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Loan services at the Marshall-Lyon County Library

July 3, 2013
By Ted Rowe , Marshall Independent

All I know is what I read in the papers," was the famous opening line for Will Rogers in his vaudeville act in the 1920s and 1930s. After that opening line he proceeded to comment on news stories with great wit and humor. On one of our family vacation trips to Colorado, we visited the Will Rogers Shrine (Tower) on Cheyenne Mountain overlooking Colorado Springs. Philanthropist Spencer Penrose had erected the tower in 1937, but was persuaded not to name it after himself, so he decided to dedicate it to his humorist friend Will Rogers who had died two years earlier (1935) in a plane crash flying with Wiley Post.

Rogers' opening line has a lot of truth in what is discussed in ordinary, daily conversation. This past weekend brings a case to illustrate. The story in the Independent was about the Plum Creek Library System. The story reported that the PCLS would stop its interlibrary loan services to the Marshall-Lyon County Library.

For many readers and users of the M-LCL this is devastating news. Though I don't have an exact count on the number of books that I read in a year's time that come from the interlibrary loan, I would estimate at least a dozen. Currently I have two books checked out through M-LCL that come by way of the interlibrary loan.


According to the story, neither M-LCL President Will Thomas nor PCLS Director Mark Ranum "could say for certain how these restrictions would affect the library in the long run." To me, that is unconscionable. Is it not the responsibility of those in charge of both of the groups to at least have some idea as to the consequences of shutting down the interlibrary loan service? Further, it is not clear that while M-LCL patrons may not be able to request a book from other PCLS libraries, those other libraries may be able to request a book from M-LCL.

The two groups should have at their fingertips the data that shows how many books are in the loan process both from the M-LCL as well as how many books are in the loan process being borrowed by M-LCL patrons. Surely that would give at least some idea of the affect of closing down the loan process.

This punitive step by the PCLS of shutting out M-LCL from interlibrary loan services has apparently been simmering since at least last October when the PCLS board seems to have adopted the punishment supposedly taken under a joint powers agreement of the participating libraries and their local governments. It would be interesting to see exactly what that joint power agreement says about separation of services. I hope that will be investigated by M-LCL librarians and board.

Because of the different sizes of the libraries in the system, other factors may need to be reviewed: For example, how many new books in various categories are purchased per patron served?

The wording of the "rule" about having books available for loan is vague according to the article. M-LCL makes new books available first for its own patrons for 90 days whereas PCLS Director Ranum says it should be a few days to a week. Greater clarity as to what might be a reasonable time for a library to have books for its patrons exclusive use needs to be made. Director Ranum's "a few days" hardly seems fair - it takes that much time for a library to publish its new book list and have patrons given a chance to review such a list even with high speed internet use. On the other hand, 90 days seems like an excessive length of time. Some talking it over and clarifying of the policy is imperative.

I have not covered all that comes to mind in this disagreement and as a former M-LCL board member who also served for a short time on the PCLS board (as well as another public library board - SAMMIE) I am hopeful that something can be worked out soon to the benefit of the public.


Libraries have existed for thousands of years, possibly back to 2000 BCE, i.e. about 4000 years ago. One of the largest libraries of about 2,000 years ago (3rd century BCE) was the library at Alexandria, Egypt. While no definitive number of volumes is known to have been there, some estimates place it at 500,000 scrolls or tens of thousands of "books." Unfortunately, that library was burned a number of times. Another famous library was that at Ephesus, Turkey. That library was built about 50 years after the Apostle Paul visited Ephesus.

In the United States, the Boston Public Library has claimed it is the first truly public U.S. library. From its charter, its raison d'etre (reason for being) is:

1) There's a close linkage between knowledge and right thinking;

2) The future of democracy is contingent on an educated citizenry;

3) There's a strong correlation between the public library movement and public education; and

4) Every citizen has the right of free access to community owned resources.

General information: The largest public library in the U.S. is the Library of Congress (34.5 million volumes) followed by the Boston Public Library (19 million volumes). The University of Minnesota is classified as an academic library and has about 7 million volumes, well behind Harvard's 16.8 million volumes.

Until next time: Oh, Fiddlesticks!



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