Victorian libraries reconnect in loans trial

·2-min read

Regional Victorians are busting out the bookmarks, with the return of a scaled-back inter-library loan program after a hiatus.

Public Libraries Victoria and Australia Post are testing weekly, rather than daily, deliveries between smaller groupings of libraries after a state contract for courier services ended last year.

The end of the contract, which had distributed half a million items a year, saw inter-library loans shelved for six months.

"No one could afford to deliver the service at that rate," Public Libraries Victoria chief executive Angela Savage told AAP.

"We were looking at cost increases of between 300 and 720 per cent to sustain the service at the levels that had been operating."

The trial will run from May until July 31 and will provide more media to local schools, remote tertiary students and bookworms in Victoria's 283 library branches.

"We've got a consortium of 31 libraries that share their collections so that a tiny little service like Buloke, which only holds 13,000 items, can actually provide access to a collection of 3.2 million items," Ms Savage said.

In Victoria's east, a Latrobe City Council spokeswoman said members are delighted to access a wider range of materials again, while Goulburn Valley Libraries chief executive Felicity Macchion in the state's north was receiving her first delivery on Wednesday.

"The customers are just happy that it's back," Ms Macchion told AAP.

Under the trial, Public Libraries Victoria has engineered each sharing group to contain libraries of varying sizes, regions and collection age, and hold roughly 600,000 items per grouping to slash transit costs.

"So there's parity of all of those factors, it's been an incredible effort on the part of my colleagues who've done this," Ms Savage told AAP.

Public Libraries Victoria is negotiating a three year contract with Australia Post, and a spokesman for the carrier said the two groups were working to understand the needs and challenges of the service.

"Australia Post is pleased to be working on a delivery trial with Public Libraries Victoria to help them continue to connect Victorian communities with their library network," the Australia Post spokesman said in a statement.

The peak body wants confirmation and continuity of funding for the program from the state government.

The government would not be drawn on the issue ahead of its budget on May 23.