Illinois libraries excel at providing service
to patrons. An
integral part of this service comes about because of a 40-year history
of cooperation between Illinois libraries, much of which is coordinated
by Illinois Regional Library Systems. In Illinois, library users
have the unique ability of being able to get materials, without
impediment, from other libraries in the region and state.
To those of us working in libraries and systems,
cooperation is a given. Libraries are stronger because we rely on and help each
other. No one library can purchase every item every customer
wants. But working together, we can supply these items.
At Lincoln Trail Libraries System, we have
extended cooperation to a shared online automation system, which
is called LINC. With
a shared online automation system, over 100 libraries use the same
database software to keep track of their library materials and patrons. Every
library can see what every other library owns. Every patron
of these libraries can request materials from any of these libraries
with a click on a Web site.
Both large and small libraries heavily use
the cooperative aspects of the automation system to serve the needs
of their customers. In the town of Cisco, population 732, the public
library belongs to the shared automation system. Although the library only owns 9,000
items, residents of Cisco can request any of over 2,000,000 items
from any of the other LINC libraries. Last year, in the
larger city of Urbana, the residents of that community checked out
more than 40,000 items that belonged to other libraries in the Lincoln
Trail area. No matter the size of the library, the library users
value and use this service.
To support this coperative activity, the Lincoln
Trail delivery vans deliver these items, requested by customers,
to Urbana, Champaign, and Cisco’s library as well as more than 100 other libraries. What
a wealth of resources this gives to the resident of East Central
What are other benefits of this cooperation? By sharing the
cost of equipment, staff, and the automation software itself, libraries
of all sizes have found it economically feasible to become automated. Instead
of worrying about technology, upgrades, backups, and contracts,
by joining the cooperative system, they can concentrate on the task
of providing service.
When libraries enter into cooperative technology
solutions, the costs are decidedly less expensive than going it
alone. Although libraries
do pay to belong to this cooperative system, cost savings can range
from 20 to 60%, depending on the size of the library. And there
is the added incalculable benefit of easy access to the resources
of 100 other libraries that comes about as a result of being a
member of this system.
It’s a powerful message that we have
to share--cooperation does work and libraries excel at it.