Panlibus Blog

“Why Cant I do the same for book loans?”

In the latest issue of the Panlibus Magazine [pdf] David Potts, of the MLA discusses the feasibility study that they have commissioned to examine the issues related to the provision of a national unmediated library loans system.

In an age where ordering from the Internet and delivery to our doors is commonplace, David Potts, Community Libraries Programme Support Officer for the MLA, asks “Why can’t I do the same for library book loans?”

Read the full article [pdf]. 

Although this particular article is only directly relevant to the 149 local authorities in England, the subject will resonate with many public library organizations everywhere.

Frances Hendrix of the Laser Foundation has sent a response to David’s article, which she has kindly agreed to me publishing here so that the debate can continue.

The straight and blunt answer to your question David, is “because you are a librarian and work in or for libraries”.

This technology, or 60 plus percent of it, was available technologically and philosophically with V3fm, the de fact national catalogue for resource sharing. It was well on the way to providing what you describe, and the plans to develop it along the lines you are now setting up a study to determine, were well in hand.

Just look at some of the early (and I am talking up to more than 10 years ago), and the numerous projects such as ION which set down the route to achieving this. We were talking resource discovery across the nation and all systems all those years ago. We were well into delivering this when the Combined Regions (librarians), took their bat home and of course MLA came into force and Laser changed its status.

The case has been made! There was a national committee some 7 years or so ago, who conducted   a huge survey and piece of work to determine the need for a National Catalogue for recourse sharing purposes, and how to do it. Why are we still harping on this? What is there to ‘feas’ about., we know the technology is there., we can be sure people would want it unless for selfish reasons they wanted to hang onto some arcane system of doing things., current ILL systems are not cheap for the library to operate and are underutilised., it is a niche service that libraries can provide yet they don’t market (in fact in many libraries this ability and service is hidden from the user altogether).People would pay for a premium service., so why waste time ‘feasing’, why not do some market research and launch something in partnership with a proven MLS supplier? It is time the People’s Network had some real and better services surely, and the only way is to work with the commercial companies some of whom are majoring on resource discovery and sharing.

We know it is feasible, we know it makes sense, we know some of the commercial companies could do it and we know the costs are limited.

Do please read The Futures report, Charlie Leadbeater’s Overdue and many other research projects done under the auspices of Laser and others. The case has been made, it is time now for action not more studies.

What is this feasibility going to cost and why reinvent wheels that are ready to roll? I thought MLA were looking at a Blue print for the future, this proposition is  one from the past!

I despair!!

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