Downed inter-loan system affects public libraries

  •  Alyson Montgomery, the Jaffrey Public Library’s Adult Access Services librarian, in the middle of processing Friday’s van delivery of inter-library loan requests.  Courtesy photo

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, January 29, 2018 5:30PM

For years, libraries have been sharing resources through an inter-library loan system. If one library had a book that another library’s patron was seeking, they would share it.

That spirit of cooperation has been disrupted, however, by the system libraries worked with to check and request materials going down last month, with no sign of a replacement in sight. 

“It’s definitely slowing us down,” said Julie Perrin, the director of the Jaffrey Public Library. “We do a really brisk inter-library loan business.”

The New Hampshire State Library, which runs the system, has been posting regular updates on the situation since it first announced that the inter-library loan system was offline on Dec. 6. Initially, it was believed that a hardware repair might fix the problem within a matter of a few days or weeks. But after new hardware failed to solve the problem, libraries are left in limbo with no idea when the inter-library loan system – or a suitable replacement – might restore the working day to its regular order. 

“There’s good reason for people to be upset,” State Librarian told the Concord Monitor earlier this month. “They have to do the work that the system we purchased is supposed to do. ... We’re working as hard as we can to get this up and running. We understand that people are stretched.”

Libraries have not been totally thwarted by the disruption to their system – they’ve found workarounds, like email lists, calling each other directly, or issuing a username and password to other libraries so they can check each other’s catalogues and reserve books, but it’s made what once was a fairly seemless process much more time consuming.

Even a relatively small library, such as the Mason Public Library, which may only loan out and get on loan about 35 books a month, has been feeling the strain, said Director Denise Ginzler. 

“We’re getting 100 extra emails a day,” said Ginzler. “We have to read through those emails and check our catalogue. It’s just clumsy and slow.”

The Mason Library relied on the inter-library loan system to supply multiple copies of books for its book clubs and requests from teachers for multiple copies for reading groups, and that’s become a much more onerous task, said Ginzler. 

“It’s inconvenient,” said Ginzler, as she described the hoops she recently had to jump through to obtain multiple copies of “The Mouse and the Motorcycle” for the Mason Elementary School.

For the Jaffrey Library, which has eight book clubs, and processes between 24 and 40 patron inter-library loan requests a week, those issues are only magnified.

Jaffrey is one of the libraries that has offered to give other libraries access to their catalogue, and has been offered that service in return, said Perrin, but even though that’s been a slightly more efficient system than individual emails, she said it still means checking with each library individually.

“I’d say we’re spending an extra hour or two every day on inter-library loans,” said Perrin. “Now, the whole process is manual.”

And because a lot less of the process is automated, there’s a lot more wait time, and getting books into patron’s hand may take as much as up to two weeks, where before, it was reliably within one week, said Perrin.

“People may have to be a little more patient, as we deal with this,” said Ginzler. 


Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.