The elimination of interlibrary loans at Library and Archives Canada has sparked some concern not enough material will be digitized in time for the change to digital records.
Library and Archives will stop taking loan requests from people outside of Canada looking for material to be mailed as of Tuesday.
By Dec. 11, neither librarians nor anyone else across Canada will be able to request books, microfilm or other materials. All the documents must then be returned by February when the loan program is going to be officially eliminated.
"About 25 million items have already been digitized by LAC … within about two years, the number of items should be in the 60 million range."—Marc Comeau, LAC spokesman
The move was part of federal cuts detailed in the 2012 budget. Officials also said it keeps the library technologically up to date since demand for service has dropped 75 per cent in the last 12 years.
But librarians, both current and retired, are mourning the loss of the program.
"It breaks my heart. I don't like to think about it too much," said Carol Smale, who retired as head of interlibrary loans five years ago.
"I dedicated my life to it and I felt it was important, and it's just hard to see your life's work ending like that."
The most common individual borrower asked for only 11 documents in the past 12 months, library officials said, so they believe digitization makes sense.
University technician disputes LAC claim
But an interlibrary loan technician at Carleton University said that claim is misleading, adding individuals often file requests through institutions.
She said Carleton requests almost 18 documents per week from LAC, which makes it the top requester of documents.
"The interlibrary loans service is a valuable service used by many library users and researchers," said Christine Taylor.
"LAC holds many unique items and has generous loan periods: the elimination of this service will affect many Canadians and researchers worldwide. A wiser solution would have been to offer a reduced service instead of eliminating it completely," she added.
The Ontario Genealogical Society also said key information only available at the national library would not be digitized in time.
"People will have to drive, fly, take trains, hire researchers in the Ottawa area to do that research for us," said Shirley Sturdevant, president of the society.
Library and Archives will hold a roundtable Thursday via teleconference to discuss the upcoming changes. It will only include library associations and the top institutional borrowers.
Individuals can contribute their ideas by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.