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SW Suburban Libraries Leave Prairie Cat to Form Pinnacle

I recently moved and haven't had time to check out my new local library in person yet, but I've seen in the news that they are going through a lot of changes. Fountaindale, Joliet, Lemont, Plainfield, Shorewood-Troy, and White Oak library districts are leaving the PrairieCat Consortium, which spans most of the width of northern Illinois and parts of eastern Iowa, to form their own smaller, leaner Pinnacle Library Cooperative.

Patrons, understandably, are upset because they assume that they are losing access to a wealth of resources from the other PrairieCat libraries. The understanding I have from the new Pinnacle libraries, however, is that they were feeling overburdened from requests from all the other PrairieCat libraries because Pinnacle libraries have bigger, more diverse collections than most PrairieCat libraries.  So it's more likely that PrairieCat libraries will miss easy access to Pinnacle items than the other way around.

Also, Pinnacle patrons will still be able to borrow PrairieCat items, the only downside, and I'll admit this is a bit of a hassle, is that they won't be able to request items directly from the catalog and instead will have to email, call, or stop in to the library to place their request with a library staff member.

So, while there will be some less than pleasant changes (which is always a part of big changes like this), on the other hand, it sounds like Pinnacle items will now be more available for Pinnacle residents, which will be a big improvement for the popular items that tend to be the vast majority of public library circulation.

The bigger benefit of the Pinnacle Library Cooperative, which is a little harder to articulate to patrons now, but could end up being the biggest benefit to them in the end, is that state funding for the RAILS lending system that supports lending across nearly all libraries in the northern part of the state is tenuous at best. If that funding is cut altogether (a definite possibility), large consortiums like PrairieCat will suddenly find themselves left to cover huge transportation costs, and their ability to lend across the state will be severely hampered, if not eliminated completely. The smaller Pinnacle cooperative, however, will not have the same huge transportation costs, meaning that even if state funding for interlibrary lending is eliminated, Pinnacle patrons should still be able to request books from other Pinnacle libraries like they always have.

While it's not certain that the state funding for interlibrary lending in Illinois will be completely eliminated, I think most people believe that it will at least continue to decrease in the near future, hurting an already cash-strapped system. While it's not an ideal solution, I think the Pinnacle libraries deserve credit for looking for ways to ensure their patrons' access to a variety of library materials even in a harsh budget environment. I wish there was an easy answer in this situation, but it appears the the Pinnacle libraries have decided that the benefit to their taxpayers is significant compared to the disruptions this change may cause, and, for now, I have to agree with them.
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