I checked at the library again to see if maybe they had ordered it or if they’d want it for their collection if I bought it then donated it to them. The librarian said “You can get it through interlibrary loan.”
Oh! So, off to a different desk and my request was put in. A couple days later, the book is in. I looked through it with great excitement, wanting to know what library let me have it. It came from Essex County Library. How miraculous is that!
Interlibrary loan isn’t new to me. I used it in university libraries and never thought twice about it. Needing academic books or papers, of course your own library will not have everything available but another will. So your library will get it from another library because you need it.
But my assumptions about interlibrary loan usage for academic purposes never translated into it for a book that I simply want to read. If the library doesn’t have it, I have bought the book or requested it as my “buy a book” donation to the library collection.
All the way home from the library, I looked at that book that had come all that way to me. And the whole thing was free.
Think about that in comparison with your bank. You put your money in the bank, the bank uses it to make money for itself. And the bank charges service fees for any transaction you do involving your own money and even the report cards on what’s happening with your money – monthly statements etc. Your money is making money for the bank.
The library? You reading a book is not earning the library any money. You getting them to get you a book from another library is costing them a lot more money than you simply taking a book off your library’s shelves and checking it out. But that search for the book you request, requisitioning it, having it brought to your library for you to pick up, then the whole process in reverse to get the book back to its own shelves: free.
Yes, that’s what public libraries are about. A fee for such services would prevent some people from being able to use interlibrary loan. But what about a voluntary donation? Libraries are as hard, perhaps harder, pressed in terms of budgets and having to figure out how to provide good service to the community while dealing with cutbacks. There generally always is a donation box somewhere in the library, but how many of us think to actually put money in it? I did when I got this book.
If I’d bought my interlibrary loan book, it would have cost me about $30. So a donation of $5 to the library is a bargain for me.