EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

July 3, 2011

Budget cuts hit library loan program

By Cara Hogan

Thanks to state budget cuts, there will be a longer wait if you're ordering books from a nearby library.

New Hampshire's interlibrary loan program allows libraries across the state to pool their collections, bringing patrons the book they want even if their hometown library doesn't have it. But the program is undergoing major cuts with the Legislature's passage of a much slimmer state budget.

State Librarian Michael York said New Hampshire's $1.4 million library budget was cut by $254,000.

"We've had to lay off staff in the state library, two part-time people and four full-time employees," he said. "Two of those were supplemental van drivers."

Those employees drove the vans that transported library materials from Hampstead to Salem or Derry to Manchester for interlibrary loans. Because the state library now has fewer drivers, there will be fewer stops to deliver books.

"In some cases, libraries were getting deliveries five days a week and are going to be now three days a week," he said. "A few libraries will no longer get deliveries."

All 319 libraries in the state will be affected, York said. Salem will have deliveries two days a week rather than three; Derry will go from five days a week to three; Londonderry, Windham and Hampstead will all go from deliveries twice a week to once a week.

York said the state's interlibrary service has expanded dramatically over the past three years and additional staff were brought to handle the workload. They were laid off, he said.

In 2010, the state library delivered 800,000 items at a cost of 44 cents per item.

Cathy Goldthwaite, the Derry Public Library's head of circulation, said the cutbacks will definitely affect patrons who request a book from an outside library.

"Items will be coming in much slower," she said. "Right now, we could get things within two or three days, now people will have to wait a week or two."

Lois Freeson, assistant director of Nesmith Library in Windham, said more than 4,000 books passed between the library and others in 2010. The change is going to affect a lot of people in town, she said.

"We're just going to have to adjust," she said. "We get a lot of materials for homeschoolers in town who depend on interlibrary loans for books. We also service quite a number of students who return to school as adults or go to local colleges. In times of economic downturn, people turn to the libraries because they can't afford to buy books, or they may need books on job hunting and resumes."

She said now if the library doesn't have the book, people will just have to wait.

"Our patrons will have to be more patient," she said.

Hampstead Public Library Director Peggy Thrasher said the library moves about 65 books each week through the interlibrary program.

"I think reducing interlibrary loan is the wrong place to save money," she said. "If someone asks for something on an interlibrary loan now, it will get here in a week," she said. "After we're reduced to one van a week, it may take two to two and a half weeks to get here. If we request something from Sandown on Wednesday, it will get picked up on the next Tuesday and delivered to us the Tuesday after that."

The state library is doing its best to make the cuts the Legislature requested.

"We are working with the libraries to mitigate the situation as best we can," York said. "We have to cover everyone because all citizens in the state are entitled to good library services. Our goal is that no library would lose its services completely,"

• • •

Join the discussion. To comment on stories and see what others are saying, log on to eagletribune.com.