State to revamp inter-library loan service
For decades, if a particular book wasn’t available at the local library, a patron could order it from another one in the region. The item would then be delivered to the nearest library for pickup.
For years, about 3 million items have been delivered from one library to another. But on July 3, the Connecticut State Library will temporarily suspend the service, called deliverIT CT, in an effort to restructure the system while meeting budget constraints.
State library officials expect the service to be available again in mid-July, with changes designed to make the system more equitable among 167 local libraries of different sizes. When the deliveries resume, each library will be able to get or receive about 375 books and other items a week.
State funding for deliverIT CT has been relatively steady for 27 years, but the overall state library budget has been cut significantly in recent years. The agency is projected to receive about $8.3 million next fiscal year, about $5 million less than 2009, said Dawn La Valle, the library’s director of library development. President Donald Trump has also threatened to cut federal funds for state libraries.
“At this point we are focused on retooling to provide this equitable service, but it’s all contingent on the availability of state and federal resources,” La Valle said.
DeliverIT CT has been around for about 40 years. At one point, state employees and a private vendor shared delivery duties, but in 2015 the vendor terminated its contract, La Valle said. Since then, the state has handled the service alone, but keeping up has been tough, she said.
“We have been working with the library community over the past year and a half because it’s not sustainable,” La Valle said.
Under the current system, delivery trucks pick up and drop off items more frequently at some libraries than others, depending on size, La Valle said. The new system will transfer roughly the same amount for each library.
“We’re going to create a service that is fair and equitable to all libraries in the state of Connecticut,” she said. “They all get the same level of service, whether they’re a small library or a large library.”
This is more frequently than in recent months because the delivery driver for C.H. Booth, Bethel and other libraries has been out of work on an injury. Sometimes as many as 30 bins have been sitting in a shed waiting to be picked up, Tatarka said.
“It will be much better for our patrons,” she said. “It will be more reliable.”
To prepare for the suspension, many libraries in the Danbury area are stopping the practice of placing holds on books from other towns, unless the patron is willing to pick up the item himself.
The Bethel Library is encouraging patrons to drop off books borrowed from other towns at those libraries, rather than in Bethel, to avoid long delays in the return of items.
Bethel Library Director Lynn Rosato said this will be a challenge for patrons accustomed to getting books from other libraries.
“It’s a very convenient service,” Rosato said. “That’s going to be a tough thing to deal with.”
“It’s really a severe situation right now,” she said. “It’s kind of a bit of a crisis.”
Tatarka said libraries have had to limit how many items they sent to other towns. Cech said her staff sometimes undertakes deliverties on their own.
“It’s not a solution,” Cech said.
But librarians praised DeliverIT CT, saying it allows them to save money and resources while offering a wide range of items they do not have in their own buildings.
“It’s a way for (patrons) to meet their information needs on any topic,” Tatarka said.
“We also have university libraries that are part of this delivery service, so if we have people that want to get more higher-level reading materials on a certain topic, it allows them to do that,” she said. “It’s really a way for people to facilitate self-education.”
Cech said she fears the new system will not meet Brookfield’s needs and the library will have to hire a private vendor to supplement the service. This would be a problem, she said, since the town has already passed its 2017-18 budget.
But Rosato said she does not anticipate the Bethel Library having problems with the new system.
“Once it gets back up and running we’ll be okay,” she said.