County Council recently approved moving to a new Information Library Service (ILS) structure, which will modernize the way the County supports local municipal library branches, provide cost savings to residents and remove duplication of services without impacting public access to local library branches.
About the Library Co-operative
Created in 1940, the Library Co-operative was the last remaining library co-operative in Ontario, with other municipalities modernizing and changing structures over the past 80 years. The Library Co-operative had no public facing hard services but provided resources such as videos, selected books, and music circulation support to local libraries as well as other administrative services to local libraries through the County's Information Technology (IT), and Local Immigration Partnership (LIP) teams.
Introducing the New Information Library Service (ILS)
The new ILS is a modern database and subscription service for local library branches. A host of benefits help modernize and protect local libraries and their patrons through this new electronic based model. The ILS consolidates IT and software needs for libraries under the County's Information Technology department, while maintaining and enhancing digital access by the public to library programs. Through the ILS, the County will continue to offer procurement support to libraries as well as access to County cultural programming resources for newcomers through a more streamlined approach.
Library System in Simcoe County
Local library branches are owned and funded by lower-tier towns and townships, not the County. However, currently libraries are NOT considered a department within these towns and townships and therefore operate at arms length independently through a Board system, where as the Library Co-operative was managed by the County directly. As local libraries begin to adapt to this modernization of the County's library service, it does not result in any additional costs or downloading of services to local libraries, and will ultimately modernize this support service to area libraries moving forward. Because there are savings for both the County and the local libraries, it permits the local libraries to direct even more resources to their community library shelves should they wish to do that.
Why the Change
In 2019, the Government of Ontario asked selected regional governments to self-identify efficiencies in municipal service delivery and governance. The Library Co-operative was identified by County Council as one of several areas where a review of service was warranted to consider efficiencies, savings and modernization. Residents throughout our region benefit from this service delivery review to ensure that services are reflective of today's needs and cost management.
The Library Co-operative was not a library branch and did not provide direct public service so that means library patrons will not see local branch changes as a direct result of the County making these internal changes.
With this recent review and research, video, book and circulation services provided by the Library Co-operative were found to be redundant costs to taxpayers, as library branches can obtain the same service from Ontario Library Services (OLS) at the provincial level and all hard assets (book and video titles) previously owned by the Library Co-operative will be permanently gifted to all area libraries (free of charge) With the OLS, local libraries can continue to share these resources.
The Library Co-operative served as an additional step in collaboration with other County departments such as IT, Procurement and LIP. Under the new ISL, these “administrative" supports will be streamlined and enhanced for further efficiencies, reducing red tape for libraries and allowing the local libraries who already have CEOs and staff in place, to manage their own daily requests for technical support. All existing IT services offered to local libraries, will be maintained directly by the County's IT team, library procurement assistance will run through the County's internal procurement team, and cultural programming through the County's Local Immigration Partnership.
In addition, significant savings have been afforded to the local libraries as the County will assume full costs for library platform and software licencing – a major savings. Furthermore, local library computers will be strengthened to a high level for cyber security, ensuring not only better protection for the library data but also for patrons.
What does this change mean to residents?
- The Library Co-operative had no “bricks and mortar" locations and no direct public-facing functionality for residents. No library branches or public access to programs at libraries are being impacted by these changes
- Savings of almost $300,000 tax dollars annually through the streamlining and modernization of services
- The County has proposed a single electronic library card, opening access to additional online resources for all residents across the region
- The County will continue to support with cultural programming and services through the Simcoe County Local Immigration Partnership (LIP)
- Public access high speed internet connectivity will be provided and maintained through the County for all participating local libraries
- County book and video collections and assets will be donated at no cost to the local library branches remaining accessible to residents
- Residents will still see savings at the local level as the County will continue to support member libraries with bulk buying rates for software and other services deemed necessary through the new ILS
- Residents, through their libraries, will use the existing Ontario Library Service to access books and videos, therefore reducing a duplication in government services
What this means for local libraries CEOs
Each municipal library has a Library CEO. Through the extensive consultation process, collectively local library CEO's expressed concern with establishing a larger Regional Library Service with ownership of libraries led by the County of Simcoe among other needs. This ILS change addresses this concern and virtually all of the Library CEOs feedback has been incorporated into the new ILS.
Furthermore, through the ILS, where libraries will see enhanced IT support from the County, the following benefits will apply:
- It will not result in any additional costs or downloading of services to local libraries
- Upgraded, cloud-based e-services IT platform
- Where local libraries permit it, upgraded library computer software to Microsoft365 (which will allow for greater IT support and security)
- Speed and direct control over technical changes by library CEOs through immediate resolution with IT HelpDesk and the library system's platform
- State-of-the-art government grade cyber security threat protection
- Continued support with library procurement efforts
- Direct support with multicultural programming
- Elimination of more than $50,000 in licencing fees paid to the County previously paid by local libraries
- Existing collections of materials owned by the County of Simcoe will be donated to library branches for public access at no cost to the individual municipal branches; this includes multilingual collections