Patrons check out books at the Lewiston Public Library on Friday afternoon. Starting Monday, members will be able to get stickers on their library cards to allow borrowing at 70 participating libraries in the state. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

LEWISTON — From out of town but desperate to check a book out of the local library? Fear not.

Maine libraries participating in the Reciprocal Borrowing Program will begin issuing library card stickers Monday to patrons looking to borrow books elsewhere in the state. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Starting next week, library patrons from nearly 70 Maine libraries will have more options for accessing library materials outside their home library thanks to a yearlong pilot project called the Maine Reciprocal Borrowing Program.

According to a Maine State Library official, the service allows library users with valid library cards from participating libraries to visit another participating library to check out materials in person.

“Maine libraries have a long history of working together to improve access to services and lending materials,” said Maine State Librarian Jamie Ritter. “This new pilot project builds on our already successful inter-library loan system that provides statewide lending of library materials through a van delivery network between 68 libraries in every corner of the state.”

The list of participating libraries in the program include Lewiston, Auburn and many others in Androscoggin, Oxford and Franklin counties. It also includes pretty much all college libraries in the state.

“I think this is going to be a good service for us to offer our customers,” said Suzanne Sullivan, assistant director at the Auburn Public Library. “For those people who work in another community or who are traveling, they’ll be able to drop in and use the library. It’s kind of exciting.”

In Lewiston, the public library joined the program with the support of the Lewiston City Council, which approved participation at its July 16 meeting.

Susan Cornelius of Sabattus checks out a book at the Lewiston Public Library on Friday afternoon. Starting Monday, patrons will be able to get a sticker for their library card enabling them to check books out at over 70 participating libraries in the state. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“We at the library are very excited to introduce this service to our community as it will give our cardholders faster, in-person access to materials at almost 70 other libraries throughout Maine, including several in the immediate L-A area,” said Lewiston Library Director Marcela Peres. “Participation will also mean that users of the other member libraries will be able to come check out items from Lewiston. We see this as especially beneficial for community members who are residents of surrounding towns and commute into Lewiston for work or recreation, and look forward to welcoming these new faces into our library.”

While reciprocal borrowing won’t replace the statewide inter-library loan service, it offers a new convenience for Mainers who may live in one community but spend a significant portion of their time in other places for work, vacation or family obligations.

“This program is really just an in-person extension of our heavily used inter-library loan service,” Peres said. “ILL won’t be going anywhere, but this program will allow a cardholder to drive to a nearby library to check out an item on the day they want it, rather than having to wait the current two to three days for ILL delivery to (the Lewiston Public Library). This is especially helpful for time-sensitive needs. They will also have the added convenience of being able to return items to any participating library — a frequent request.”

In the Twin Cities, library users will be subject to any policies the other libraries have, such as item limits, and must present a physical library card for checkout at another location to reduce potential issues or errors.

Both Auburn and Lewiston libraries have stickers with the program logo that they will be giving out to library patrons who want one to be easily identifiable as a member of a participating library. Informational brochures and bookmarks will also be available at the lending desks and on the libraries’ websites.

“What really makes this work seamlessly is that the participating libraries are utilizing the same library system software,” said James Jackson Sanborn, the director of Maine Infonet, whose organization manages these systems. “The fact that the participating libraries all have library cards with a 14-digit bar code and the software is able to recognize a library card from a participating library makes this doable.”

All participating libraries have agreed to stay in the pilot for one year in an effort to measure the extent of how the program is used by patrons and to understand policy considerations ahead of any decision to make the program permanent or expand the scope to a larger group of libraries.

Many librarians taking part in the pilot are excited about the possibilities.

“Our patrons’ library card just got better,” said Lee Koenigs, director of Old Orchard Beach’s public library. “To share with our library users that they can use their Old Orchard Beach Library card at dozens of other libraries across the state is a huge customer service offering.”

Amy Levine, director of the Rockland Public Library, feels the same way.

“We’re just excited to be able to offer this to our patrons and be part of the pilot,” she said. “We really hope it works out well and expands in the future.”

For the systematic reasons listed by Jackson Sanborn, however, not all libraries in Maine are eligible to participate at this time. Both the Maine State Library and Maine InfoNet are continuously seeking ways to increase participation by finding solutions that eliminate these systematic and technical barriers.

“It takes financial and human resources to grow the number of libraries that could eventually participate,” Sanborn said, “but it’s essential work and we believe good things happen when we can break down barriers to sharing library resources.”

For a complete list of participating libraries and other program information visit: www.maine.gov/msl/libs/reciprocalborrowing.


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