often just have 1, or maybe at most 2, books by any given author. Other books in a series or by the same author are usually part of the collection at the "main" library though, but I guess if we did not have a "main" library then we would be in the same boat as you describe. We also do a LOT of borrowing from the "main" library as well as inter-library loan.

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    Senior Member bae's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mamalatte View Post
    I wonder whether the inter-library loan program is a net money-maker for the library, which, in addition to borrowing books from other libraries, is presumably lending out its own.
    Not a money-maker for our library - as I said, they don't charge the patrons.

    Our library has but a single site - the books being asked for do not exist in the collection. Someone in "collections management" decided that nobody ever needed to read the first book in the Dune trilogy, or the 2nd Harry Potter book. And so on.

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    Senior Member rosarugosa's Avatar
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    Bae: I assume it's more expensive for you folks given your location. I borrow from the North of Boston Lending Exchange, and most of the books I borrow seem to come from other libraries in the exchange rather than my own library. Given proximity and population density here, the cost per lend is probably a lot less. Our librarian once told me that if I ever couldn't find something I wanted, I should let them know so they could buy it, because they have funds for that. It might make more sense for you to buy the books for your borrowers, but then you would need use some of that nice conference room space to actually store the books.

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    Senior Member iris lilies's Avatar
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    Oh hell yes. Interlibrary Loan (ILL) library service is rarefied, impractical, and very expensive. I know because I used to run ILL service in a major metropolitan public library. The cost you give is in the ballpark. Other, earlier cost studies show it much more expensive, but that included university libraries that can never do anything inexpensively.

    The expense of the service lies in the cost of people, there are many hands touching the book. The secondary cost is data systems. Far down the list of expenses, for us anyway, was transportation costs to move the book from one place to another.

    A few forward thinking libraries realized that it was often (not always) cheaper to just buy the book, check it out uncataloged, and give it to patrons quickly with the expectation that it would be returned and perhaps entered into the library's collection. Probably some library out there just bought the book and gave it to the patron to keep. But that wouldn't be something we would ever consider because it is difficult to control that kind of service and soon tax dollars would be spent on building private libraries. Keep in mind that is it not only books but dvds, video games, music cds and etc that are requested via ILL.

    I often talked with our head honcho about the cost per unit of ILL and we both shook our heads, but did not have the cajones to drop the service. Here in my metropolitan area where there are easily 6 million items available to citizens to check out through library reciprocal programs, and another 8 million items available in large university libraries that they may access within those libraries, and then accessibility to the internet with many ways to find common published items super cheap, ILL service is a dodo bird. This doesnt even consider the incredible richness of digital resources.

    Where you are which I think is pretty isolated, it may be a different story. If your ILL requests are often for volumes that complete a series that is useful collection development information. I used to run all ILL requests quickly through our book buyers to be evaluated for purchase rather than borrowing.

    I am not a very good gubmnt bureaucrat because I often thought that we didnt really need certain library services. Ron Swanson from Parks and Rec is my hero.

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    Senior Member bae's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by iris lilies View Post
    I am not a very good gubmnt bureaucrat because I often thought that we didnt really need certain library services. Ron Swanson from Parks and Rec is my hero.
    Yes, Ron is my Fylgja. (Can't say "spirit animal", apparently that's colonialist cultural appropriation.)

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    I know you said they don't charge the patrons, but don't they charge the other libraries that are borrowing your library's books, and make some money from doing that, i.e., isn't ILL a two-way street? That's what I meant. Given your library is free-standing and very small though, it would probably be doing more borrowing than lending.

    It is an interesting thought why not just buy the book from Amazon if it's less than or around $16. Since they don't have room to keep the book, I guess they could literally just give it to the patron and basically be in the same position financially. Probably even better if they bought it used through abebooks or similar. Maybe your mom can suggest this?

  8. #8
    Senior Member iris lilies's Avatar
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    By no means do all libraries charge each other for ILL lendng. Some do, some do not.

    Our librari policy was to ask only from libraries that did not charge. If we couldnt get the item, we them offered to go to a charging library but our patron nad to pay the loan fee, usiall in the range of $10 a $15. Many times
    I heard them sputter "well Ill,just go buy it." Ok buddy, good idea, and thanks!

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    since most of my books come from ILL within a large network of libraries, I'm curious how much it costs. Thanks for posting this out, I will be asking. I hope they never do away with it.

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    Are you on a new device IL? It looks like my tablet which is why I am constantly editing for typos.

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