Wednesday, July 02, 2008

North County Library Cooperative

As of yesterday, July 1, all four libraries in the north county are open to American Fork residents.

The cities of American Fork, Pleasant Grove, Lehi and Eagle Mountain have agreed to participate in a reciprocal borrowing system that will allow library card holders at any of the cooperating libraries to check out materials from all four libraries.

This is good news -- especially for busy moms. My mother used to schedule my weekly library visit for the same trip as my violin lesson, which was in the neighboring town. My daughter's violin teacher lives in Lehi, so now I'm thrilled to have a library option there, as well.

This is also good news for readers and information seekers. It is true that interlibrary loan has always been available to those willing to pay postage, but borrowers now have the convenience of access to four catalogs right here in Utah County.

This is not a county library system, however. Items checked out in Lehi, for example, must be returned to Lehi. And there is no one online catalog linking borrowers to materials at all four libraries -- each library has its own catalog. Library borrowers are encouraged to search for needed materials at their home libraries before searching the other libraries' online catalogs. All patrons must have a valid library card from their home libraries and must be in good standing in order to borrow from a different library.

Each library will continue to set its own policies in terms of budget, administration, non-resident card fees, and so on.

This is not a county library system, but it is a first step. My hope is that this reciprocal borrowing agreement will generate interest county-wide. We raise far too many children in this valley to leave libraries to the few local governments who can afford them. I look forward to the day when every parent and child in the county will have ready access to the holdings of a well-funded library system.

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. . . this library afforded me the means of improvement by constant study for which I set apart an hour or two each day, and thus repair'd in some degree the loss of the learned education my father once intended for me. . .

Books were very expensive and therefore not everyone was able to afford them. Some fellow printers and I, known as the Leather Apron Club (because most of us wore leather aprons) discussed ways we could help the community. Through my suggestion, we started a lending library that was open to everyone. We would pool our money and buy books, which people could borrow.

So, in 1731, the first lending library in America opened. Soon, other towns began to imitate the library, until reading became fashionable even among the less educated.

-- Benjamin Franklin