It’s Not Magic, but it Seems Like it
Have you ever gone to check out a book at your local library only to find that they didn’t have it in their collection? It can be disheartening to make a trip to discover that what you’re looking for wasn’t able to make it onto your library’s shelves for one reason or another. The cost of acquiring books, ebooks, videos and films, music, and other materials for a library collection has continued to rise. Space is limited and budgets are tight. Librarians must make hard choices and real sacrifices regarding what to acquire, what to keep, and what to remove from their collections. But did you know that even if a book or other item isn’t physically present, your library may be able to make it available through an Interlibrary Loan?
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Interlibrary Loan, often abbreviated as ILL, is a service whereby individual libraries band together in a network to share access to their collections with each other. It is a way to make local tax dollars go farther and help ensure that everyone has access to the books and other materials they want. Through this cooperative service, you are able to make a request with your local library and, free of charge, they will request and receive the desired item from a library within their ILL network. This greatly increases not only the ability of your local library to serve your community but also allows them to expand their influence and make their knowledge and entertainment resources available to other communities as well. Interlibrary loan allows one library’s successes in funding and collection development to become the success of every library within their network.
Despite the strengths and benefits of Interlibrary Loan, the system is at risk across the nation. Threats to library budgets and to the funding of The Institute of Museum and Library Services, or IMLS, are making it difficult for libraries to receiving the capital they need to develop a strong, robust collection that covers the weaknesses in their ILL network. The IMLS is an important link to library success in America and is responsible for a large portion of federal funding which allows libraries to operate effectively, thus strengthening ILL networks and, as a result, strengthening the communities they serve.
Through the Grants to States program, IMLS has been able to fund the development of interlibrary loan programs and networks. In Wisconsin, IMLS has been able to provide over 10 million dollars since 2014 to support libraries, leading to shared catalogs and efficient interlibrary loans across 17 regional library cooperatives. In New Hampshire, over 5 million dollars have been awarded to help fund libraries serving communities of over 100,000 people to local libraries serving only 500. The OCLC, representing over 10,000 libraries, reports 1.4 requests per second through Interlibrary Loan services for their members alone, showing just how prolific that type of service is across the nation.
By supporting the Institute of Museum and Library Service’s mission to provide funding for libraries across America, you are helping your community thrive. This is why funding for the IMLS services is so critical. Without support from people like you, many states would no longer be able to provide the structure that makes Interlibrary Loan possible for local libraries.