Library’s book access on the rise

By Adam Armour/The Itawamba County Times

Library patrons are about to gain access to a lot more materials … enough to fill 54 other libraries, in fact.

The Lee-Itawamba Library System, which includes Fulton-based Itawamba County Pratt Memorial Library, recently joined the Mississippi Library Partnership (MLP), the state’s largest library consortium.

Basically, what this means is that local patrons will, beginning in mid-October, suddenly gain access to the materials in every other library within the MLP’s 16-county coverage area. In the same way they can check out books from either the Itawamba County or Lee County libraries with their library card, patrons will be able to check out books from the libraries in Amory, Kosciusko, Louisville, Meridian, Southaven, Starkville, the campuses of Mississippi State University and the Mississippi University for Women and 45 other Mississippi libraries.

This doesn’t mean anxious readers will have to travel to any of these libraries, either, although they certainly could. According to Itawamba County Library head Jeffrey Martin, the library will be equipped with new card catalogue software that will show materials at these other libraries. All a patron has to do is request an item, and it will be delivered to the local library in about a week.

It’s a real boon for a small library like Itawamba County’s, Martin said.

“We can’t have every book; no library can,” Martin said. “There are things out there that people want that we can’t always buy. But with [this partnership], they will have quick, simple access to a lot of new books and other materials.”

Itawamba County’s library currently has a book collection of around 30,000 items.

In an official press statement following the Lee-Itawamba Library System’s joining the MLP, Director Jeff Tomlinson said the union is a logical way for libraries to come together and save money at a time when most are having their budgets cut.

“We are very excited about joining the Partnership as a way to provide additional books to our patrons and also as a way to save taxpayer dollars,” he said. “When we can borrow the books from another library, we don’t have to buy those titles.”

Borrowing books from other libraries isn’t something new, but most infrequent patrons probably don’t even know they can do it. Currently, libraries can borrow materials from each other via an “inter-library loan.” But this process is costly and slow. The patron first has to request an item, the librarian then has to check and see if he or she can borrow it from another library. If it can be borrowed, the book must be shipped to the patron’s home library, which can take two or three weeks.

After he or she is done with the material, it gets shipped back to the home library, all on the local library’s dime.

But the MLP streamlines much of this process. If one of the 55 libraries has the item, the patron can see it in the card catalogue. The book will then be transported to the Itawamba County Library via a shuttle service in about a week.

It’s much quicker and, perhaps more importantly, much less expensive.

“In a budget crisis, we all have to band together,”Martin said of the partnership. “This will be a definite improvement.”

The system should be up and running, and readers rejoicing, by Oct. 18.

adam.armour@journalinc.com