Norwegian interlibrary lending procedures are changing. In the county of Nord-Trøndelag we have been looking for a more sustainable model and are currently testing a new form of collaboration.
The Norwegian guidelines on interlibrary lending between specialist and public libraries (2014) read as follows: “Interlibrary lending provides a facility for libraries to make their collections available to borrowers at other libraries. This collaborative arrangement seeks to ensure that the best possible use is made of our shared library resources and forms the backbone of our library service.”
Traditionally, Norwegian county libraries have played the role of central libraries with responsibility for processing interlibrary orders from all libraries within the county as well as from other regions. This role started to change when online catalogues became the norm for all libraries, thereby making it possible for all libraries to place their own orders with any other library.
In the county of Nord-Trøndelag we retained a centralised model until spring 2015, with interlibrary lending being organised by the county library service and hosted by the municipal public library.
The statistics show a slow decline in interlibrary borrowing from the county library until 2012. In 2013 we recorded a sharp fall from approx. 10,000 to 6,400 units, which we believe may be associated with the introduction of a new interlibrary transport service.
Interlibrary borrowing was now for a large part being arranged between individual libraries throughout the county, with no involvement from the county library service.
In 2013, interlibrary borrowing accounted for 4,641 media loans, see fig.1
The reasons for change
The county library advisors were movedv to the County Government Offices as early as 2010 and at the same time assimilated with the county government’s Department of Culture. This was done in order to strengthen the county library service in its role as organiser and coordinator of regional library developments. Co-ownership in the host municipality’s public library was up for evaluation, as were the interlibrary lending services provided from shared library premises.
The county council debated a major assessment of the county library service in 2014. They pointed out that the need for a central book collection in the region hadv been reduced, for the following reasons:
- The strengthening of the libraries’ search facilities and competence. All libraries now have a search facility and can order their own interlibrary loans. Digital search facilities like Trøndelagssøk ensure that the libraries’ joint resources are made more visible, irrespective of their location.
- The National Library’s investment in their deposit collection facilities appears to have considerably reduced the volume of interlibrary lending, particularly across counties and sectors.
- New transport services for library material have introduced predictable costs and the new procedures are less labour intensive for local libraries. There is reason to believe that this has increased lending activities without involving the county library service.
- The existing lending system under which all municipalities accept responsibility was introduced in 2010. Joint guidelines and a service declaration were drawn up for the libraries in Nord-Trøndelag. The main message was that all libraries would lend each other all types of material.
The assessment report lists flexibility and sustainability as the overall objectives. One of the roles of the county library service will be to monitor how interlibrary lending is affected by changing circumstances like the introduction of e-books, new transport services, local authority funding, new digital services and improved access to interlibrary borrowing offered by the National Library.
The assessment report also points to the new statutory requirements introduced with the amended Norwegian Library Act. Public libraries are now required to play an active part in providing independent arenas for debate and discussion in the public sphere. The county library service will therefore have to free up resources for the development and implementation of new practices to allow for county-led coordination of events and tours.
A new model emerges
Nord-Trøndelag is a rural county with a population of 136,000 in 23 municipalities. Five municipalities have a population between 13,000 and 23,000, while ten have a population of 2,000-7,000. Eight municipalities have a population under 2,000.
With so many small libraries there will be a number of similar book collections. The county government’s contribution to the development of collections is meant to compensate for this, in order to ensure that the range of literature on offer has the necessary breadth and variety.
Nord-Trøndelag’s library statistics for 2014 show total borrowing in excess of 600,000 units, of which interlibrary borrowing makes up 3 percent. The rate of interlibrary borrowing matches the national average. The total book and media account for 2014 is close to NOK 4 million, including the contribution received from the county authorities.
Ensure better distribution
Detailed lending statistics from 2013 show that small and large municipalities alike account for a considerable share of total interlibrary loans. The five largest municipalities generate the greatest activity and are able to input the most resources.
There has been an increase in interlibrary lending organised without the involvement of the county library services. This gives us good reason to look for a model that will ensure better distribution of the county authorities’ resources among more of the most active interlibrary loan providers.
It seemed useful for our new model to incorporate literature supply agreements with the libraries in the five largest municipalities because:
- The capacity of the five libraries in question allows for growth.
- Media purchased with county government funds and allocated to the five largest libraries will benefit a total population of 90,000. This means that the media will be effectively located.
- The lifetime cost of a book (shelf space, storage, weeding and disposal) will be reduced if purchasing is an integrated task delegated to several libraries.
- The required variety in the collection will be maintained by the book selection policies currently in operation at these lead libraries.
The system is being tested
On 20 May 2015 Nord-Trøndelag county library service sent out an email with details of changes to its interlibrary lending system. Orders for interlibrary loans should no longer be sent to the county library service and a new system will be established to allow the county government to fulfil their library responsibility by going down a new route.
The five lead municipalities have accepted extended responsibility for interlibrary lending: they will now handle orders from other parts of the country in addition to orders from public and high school libraries within the county – and they will be developing their media collections in line with this responsibility.
According to current guidelines, all libraries with in the county should contribute with resources from their own collections. These guidelines will continue.
The new model is revitalising our professional network and strengthening Nord- Trøndelag as an active contributor to the Norwegian library scene in its new guise following the introduction of the new national library strategy.
Given the plans for nationwide provision of user-initiated interlibrary loans and shared catalogue data as well as the introduction of further digital services and an upgrade of the National Library’s deposit collection facilities, local re-sources will be freed up to take on an even more active role in organizing and hosting library-based events.