Chief librarians ‘dumbfounded’ by reports of loan service resurrection

GUELPH – Despite reports to the contrary, Southern Ontario Library Service (SOLS) inter-library loan delivery services will not be resurrected, says Wellington County chief librarian Murray McCabe.

Following the announcement of a significant budget cut to the SOLS in April, the agency officially informed libraries at the end of May their inter-library loan delivery services will not be resurrected, explained McCabe in a June 12 report to the county library committee.

“A few days later SOLS and Ontario Library Service – North issued a joint statement saying that ‘… a solution had been found to restore inter-library loan services across the province beginning on June 1, 2019,’” the report continues.

“Unfortunately nothing could be further from the truth,” states McCabe. “The claim that [inter-library] service has been restored has left chief librarians across the province dumbfounded.

“The group has watched in disbelief as correspondence from government MPPs to concerned constituents repeats this fallacy. Recent stories from across the province now relate that patrons are visiting libraries thinking that their earlier protests were successful and are upset to find that libraries have been unable to resume [inter-library] services as normal.”

The joint statement, signed by the CEOs of OLS – North and SOLS, states both library services will provide partial reimbursement for delivery costs through Canada Post. This will preserve the online system libraries use to coordinate the program ensuring this key service continues to reach Ontario communities, the statement continues.

McCabe stated the government, “having weathered considerable public opposition to the cuts,” is now asking libraries to use Canada Post as the alternative method of delivery.

It has provided SOLS with $340,000 as an annual rebate for postal fees incurred by participating libraries when shipping material. The details of this plan still need to be shared with libraries.

McCabe said it remains unclear if the rebate is to be shared equally between 156 library systems in the southern part of the province or includes library systems in the north as well.

“The loss of the former [inter-library] delivery service will significantly hurt residents of rural Ontario and will put them at a distinct disadvantage compared to Ontarians that have access to large urban libraries,” the report continues.

“The Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport has failed to understand the significant impact cutting the SOLS budget will have on rural communities. We are moving from a situation where Ontarians enjoyed equity of access to information to one where rural residents will have significantly less opportunity of obtaining the resources they request through their local public libraries.

“The postage rebate program will prevent many rural residents from obtaining material that they once enjoyed under the previous delivery system.”

The report indicates the Wellington County Library system will need to learn the details of the postage reimbursement plan to formulate a strategy for providing inter-library services.