Library program is vital - and far from 'gold-plated'

Last modified: 10/18/2011 12:00:00 AM
The New Hampshire Legislature recently passed a measure requiring the state library to review the federal program guidelines for which it receives federal dollars to support library programs and seek to amend its five-year plan to use the money designated to support three inter-library vans for other purposes.

If the three vans are removed from the state library's fleet, only one van will be available to support the inter-library loan program for the entire state.

In effect, this will kill the inter-library loan program in New Hampshire.

Perhaps the Legislature is unaware of the deleterious effect this action will have on libraries - especially on those in small towns throughout the state.

With a population of about 1,200, Wilmot is among these small towns.

The interlibrary loan van visits the Wilmot Public Library once a week. So, the actual turnaround time for a book or other request usually is two or three weeks. This is a valuable resource, not a 'gold-plated service,' as it was characterized by Manchester Rep. Steven Vaillancourt of Manchester ('Rep targets inter-library grant,' Monitor front page, Oct. 7):

Here's a breakdown of the financial impact the current van service has on the library's bottom line.

For 2011, the library allocated $6,500 for the collection, which includes books, audio books, DVDs, magazines and other materials.

In 2010 the library received more than 250 books through the state library's inter-library loan program.

If the Wilmot Public Library had to purchase the books it borrowed from other libraries, at an average price of $30 per hardcover book, it would have cost the library $7,500.

In effect, the Wilmot library would have had to spend $14,000 if it had to pay for the materials requested through interlibrary loan and acquire books for the library's own collection - more than twice the money budgeted to buy materials.

Moreover, the Wilmot Public Library loaned more than 300 books in 2010.

This represents a value of $9,000 to other libraries throughout the state.

As an alternative to the inter-library loan service, some people have suggested that libraries could send materials through the U.S. Postal Service via media mail. At an average of $6 per round trip, the total cost, based on 550 books, would add $3,330 to the Wilmot Public Library budget.

I am certain that the Wilmot Public Library is not unique in its reliance on the state library's inter-library loan service.

Furthermore, with the current economic downturn, Wilmot residents rely on the Wilmot Public Library more than ever before as a resource.

In its quest to trim expenses no matter the real cost, the Legislature will make a serious error if, in effect, it eliminates the inter-library loan program.

I hope that New Hampshire's state legislators will see the light and rescind this ill-advised budget amendment.

(Ann W. Davis is treasurer of the Wilmot Public Library board of trustees.)

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