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Provincial cuts close the book on inter-library loans

Provincial budget cuts have slashed a popular loaning service at libraries throughout the province – including the Prince Edward County Library’s six branches.

The exchange of books in the County collection will not be affected as the internal courier service will continue to run. But books can no longer be borrowed or loaned outside of Prince Edward County. These services were provided four days a week supplying materials not available internally.

The Southern (and Northern) Ontario Library Service (SOLS) is eliminating services as it faces a 50 per cent budget cut from the provincial government. It must cut $1.5 million from the $3 million budget it has been frozen at for nearly 20 years. Small and rural library systems that rely heavily on SOLS for services will be hit hardest.

SOLS provides both the delivery service and the software that makes the sharing of materials between the provincial libraries possible.

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“Currently there are 500 books that we have borrowed from other libraries on behalf of our patrons,” said Barbara Sweet, PEC Library CEO. “We have sent outside of the County to other libraries about 600 books that must be returned to us.”

Sweet said the service is an excellent example of resource sharing. In 2018 the County loaned 6,175 books to other libraries and borrowed 5,028.

“These are books often that we would not want to own. They may be older, obscure, or multiple copies of the same title that a book club is reading,” said Sweet.

“This is a service that has been well used and often praised by County residents,” she said. “We are deeply sorry that this is no longer a service that we will be able to offer. The staff and library board are examining ways that we can offer the same level of service to our patrons. We will do everything that we can to lessen the effects of this loss.”

Tourism, Culture and Sport Minister Michael Tibollo defended the cuts saying the arm’s length agencies have no involvement in the day-to-day operations of Ontario’s public libraries.

Sweet expects there are more losses to come as the SOLS supports public libraries in a number of ways – from offering the inter-library loan and delivery program, to training for library staff and volunteers. The funding cut was part of an almost $60 million hit to the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport – now down to $1.49 billion.

“There will undoubtedly be more cuts,” said Sweet. “The cancellation of the delivery service did not address their budget shortfall.”

In the meantime, County residents are signing a change.org petition started after the cuts were announced, calling on the government to reverse its decision. As of Wednesday evening, it gained more than 18,600 signatures.

Social media protests continue since the cuts were announced and are supportive of the many library services open to everybody with no financial barriers, free internet, classes and resources. Read more under the hashtag #SaveOurLibraries

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  1. Gary Mooney says:

    It’s not always possible to continue to do things the way they have always been done. Moving a book from London to PEC for the benefit of one reader, and then returning it to London strikes me as inordinately expensive and inefficient. If this were an e-book, the delivery cost to make it available to anyone in the province would be near zero.

    Publishers of newspapers and magazines are finding that it is too expensive to print and distribute their publications, so they’re either folding, or turning to e-publication.

    Movement of books within the PEC library system will continue. But librarians will have to find another solution to movement of books between municipalities. Could be a combination of offering e-books as an alternative, or charging a modest fee for the service.

  2. Rob #2 says:

    But if you step back and acknowledge, for better or for worse, that a government was elected that had made its intention clear from the start to be more stingy (for lack of a better word) then you must also admit that this service is a bit of a frill.

    A good alternative might be a solution closer to home where reciprocal agreements (like the one between Belleville and Quinte West) can be established among many of our more local municipalities, possibly including even as far east as Kingston. Could such a set-up ultimately allow a greater selection of titles across the system by keeping fewer copies of a particular title? This would likely be applicable for non-fiction books that aren’t in high demand.

    Imagine if Ford and Co. cave on this as a result of protest, and they cave on education funding cuts because of protest there, then pretty soon they won’t have cut anything…

    I get that this sucks, but how many people here aren’t looking around their own home/family and doing without things because the financial resources aren’t there. Is Government really any different?

  3. Gary says:

    Those that are accustom to living off the public purse, should be concerned.

  4. Paul Cole says:

    The slash and burn policies of the Con(artist) party finding efficiencies and downloading programs ad services to Municipalities YET tax payers only see increases in their tax bills at the end of the year. You can thank Todd Smith Doug Ford and the Cons. Have a buck beer you’ll feel better…

  5. Roberta Cullin says:

    Gary Mooney : Perhaps you could tell us just when the Southern Ontario Library Service (SOLS) and the Ontario Library Service – North (OLS-North) became part of the Prince Edward County Service’s staff ?

    Two organizations responsible for connecting libraries across Northern and Southern Ontario are grappling with how to adjust services in the face of significant funding reductions.
    The Southern Ontario Library Service (SOLS) said on its website last Tuesday that the operating budgets of SOLS and Ontario Library Service – North (OLS-North) have been slashed by about 50 per cent. The two agencies, which operate on behalf of the Ontario culture ministry, facilitate co-ordination between libraries and provide consultation and training. They said they are being forced to re-evaluate their services, making decisions that will especially hit rural and Indigenous communities.

  6. Gary Mooney says:

    It’s my understanding that the Ford government cut the Library Service’s budget by 50%, but didn’t specify that the interlibrary loan / delivery program be eliminated. The Service’s staff chose that this service should be cut, from among all of the services it provides. And, as the article indicates, movement of books within the County’s library branches will continue.

  7. marc says:

    Typical Conservative decision. Has a single cut they’ve made adversely affected wealthy Ontarians? Even one?

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