Comprehensive Statewide Resource Sharing Initiatives for Maine Libraries


Following conversations at the Maine Library Association's Fall Conference (2018), including the Maine InfoNet Pre-Conference, librarians in attendance expressed a strong desire to develop initiatives that would strengthen broader library resource sharing across Maine. 
A team of individuals led by the Maine State Library and Maine InfoNet began to articulate areas of focus.  This work was also informed by long-standing conversations in the library community, as well as guided by the Maine Library Commission, Maine InfoNet Board, and other self-initiated arrangements and relationships of various libraries and library consortia throughout Maine.

The outcome is a three-pronged approach to harness current thinking and work being done by other libraries to bring formality to:

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are we doing the Maine Reciprocal Borrowing Program pilot initiative?

Numerous current Reciprocal Borrowing Agreements already exist in Maine. This project strives to better serve our patrons by working together more collaboratively where possible. All participation in the Maine Reciprocal Borrowing Initiative is Opt-In. No library will be required to participate.

This particular pilot is designed for libraries using Innovative's Sierra ILSs via the INNReach Visiting Patron function. It is available to those libraries who are part of the "Maine InfoNet" hosted system (URSUS, Minerva, MILS, and stand-alone libraries using Sierra and connected through MaineCAT).

What if My Library is Not Using Innovative's Sierra ILS Platform?

The Maine State Library will work to further gauge the interest of - and work with (on an opt-in basis) - libraries using other ILS systems to see if direct sharing capabilities could be enabled between those libraries (i.e. Balsam/Evergreen libraries, Atriuum libraries, Apollo, etc.). While your library will not technically/systematically be able to participate in the more formal Maine Reciprocal Borrowing Program, initial steps can be taken to ensure your library can broaden resource sharing with other libraries using a similar ILS as yours.

Encouraging and growing participation through these separate arrangements will enable libraries to more seamlessly adapt to migration into the Maine Reciprocal Borrowing Program as technological advancements come to fruition in the future (e.g. the creation of Automated Protocol Interfaces [API], which allow for a non-Innovative Sierra ILS to "talk" to MaineCat, and/or migration of interested libraries into a Maine InfoNet supported system).Further, we especially want to communicate with libraries incapable of participating in any such pilot at this time. Other parts of this overall three-pronged initiative (like LD-1149) are intended to help bring resources to more libraries to enable such participation.

Specific to the Maine Reciprocal Borrowing Program
Why should your library want to participate in this program?

  • If your library belongs to the consortium, it is already participating in a reciprocal borrowing program via interlibrary loan (ILL) arrangements.  Lending statistics already show that cross-consortia lending/borrowing is taking place. (Example: URSUS libraries lend materials to Minerva libraries and vice-versa. This "cross-lending" via ILL is happening across all Innovative, Sierra libraries.)  In simple terms, Reciprocal Borrowing, as far as Sierra is concerned, is nothing more complex than in-person ILL.  

  • This is a service of convenience to offer your patrons. In today's service industry, creating more seamless, efficient, and commonsense-based service experiences is imperative.

  • This program embodies the spirit of resource sharing, which is cost-effective and at the core of what libraries are about.  No single library has everything and even small libraries carry singular materials or can ease the burden of lengthy hold lists on popular materials.

How will this work at the circulation desk?

Checking out: We will write up step-by-step directions, but the short answer is that you will look up the patron's library on the registry to confirm their participation and what system they're part of.  Then, if the patron is from a library within your local system, you'll check out just like normal.  If they're from another MaineCat library, then you'll use the "Visiting Patron" function and check out that way.

Checking in: Check in just the same as any other item returned if they scan.  If they don't scan, see the next FAQ.

How do we handle items returned to us that do not show up when we scan the barcode to check in?

If you have an item returned to your library that doesn't show any info when you scan the barcode, simply send it back to the owning library.  You can identify the home library either by stamps, text on the barcode, or by looking up the unique barcode leader on the barcode registry:

How do we know if a patron is in good standing at their home library? Or how do we make sure a delinquent patron doesn't walk in to borrow at another library?

The system recognizes and prevents checkouts from patrons who have expired accounts or patron blocks on their accounts.  Within your system, it will show you the blocks the same as your own patrons.  Through "visiting patron," it will give a message saying that the patron is unable to check out that item and to check with their home library (similar to the message you would get when requesting through MaineCat catalog).

What will transactions look like in our system?

Once the item is checked out, walk-in transactions will look exactly the same as if the item had gone through delivery to the patron.  In fact, they are indistinguishable once the check-out has happened. 

What are the loan rules for walk-in items?

Walk-in transactions use the same loan rules as items sent through delivery. 

How are overdue notices/bills for the patron generated?

Since they're coming from the same loan rules, notices and bills are generated and sent to the patron the same as if they had been send through delivery.

How are unreturned/lost items handled?

Charging for lost/unreturned items will be exactly the same as if the item was borrowed through delivery.  In fact, walk-in billed items will be indistinguishable from items borrowed through delivery.

What about non-resident cards we charge for?

That's one of the things we will measure during the pilot with snapshots of the number of non-resident cardholders at participating libraries.  We surveyed some libraries already in reciprocal agreements, and they did not see a drastic drop in non-resident cards, but it clearly depends on your local geography.

How will we know who is participating?

We will have a registry of participants listed online.  After the pilot starts, the participating libraries will be set, so you don't need to worry about it fluctuating during the year.

What are the dates of the pilot?

  • June 1, 2019: Registration opens
  • June-Aug 2019: Informational meetings and instructional materials available
  • Sept 1, 2019: Registration closes and pilot starts
  • March 2020: 6-month check-in and analysis report
  • Aug 31, 2020: Pilot finishes
  • Sept 2020: Discussion, analysis, and recommendations

Additional FAQ Items as of May 17, 2019:

Q: Will reciprocal borrowing be made mandatory following the pilot?
A: No. Although we want there to be as broad adoption as possible, we recognize that there are reasons a library might not be able to or wish to participate.

Q: Who is responsible for paying for lost or damaged items?
A: When items are borrowed by a transaction between libraries that share a system (e.g. MILS, Minerva, CBB, etc.) the payment responsibility is dictated by the policies and practices of that system.  When items are borrowed ACROSS systems (e.g. from CBB by a MILS patron), there is longstanding practice that the library of the borrowing patron is responsible for paying to the owning library any invoices sent for lost/stolen/damaged items. See: for listing of allowable expense

Subsequently, at the May 17, 2019 URSUS Directors Meeting, the directors unanimously approved the following: “URSUS libraries understand and take the responsibility that if any items borrowed by URSUS patrons across systems are lost, stolen, or damaged, URSUS libraries will pay the owning library the replacement value and standard fees when invoiced.”

Q: Is there a policy on when invoices need to be sent to a patron’s library for items that are lost/stolen/damaged?
A: When items are borrowed by a transaction between libraries that share a system (e.g. MILS, Minerva, CBB, etc.) the invoicing timeline is dictated by the policies and practices of that system.  When items are borrowed ACROSS systems, there is no written policy dictating timeline for submitting invoices. However, in order to be successful and fair, timeliness of billing is essential. At a minimum bills should be sent within 1 month of an item being marked as ‘billed’ in the system. More frequently is definitely preferred.

Q: If we’re using “visiting patron checkout” how do we know what the “real” due date is to tell the patron?
A: This is being worked on. Checking their own patron account at their home system should show the due date, but we acknowledge that being able to share the patron due date at the time of check-out is paramount.

Q: Will there be a specific time when libraries need to opt in or out of the pilot?
A: The pilot is opt-in, so no need to opt out. Libraries must opt-in before the September 1 start date. Earlier registration is preferred, and the initial guidance provided to libraries is to Opt-In by June 15 so marketing materials can begin to be developed.

Q: What if we prefer to have certain items not available for walk-in borrowing?
A: During the pilot, any items that are available for requesting will have to be made available for walk-in borrowing (i.e. if the item is available in MaineCAT through normal ILL borrowing then the item would be available for walk-in borrowing, and conversely, if the item is not available in MaineCAT through normal ILL borrowing, then the item would not  be available for walk-in borrowing).

Q: How can we publicize our participation?
A: A list of participating libraries will be made available on the MSL website. Small stickers will be provided to participating libraries that can be added to a patron’s library card. We are investigating other options, such as stickers, posters, etc.  Participating libraries are encouraged to use their own usual publicity channels to promote this to their patrons.

Q: Will fines follow the patron’s home library rules or the loaning library rules?
A: Fines will be determined the same way they are now when items are borrowed through request and delivery. This follows the patron’s home-library and system settings.

Q: Does checkin create a transit slip?
A: Checkin of items will create a transit slip if checked in at a library other than the item-owning library, as long as the library is part of a system that is shared with either the item’s or patron’s library. If it is checked in at a third-party location (e.g. An URSUS item checked out by a Minerva patron is returned to a MILS library) no slip will be created and the item should be returned to the owning library.

Q: Stats - how do we get walk-in borrowing stats?
A: Worksheets are being developed that will aid libraries in getting counts of both cross-system walk-in borrowing and same-system borrowing.

Data Gathering and Analysis

We have a working group to collect and disseminate statistics relating to the pilot.  Among other things, they will qualitatively track circulation, patterns between libraries, participation, impact on non-resident cards, and collect qualitative responses from patron participants and library staff.

What is LD-1149? 

LD-1149 is a comprehensive bill that has four major components.  They are detailed below:

Van Delivery and Inter-Library Lending: $75,000 (general fund ongoing)

Statewide Interlibrary Loan Van Delivery Service is a voluntary service where participating libraries use a courier to deliver library books and materials to facilitate interlibrary lending and borrowing throughout the State of Maine. This program is administered by the Maine State Library and is partially funded by the State Library General Funds, federal Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funds through the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), as well as the participating libraries.

  • 190 libraries currently participate (160 public libraries).
  • LD-1149 Seeks $75,000 additional to cover growth of up to 75 libraries. This brings parity to the roughly 230+ libraries receiving internet connectivity via Maine School and Library Network (MSLN) and would work in conjunction of expansion of libraries into MaineCAT.

Digital Maine Library: $250,000 (general fund ongoing)

In 2018, the Maine State Library launched its longstanding virtual library, formerly known as MARVEL!, under the new Digital Maine brand. This one-of-a-kind online resource offers thousands of magazines, newspapers, and reference books to all Maine citizens.  New content ranges from "how-to" video tutorials, language learning, to small business support. Maine citizens can access the Digital Maine Library from wherever they are in Maine, thanks to geo-location authentication.

  • Digital Maine Library represents $1.2 million in statewide-licensed content subscriptions.
  • Additional needs remain to fully provide access to career/economic-development and educational content.

Accelerating Libraries' Access to Maine's Central Catalog (MaineCAT): $500,000 (general fund one-time funds)

MaineCat Statewide Catalog links nearly 100 library collections contained in seven large online library systems.  A single search scans more than 5.2 million unique titles and over nine million items. A built-in requesting and transaction management system allows patrons of libraries using a qualifying online system to make online interlibrary loan requests.  Library staff can make requests on behalf of their users, as well.

  • 95 libraries in Maine have direct patron requesting via MaineCat (52 public libraries), representing nearly 58% (679,534) of Maine's population.
  • In order to significantly accelerate the addition of more libraries into MaineCAT, an investment must be made to provide catalog systems that can directly connect to this central requesting resource.
  • Maine's smallest and most rural libraries are currently underrepresented in MaineCat. This initiative will focus on these libraries.

Responsibly Preparing for Our Future: $100,000 (general fund one-time funds)

Comprehensively planning for the future in order to responsibly administer resources requires thoughtful preparation and an in-depth analysis of statewide library services and resource sharing. This will allow for a professional, comprehensive analysis of trends and needs. We will: 

  • Harness Maine's cooperative library spirit to better understand where opportunities exist for growth and what resources are required to support that growth.
  • Seek to understand community needs and how we can help libraries meet those needs.
  • Draw upon work done by other states to help structure a methodical and useful assessment of Maine libraries' resource sharing needs. (Example to the left is Massachusetts' ‘Evolving Ecosystem' report on Public Libraries.)

See example of report/assessment here: