Just say yes!! by Dee Brennan

Today I am going to tackle the subject of resource sharing, a beloved, inspiring, confusing and controversial topic for Illinois librarians.

There was a lot of talk about resource sharing at the ILA conference last week.  This made me and my colleagues at RAILS very happy because our main job is to promote resource sharing.

A lot of you know that the main reason that I left the Oak Park Public Library to come to RAILS was because I believe so strongly in resource sharing and the role that systems play in it. We facilitate it through traditional services like shared catalogs and delivery, new programs like the eRead Illinois grant and our in-progress consortia committee overlay project (next blog post)

I think we can all agree that resource sharing is fundamental to what we do as libraries. But beyond that I think it is pretty hard to find areas of agreement about how much resource sharing we are actually willing to do.

I get very worried sometimes talking with my colleagues throughout Illinois that we have lost track of our resource sharing ideals. I must hasten to add that I hear lots of great stories about resource sharing also. But, I am a true believer when it comes to resource sharing. I even did a sort of Paul Revere type act in Massachusetts when I was President of one of the consortia there, going to board meetings of other consortia asking, pleading, debating about why they wouldn’t share their new books, cassettes, videos, you fill in the blank.

I think I bucked the Illinois trend when I led Oak Park Public Library back into SWAN.  It was such fun watching the long lines at the Oak Park check out desk in the first few days of being online in SWAN, because all of a sudden users had access to millions of titles and hundreds of multiple copies, not just what Oak Park could afford to buy and store (which was considerable) and so their holds were arriving within days, not within months. They had to radically alter their holds behavior because they were getting such great service through SWAN!

I also don’t think that size of library should determine membership in a consortium. When I was Chief of Public Services at the Boston Public Library, 26 branches, staff of 600, serving a community of 586,000, we were part of a consortium and we were a net borrower.  I admit this statistic also speaks to the state of our collection, but the other members were much smaller and had very restricted budgets and we still benefited greatly from sharing with them – and most importantly so did our users.

My point is, we really are stronger together.  Everyone benefits from sharing resources, and we benefit more the fewer the barriers there are.  Let us all remember the great Hugh Atkinson, Director of the Library at the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign.  The Dictionary of Library Biography says of Hugh that he had a

“Desire to create a system that would bring the benefits of the UIUC library to all the taxpayers of Illinois and to bring all the library resources of Illinois to the UIUC community.”  (DLB Second Supplement, p. 14).

The DLB quotes an American Libraries interview in 1981 when he said

“I don’t mind lending 100 books if I can borrow 10 books U of I patrons need. Strict reciprocity is less important to me than satisfying patrons.”  (Idem)

The DLB then provides a marvelous understatement when it says “this largeness of view was not greeted with unanimous approval…” (Idem)

I find it so inspiring that the Director of one of the biggest libraries in Illinois clearly saw the benefit of sharing with libraries of all types and sizes throughout Illinois, and at a time when it was harder, more staff intensive and took longer to actually share the resources.

So why do we limit our sharing? Have we really examined the costs and benefits of sharing? Have we really considered why we say no before we say it?

I am asking my colleagues in libraries of all types to really think about why we are saying no. Is it because we always have said no?  Do we really have a good reason?  Ultimately, our decisions to share or not to share affect the library user more than they affect libraries themselves. Let’s look at it from their perspective when we say yes or no to resource sharing. After all, aren’t the users the reasons we have the resources in the first place?  We can create obstacles and come up with reasons to keep the barriers up, or we can channel Hugh Atkinson and improve access for all Illinois residents.

eRead Illinois Project @ ILA

Staff Spotlight

Veronda Pitchford, RAILS Director of Membership Development and Resource Sharing, talks about the eRead Illinois project at the ILA conference. Be sure to visit RAILS booth (#106) when the exhibit hall is open.

Click for details

World Languages Networking Group Meeting October 23

The World Languages Networking Group meeting will be held on Wednesday, October 23, 2013 from 10 a.m. until noon at the Cook Memorial Public Library. The topic of this meeting will be "Making Libraries Appealing to Immigrant Communities."

Please RSVP to Gina Sheade at gsheade [at] vapld [dot] info or by phone at 847.634.3650.

Anyone involved in world language collection development is welcome to attend.

Aldona Salska from Prospect Heights
Elizabeth Marszalik from Indian Trails

Presenters will discuss:

  • "Making Our Libraries More Appealing to Immigrant Communities" - results of a recent survey
  • Programming ideas
  • Library resource centers for immigrant patrons
  • Translation resources
  • Ideas for the future

RAILS Receives First FY2014 Payment

RAILS received a payment of $1,157,230 this week, representing the first payment of RAILS' FY2014 (July 2013 - June 2014) Area and Per Capita Grant. RAILS thanks Secretary of State and State Librarian Jesse White, Illinois State Library (ISL) Director Anne Craig, and colleagues at ISL for helping to make this possible.