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Funding Slashed!

June 14, 2002

One possible good to come out of the recent state cuts in library funding is local awareness. I’ve received a variety of inquiries and comments since last week’s column, in which I reported the elimination of certain library programs funded by the state.

Some questions confirmed my fear that I didn’t explain it well enough. I had left out facts and figures. Let’s continue.

You’ll be happy to learn right off that Interlibrary Loan (ILL) will continue. Several readers were concerned about this.

Interlibrary Loan is one of the ways that libraries share resources. No single library lives without it. Even Denver Public Library and the University of Colorado use ILL to help their users.

ILL lets any library be bigger than it really is. It is high-value-added service. The Salida Regional Library circulated 86,000 items last year and borrowed 1123 items by ILL. And that small percentage — 1.3% — is large compared with larger libraries, such as Douglas Public Library District at 0.28%.

But as DPLD director Jamie LaRue put it: “Frequency of use doesn’t necessarily speak to value. You might only have one open heart surgery operation in your whole life, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t important.”

ILL will still happen, but big lenders will review their policies now that the Payment for Lending Program has been cut. These payments had partially reimbursed costs to net ILL lenders since the 1970s. Most libraries, except for the few largest such as Denver Public Library, are net borrowers.

ILL is not “free.” It costs a fair bit even if no fee is charged by the lending library. ILL use in Salida has leveled off at about 1200 items per year since 1995. We get many more requests for books, of course, but we now buy more of them for our own collection.

We do that in the interest of time, as well; ILL can take a while. One of the roles Denver Public Library played as the Colorado Resource Center was to be a ready resource for requests from people as well as libraries.

The Colorado Resource Center was cut entirely: $2,299,194. For nearly 30 years, Denver Public Library provided walk-in service to all Colorado residents, free reference service, and, as Colorado’s largest public library and a center of ILL activity, free lending of its books to other libraries — all in addition to their role as Denver’s library.

The CRC will be sorely missed. Another lost program is the relatively new State Grants to Libraries, at $2,000,000, which provided at least $3,000 to public, school, and academic libraries for educational materials.

The State Grants program benefited small, rural libraries the most, where often the grant exceeded their annual book budgets.

These are an unfortunate combination of cuts: Fewer new books bought, and fewer options for sharing the old ones.

The Colorado library community remains committed to excellent service, though, and the spirit of efficient sharing will continue. The Colorado Library Card program is well established: Last year we checked out 400 items to holders of library cards from elsewhere in Colorado.

And the new SWIFT interlibrary loan program is growing. This electronic interlibrary loan program works with the Colorado Virtual Library (http://www.aclin.org) to help Colorado libraries share efficiently. We have used it from the start, and combined with the statewide library courier system, it has greatly shortened the wait for ILL here.

I think patience is a virtue, of course, but I want my books right now! These programs help.

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