Conservative cuts to library system now mean user fees for some book loans

By Roderick Benns

Free inter-library loans are back at the Kawartha Lakes Public Library system, even after the Ontario Conservatives slashed budgets across the province. But ‘free’ comes at a cost, as this will now impact the collections budget and has also created a new type of user fee for books that come from universities.

In April the Advocate reported that funding for two key services – the Southern Ontario Library Service (SOLS) and the Northern Ontario Library Service (NOLS) were cut in half. SOLS – of which Kawartha Lakes system is a member of — supplies courier service that moves material between different systems. About 200-250 items per month for local patrons are moved about through other libraries, showing the popularity of the system.

Library CEO Jamie Anderson says they have been able to restart the inter-library loan service, as they slowly built it back up again during the summer.

“Before the cuts we had a small budget that covered the costs for inter-library loans from universities. We have re-allocated these funds this year to cover the postage for lending out material, but will need to find the funds elsewhere in our budget,” he explains.

Typically, he explains, universities charge a $10-$20 fee per title, whereas public libraries loan to each other for free when borrowing and sharing materials. Now, it’s library patrons who will need to cover the costs of borrowing from universities going forward. In other words, the $10-$20 new user fee is now their responsibility.

The CEO says they anticipate using all the funds in that budget line for inter-library loans, and maybe even going over. The budget line will be increased in 2020 in order for the inter-library loans to be maintained, but “at the expense of our collections budget.”

Anderson says that public libraries in Ontario are some of the best fiscal stewards of public funds, and that the inter-library loan method “spoke to fiscal responsibility,” given all the libraries were sharing resources.

“We constantly make do with slim budgets and always live within our means. As far as I am aware, there has not been a public library in Ontario in the last 20+ years that has needed to go back to their respective council asking for additional funds during the budget year.”

But this is now a case, he says, “where we are being forced to pass on the cost of the service to the user.”

“Those that can afford it will still use the service, but those that cannot will be forced to make do without the material.”

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