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Thomas Memorial Library joins statewide reciprocal borrowing pilot

Patrons of the Thomas Memorial Library will soon be able to use their card at more than 50 libraries throughout the state.

The Town Council on July 8, 2019 approved Cape Elizabeth's participation in a pilot reciprocal borrowing program to begin Sept. 1. The 12-month pilot will allow patrons from participating towns to borrow materials at each location.

The program is similar to the current agreement Cape Elizabeth has with libraries in Scarborough, South Portland, Westbrook and Gorham. [news article]

For years Maine libraries have shared collections with the rest of the state through the Minerva system of interlibrary loan, but the pilot reciprocal borrowing program will allow patrons to physically check out a book, DVD or other item from another library.

"This is in-person interlibrary loan," said Library Director Kyle Neugebauer. "Instead of you sitting at your computer at home requesting things from wherever, you can go to the library directly, browse and check them out," he said.

Participation in the pilot was unanimously recommended by the Thomas Memorial Library Committee, Neugebauer said. "I really think that this is a direction that libraries need to be going, and that it's something that we certainly believe in," he said. And, "We really want to be at the table when this process is occurring and when the decisions and the feedback is being given, so that we can kind of help shape it instead of being outside, wondering what are they doing with this pilot."

Neugebauer does not expect an increase in out-of-town borrowing from the Thomas Memorial Library because of its location, and because patrons from neighboring towns are already able to borrow from Cape Elizabeth's collection. However, "I think our patrons will have a great time being able to go out to other libraries as they are traveling or commuting," Neugebauer said.

Reciprocal borrowing is something the Maine State Library system has talked about for the last 40 years, Neugebauer said. Larger libraries have resisted because they fear an influx of residents from towns with smaller library collections. Technological limitations and concerns over local control have also been barriers, he said, but in recent years the library has refocused and energized efforts to get something off the ground. The state library, Neugebauer said, plans to form a subcommittee during the pilot to examine data and trends and to make improvements to the program.

Materials borrowed from one library may be returned to any library participating in the pilot program, according to the Memo of Understanding approved by the council July 8.