After April’s meeting of Champlain Library’s non-fiction book club, members picked up next month’s read, NeuroTribes by Steve Silberman, from the circulation desk.

Only two days later, the Champlain Library asked members to return those books. The abrupt suspension of Ontario’s interlibrary loan service, following provincial budget cuts to the Southern Ontario Library Service (SOLS), left libraries scrambling to collect materials. Library patrons were left in shock.

SOLS, which delivered over 700,000 packages between 153 southern Ontario libraries last year, announced April 19 that, as of April 26, it could no longer provide the service.

“The impact will be quite staggering,” says Champlain Library’s CEO and Head Librarian, Cynthia Martin. “Libraries that have the least resources will suffer the greatest impact.”

Champlain Library in Vankleek Hill is a single-branch library, with limited space and resources. The library relied on interlibrary loans, which effectively “expanded our collection,” according to Martin. Martin says the Champlain Library exchanged 1500 books through interlibrary loan last year.

The cancellation of weekly deliveries affects the whole spectrum of library patrons, says Martin, from picture books for children to large-print books for seniors. The library will also lose access to several shared collections, including DVDs, that were rotated among a pool of libraries, because those also depended on the SOLS deliveries.

The Review contacted Glengarry-Prescott-Russell MPP Amanda Simard’s office to request some comments regarding her position on the library service cuts. A representative from Simard’s office replied that she was unavailable, but that “interlibrary loan service cut issues is a subject dear to her heart in which she takes a very personal interest.”

Book club programming ground to an immediate halt. Champlain Library runs six clubs, including a junior club for six to 12 year-olds, a teen club, and several adult clubs in English and French. Book clubs are a huge part of the library’s programming, says Martin, but the library cannot stock multiple copies of a single title. Without access to interlibrary loan, book club programs will cease to function.

Champlain was among many Ontario libraries reeling from the shock of the cuts last week. Martin says that librarians are resourceful people, and are already engaging in brainstorming sessions to seek out possible ways forward.

Lynn Belle-Isle, CEO of the Hawkesbury Library, is also exploring potential solutions in the wake of the service cut. Belle-Isle is confident that interlibrary loan will continue in some form, because so many patrons rely on it.

“We can’t stop offering interlibrary loans,” says Belle-Isle. “Access to other libraries’ collections gives us more options.” Belle-Isle notes that many patrons use interlibrary loan, including students who request resource books the library doesn’t have in its collection.

French-language materials are also in high demand through interlibrary loan, says Belle-Isle. Other community libraries are unable to stock enough French-language materials to meet their patrons’ needs. Hawkesbury Library has a large collection of French-language materials, says Belle-Isle, and interlibrary loan helped make those materials available to those who needed them.

The challenge going forward, says Belle-Isle, will be to figure out how to continue interlibrary services. With the loss of delivery services provided by SOLS, libraries will likely be faced with paying shipping costs to move materials from library to library if they want interlibrary loans to continue.

How to bear that expense without affecting other library services or programming will be a major challenge, especially for libraries in smaller communities.

Book clubs at Hawkesbury Library rely on interlibrary loan to provide enough reading copies for each member. Both its adult book clubs take a break over summer, and Belle-Isle hopes to have a solution in place before the clubs resume in the fall.

SDG Library, including its branches in Alexandria and Maxville, relies on its track record of adaptability to change, says Director of Library Services, Karen Franklin.

“SDG Library has excellent collections,” says Franklin. “Staff at all of our branches are valuable resources for helping to find ‘read-alike’ titles for borrowers.”

The loss of interlibrary loans will most impact specific groups of patrons, Franklin says, including book clubs, home-schooling families, and students. Franklin believes book clubs are best able to adapt by using titles already in SDG Library’s collection, or by utilizing the library’s Book Club Kits.

At the Champlain Library, book club programming is suspended, for now.

Jane Fantie, volunteer coordinator for Champlain Library’s adult non-fiction book club and the teen book club found the news shocking.

“I never imagined the cuts would be so drastic,” Fantie says. “For youth especially it’s a big blow, because the book club was a safe place for them to get together. It’s heart-wrenching.”

Lucette Bertand, who coordinates Champlain Library’s French book club, was similarly in shock at the news.

“The value of our book club goes far beyond the books themselves,” says Bertrand. Book clubs help counter feelings of isolation in older adults living alone and contribute to the overall well-being of the community, she says.

“It’s not just about the books,” emphasizes Bertand. “These services are integral components of a healthy community.”