Pilot Program Aims to Improve Lending Options for Library Materials

Augusta - Starting next week, library patrons from nearly 70 Maine libraries will have more options for accessing library materials outside of their home library thanks to a new year-long pilot project called the Maine Reciprocal Borrowing Program. The service allows library users with a valid library card from one participating library 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 interlibrary loan system that provides statewide lending of library materials through a van delivery network between 68 libraries in every corner of the state."

While reciprocal borrowing won't replace the statewide interlibrary 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.

The inspiration for the pilot project stemmed from conversations that took place at the Maine Library Association's Fall Conference last year where librarians in attendance expressed a strong desire to develop initiatives that would strengthen library resources in Maine. In subsequent months, a working group identified libraries who had compatible library system software and were willing to be part of a pilot project to test how a reciprocal borrowing program would work.

"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 barcode 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 utilized by patrons and understand policy considerations ahead of any decision to make the program permanent or expand the scope to a larger group of libraries.

For many libraries taking part in the pilot, they are excited about the possibilities. "Our patrons' library card just got better," states 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 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. We really hope it works out well and expands in the future."

For the systematic reasons indicated 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," states Jackson Sanborn, "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, please visit: https://www.maine.gov/msl/libs/reciprocal_borrowing