Tennessee’s public libraries will soon have more books available – cheaper and faster than before – thanks to a new interlibrary loan service set to debut next year.
The new Firefly Courier service, developed by the Tennessee State Library and Archives, will link rural, suburban and urban public libraries throughout the state, as well as libraries at colleges and universities.
The new courier service will allow libraries to request and receive books on loan from other libraries more quickly and more efficiently. Interlibrary loans, which previously were handled through the postal service, account for about 125,000 books checked out from Tennessee libraries each year.
The State Library and Archives, part of the Office of the Secretary of State, provides support and training for regional library systems across Tennessee.
“For many years, we have tried to reimburse libraries for their postage costs to support the interlibrary loan program,” State Librarian and Archivist Chuck Sherrill said. “We have been spending about $200,000 per year, but even that only covers about half the postage costs.”
The new courier service was developed in conjunction with Tenn-Share, an organization that helps Tennessee libraries take advantage of group purchasing power and innovative resource-sharing projects. The courier will visit each of the state’s 177 public libraries twice weekly, at no cost to the local libraries.
“Moving these materials by road is far cheaper than by mail,” Sherrill said. “Because of the large volume of loans, we benefit from economies of scale.”
The State Library and Archives is responsible for serving rural and suburban library systems, but the addition of the college and metro libraries is an advantage made possible through Tenn-Share’s involvement.
“Just lending among our public libraries is a big business, but adding Vanderbilt University, the University of Tennessee and all the other private libraries in Firefly will make many more titles available to Tennesseans,” Sherrill said.
“This new courier system will allow public libraries to provide improved service to their patrons,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. “A book in Union City can be shared with a reader in Bristol at no cost to either of those libraries. And the amount the state will be paying to provide this service is about the same as it was before. This system will also give citizens throughout the state better access to the resources available at our institutions of higher learning.”