Nova Scotia

Library users outside Halifax to get access to much bigger collection

The library boards are moving towards a provincewide catalogue that will allow borrowers to search libraries outside their town. The materials will be sent to the borrower's preferred home library.

Eight library boards plan to pool collections, allowing users to borrow from any branch

Library user Kristen Martell reads to her children Caris and Griffin at the Bridgewater public library in February 2019. (Shaina Luck/CBC)

Nova Scotian library patrons outside Halifax will soon have access to a greatly expanded collection. 

"For our users it will be a huge difference," said Eric Stackhouse, the chief librarian at the Pictou-Antigonish Regional Library, and a co-chair of an initiative called One Card.

The library boards expect One Card to be complete in about 18 to 24 months. At that point a user in an area such as New Glasgow will be able to search from a provincewide catalogue and borrow from libraries as far away as Sydney or Yarmouth. The materials will be sent to the borrower's preferred home library.

"Basically, it means that a person in a region, who may be just in one region, who may have access to 100,000 items, will now have much, much better access to over one million," said Stackhouse.   

The only library board that has not signed on for One Card is Halifax Regional Libraries, which uses a different computer catalogue system.

The Halifax board uses a different computer catalogue system and has not signed on to the One Card initiative. (Emma Davie/CBC)

Halifax explored participating in One Card, but chief librarian Åsa Kachan said in an email it will wait for the other boards to merge first. 

"Based on the scale of Halifax Public Libraries' catalogue and the variety of unique online services that we offer, there were barriers to a full merger of the systems," Kachan wrote. She added that Halifax will look at collaborating with the other boards in the future. 

Previously, there were ways to borrow and return from libraries outside a user's home branch, but the process was not straightforward. 

"You could do interlibrary loan, but that's sort of a complicated way of doing it," Stackhouse said. 

"Right now if you want to borrow from different library regions in the province you've got to have nine library cards, and really in today's world that's not really the best idea."

The eight library boards that represent the areas outside Halifax are: the Annapolis Valley Regional Library, Cape Breton Regional Library, Colchester-East Hants Public Library, Cumberland Public Libraries, Eastern Counties Regional Library, Pictou-Antigonish Regional Library, South Shore Public Libraries and Western Counties Regional Library.

Troy Myers is the chief librarian at South Shore Public Libraries. (Shaina Luck/CBC)

Troy Myers, chief librarian of the South Shore Public Libraries, said the project is an exciting one for patrons and libraries. 

"We're projecting use will go up. We also think if we remove these barriers for Nova Scotians people will read more, they'll be more informed," he said. 

Myers also believes making a better selection of library items available to people in rural communities can encourage people to live and work in those areas.

"It lends itself to encourage a more sustainable lifestyle. If you're living in a rural community and you can now have access to all the information in the province, it encourages people to not commute to work if you can have access to information. You now have those quality-of-life items that we all look forward to," he said.  

Stackhouse said the entire project is expected to cost about $475,000, but some of that is money which already needed to be spent on the existing system. The cost will be shared between the province and the eight participating library boards.

Myers said he expects the cost to his own library board to be about $12,000 per year for two years, with a little leftover cost in the following years. 

"We see that as an investment in reducing barriers and providing access," he said. "It's money well spent."

The Truro library is part of the Colchester-East Hants Public Library system. (CBC)

Stackhouse said he expects the system to save libraries money in the long term because they will be able to purchase more efficiently, avoiding duplication between boards. 

"We're all in one province and we should be sharing our resources," he said. 

Stackhouse said he hopes borrowers will end up with a system that is "even better than an Amazon or Chapters." 

"I'm personally very excited about it," he said.

About the Author

Shaina Luck

Reporter

Shaina Luck covers everything from court to city council. Her favourite stories are about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. Email: shaina.luck@cbc.ca

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