Saturday, July 21st, 2007
By William Kincaid
Readers can access books from across the state with inter-library
  Patrons of the Mercer and Auglaize County district libraries continue to take advantage of the inter-library loan system, which provide access to millions of resources across the state.
Mercer County District Library Director Austin Schneider said the total circulation for the library and its branches in 2006 was 318,163 items, which included 58,618 borrowed from other libraries and 36,444 items loaned out to other libraries.
The total circulation in 2006 for the Auglaize County District Library and its branches was 280,009 items, with 2,703 borrowed from others and 1,509 loaned out, according to the county library's assistant director, Diana Schneider.
The inter-library loan system allows patrons to request items not found at their home libraries.  
Such systems include the Southeast Ohio Library Center, which Mercer County belongs to, and MORE, which Auglaize County uses.
Both systems work the same, allowing patrons to check out material from libraries across the state. More than 6 million books, software programs, books on tape, CDs and various other items can be obtained through a click on the computer.
"It's very advantageous," Austin Schneider said about the library's decision to join the Southeast system in 2001. "The range of materials is quite extensive."
Connected to inter-library loan systems locally are the Auglaize County libraries, which include the main facility in Wapakoneta and branches in New Bremen, Cridersville, New Knoxville, Minster and Waynesfield; St. Marys Community Public Library; the Mercer County libraries, which include the primary facility in Celina and branches in St. Henry, Mendon and Chickasaw; Fort Recovery Public Library; and Rockford Carnegie Library.
Coldwater is the only library in both counties that is an off-line member, according to State Library of Ohio representative Becky Kellum. The Coldwater library neither has Web site access to the system nor ships items out to other libraries.
However, Coldwater patrons can request items directly through a librarian at the facility, who then processes it, according to Coldwater Library Director Carol Evers.
At the libraries connected to the system, patrons can either request an item through an in-house computer or at home through the library's online Web site by using their library card. The requested item then is shipped from another library to the patron's library, usually within three to seven days.
"It comes a lot quicker than you think," Austin Schneider said.
He said the Celina facility has a five-day-a-week delivery system, while the branches have a three-day delivery system. Patrons are not charged for the service or shipping costs.
The current membership fee for the Mercer County District Library is $24,000, which Schneider said is based on the number of computer access points within the library and its branches. He also said the library spends around $10,000 each year on shipping costs.
When asked by the newspaper why the library doesn't reduce or stop purchasing new items every year - when they can simply be obtained through other libraries - Austin Schneider said such a decision would significantly disrupt the exchange system.
"You can't stop your purchasing because in two or three years the system would fail," he said. "It seems to work and it seems to work very well."
Austin Schneider said he and Mercer County District Library Assistant Director Vicki DeBolt and board members are responsible for selecting the items to be purchased each year.
He said the library strives to offer a diverse amount of material that patrons will utilize.
"We try to keep up with the best sellers," he said.
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