Library card holds power of interlibrary loan

It might be hard to believe, but your library card is infused with the power to access all the many collections of libraries in the region, state, nation and around the world.

The ingredient that generates that power is the principle known as interlibrary loan, in which libraries cooperate with each other in sending and receiving items. One library might have a certain book in its collection that an affiliate lacks, so the item is lent upon request by a cardholder of the library that does not have the item.

Most interlibrary lending is done within regional systems, where items are physically circulated by an internal delivery operation. Interlibrary loans make it possible for even the smallest libraries to provide collection access many times their actual size, while offering the largest libraries many more copies of popular items than they actually own.

The Portage Lake District Library is a member of the Superiorland Library Cooperative, a collection of 54 public and school libraries in an integrated library system. Although one of the larger public libraries in the western U.P., it is relatively small compared to libraries in larger cities. It offers more than 46,000 items for checkout, including print books, audiobooks, movie DVDs and music CDs.

Yet through Superiorland, the collection available to PLDL cardholders is more than 9,000,000 unique titles across many print and digital formats. That’s not including the 10,000 downloadable e-books and audiobooks items available through the Great Lakes Digital Library.

Regional systems like Superiorland also network with the statewide system called MeLCat (Michigan e-Library Catalog) and the worldwide system called WorldCat. Requesting an interlibrary loan is not difficult, and the easy instructions are available at the PLDL website.

Obtaining virtually any item in circulation is only a fraction of a library card’s power, and that is only a fraction of what Chassell residents would give up if they vote to disconnect from the PLDL at the August referendum.

Interlibrary loan is one of many reasons why Chassell voters should vote “No” on August 5.

A Daily Mining Gazette editorial