The Haliburton County Public Library is grappling with the “huge loss” of the interlibrary loan service due to provincial budget cut.
The Southern Ontario Library Service (SOLS) announced April 18 that due to the “enormity of the cut” to its operating budget by the province, interlibrary loan delivery will end April 26. T
he system enabled libraries across the province to order material from other locations, allowing people remote access to bigger collections.
Library CEO Bessie Sullivan said it made a big difference for Haliburton, whose approximately 52,000-item collection is dwarfed by libraries in big cities.
“It was supposed to level the playing field between different-sized communities,” Sullivan said. “It’s a huge loss. That’s no economic impact on us, that’s a service cut.”
In a statement posted by the Ontario Federation of Public Libraries, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport Michael Tibollo said the government is maintaining base funding for libraries and described the SOLS and its northern counterpart as “arms-length” agencies.
“(They) have no involvement in the day-to-day operations of Ontario public libraries,” Tibollo said. “This government will continue to maintain strong partnerships with municipal and Indigenous libraries and assist them in providing quality public services for everyone.”
Sullivan questioned that characterization of the SOLS cut.
“I’m going to be kind and say they didn’t understand what they’re cutting,” Sullivan said. “‘It doesn’t affect the day-to-day operations,’ that’s obviously not the case.”
The SOLS’s provincial operating grant was $3.3 million in 2018. The Haliburton County Public Library borrowed 1,493 items through the interlibrary service in 2018, while sending out 1,659 items to other libraries.
It represents a small fraction of the county’s total circulation, which was over 160,000 in 2018.
However, collection development coordinator Sherill Sherwood said the information people seek from other libraries can be vital, such as updated building codes or health books.
“If there are people in our community who are having health issues and the titles are out of print, we’ve been able to get them,” Sherwood said. “It’s important for their quality of life.”
The SOLS is also ending its courier service. Sullivan said that will have an impact on the library budget, as they will now be responsible for paying to ship in new material, costs previously covered by the SOLS.
“When you’re shipping giant boxes of books, it’s a very expensive proposition,” Sullivan said. “Something will have to give in order to pay for that shipping.”
Sullivan said the library board has yet to meet to discuss the news but the changes are challenging to plan for.
“A part of why people go to the library to work is they believe in equity of access and this seriously undermines equity of access,” she said.