‘There is no such thing as a small library’ | AspenTimes.com

‘There is no such thing as a small library’

Stewart Oksenhorn
Aspen Times Staff Writer

When Helen Palmer attended the first Colorado Interlibrary Loan Conference over 30 years ago, the issues were almost primitive.

“In the beginning,” she said, “we were asking, ‘Should we loan our stuff to other libraries? Who should pay for this?'”

The interlibrary loan program in Colorado has progressed enormously in Palmer’s 34 years as a staff member at the Pitkin County Library. And the Colorado Interlibrary Loan Conference has progressed with it. Instead of examining whether lending books to other libraries is a good idea, the latest conference – which drew over 200 attendees from around the world to Aspen last week – focused on the advancing technology which has been a boon to interlibrary lending.

The 33rd annual conference, hosted by the Pitkin County Library and based at the Aspen Meadows, was titled Discovery to Delivery: The Metamorphosis of Interlibrary Loan, and included such discussions as I Needed It Yesterday: Delivering Information in a 24/7 Global Age and Waves of Change: Adapting to the New ILL Landscape. Speakers came from England and Canada, with former Aspen Mayor Bill Stirling giving the welcoming speech.

Palmer, who oversees Pitkin County Library’s interlibrary loan program, has attended all but one of the Colorado ILL conferences. She said that loaning programs have become an essential part of a library’s functions.

“No one, not even the big libraries, can own everything,” said Palmer, who, along with fellow Pitkin County Library staff member Martha Durgy, served as a committee member for this year’s conference. “It’s nice to have this resource-sharing. Now we know to share our resources makes us better libraries. It’s one of the best things libraries have going.”

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Palmer said that, from the perspective of a staff member of a library in a relatively small town like Aspen, one of the best aspects of the conference is to discuss issues with big-city librarians. This year’s conference attracted attendees from Denver and Omaha, Neb., Dallas and Salt Lake City. And in the end, Palmer has come to the conclusion that, thanks to interlibrary loan programs, any small community can have a big library.

“When libraries share their collections, there is no such thing as a small library,” said Palmer.

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