Libraries in co-operation (LINC)
Posted by andrewey on September 16, 2008
CyMAL has recently released a report on inter-lending activity in Wales amongst FE, HE, health and public libraries as part of an ongoing process of extending access to library collections in Wales. In north Wales the LINC y Gogledd scheme is long established and was the first in the UK, I believe, to allow members of the public borrowing rights in academic libraries. The scheme provides free inter-lending between member libraries and free personal membership of each library service.
Our expectation was that the service would mainly be of benefit to our HE students wishing to access material from our local university (Bangor University) but in practice over half of the loans are by FE students and over 20% of loans are from public libraries. I know this is not the experience of FE colleges in other parts of Wales but I think it does show that Inter-library loans (ILLs) do have relevance to FE.
We made 222 requests through LINC in 2007/8 (and our use of the British Library remained constant at around 60 requests) – this may not sound a lot by university standards but looking at the CyMAL data we are doing as many ILLs as some local authorities and smaller HE institutions in Wales. In terms of a cost saving this represents, on a conservative estimate, £4,400 in material we may otherwise have purchased or a £1500 saving on material we may otherwise have borrowed from the BL – although our involvement in the scheme was of course to provide an improved library service rather than to save money. Although the fact that these loans are free is obviously an incentive to borrow there is also the convenience factor to consider as many of our learners could have borrowed the material through their local public library instead. The feedback we have received from learners about the scheme has been very favourable – particularly the convenience factor.
In terms of what we have lent then there has been little effect on our resources in that we are only lending out about 20 items per year through ILL. However, personal memberships have impacted upon us – only 18 of our learners have applied for personal membership of Bangor University (in the two years we have been operating LINC) whereas 46 members of the public have joined our library in the same period. There are some restrictions on what LINC personal members can borrow – they are not allowed to borrow short loan material (including AV material and journals) – but other than that they have the same borrowing rights as our FE learners. Opening up the library to members of the public in this way hopefully acts as a marketing tool for the college although as yet we have no hard evidence to show that these personal members become students at the college.