Resource Sharing and Cooperation Case Study:

ILS535, SUMMER 2014
Resource Sharing and Cooperation Case Study:
Fairfield Public Library,
Fairfield, CT
Amy Peck
Cost savings, an increased quantity and quality of materials available to patrons,
interactions with other professionals, access to experts and training, and reductions in time spent
performing routine tasks or services are just some of the potential benefits of library resource
sharing and collaborations. Technological innovations continuously modify the services offered
by libraries and the expectations of their users. The high cost of some of these services combined
with increased user demand and concomitant budgetary constraints, forces many libraries to seek
new ways of lowering costs while increasing user access to materials and adopting new
technologies as efficiently and seamlessly as possible. Joining library consortia, networking with
other libraries and librarians, and partnering with other institutions or organizations, are all
potential ways of effectively dealing with the many challenges facing today’s libraries.
This paper is an investigation into the resource sharing, collaborations and partnerships
undertaken at one public library, the Fairfield Public Library, of Fairfield, CT, and an exploration
of the ways such interactions benefit the library, its services, and, ultimately, its patrons.
The Fairfield Public Library (FPL) consists of a large, main library (60,000 sq. ft.) and a
smaller branch (19,000 sq. ft.) located just over three miles away. Despite serving a town of
approximately 59,000 people with a median income of $118,000 [2011 figures] (Connecticut
Economic Resource Center, Inc., 2013), the library, like many other public libraries in the U.S.,
has faced repeated budget battles over the past several years. The pressure to do more with less is
ongoing. As shown below, its average annual budget -- over 3.5 million for the past four years
(Town of Fairfield, 2014) -- is already able to go further thanks to several statewide
collaborations. New collaborations and streamlining efforts, however, could help the library with
both cutting costs and building greater community support.
Shared Catalog & Holdings
The Fairfield Public Library shares its catalog with an association library in town, the
Pequot Library, and the Fairfield Museum and History Center. The town of Fairfield pays
approximately $350,000 a year to the Pequot Library to cover one-third of its operating costs and
in return the holdings at Pequot are made available outside the association through the FPL
catalog. (Residents from any town in CT with a valid library card from their hometown can
register at any other town’s library to borrow materials.) The Fairfield Museum and History
Center houses many items related to the history of the town and has its own research library. One
can search the holdings of the museum through the FPL catalog, but the items do not circulate.
They are available for use only at the research library.
Circulating materials borrowed from any of the three libraries (the FPL main location, its
branch, or Pequot) can be returned to any other library. A delivery car makes a circuit run
between the three libraries, every morning, six days a week. This also means that patrons can
place holds and request materials from each library and have them transferred to another location
more convenient to them. This service also provides a means of communication between the
libraries, as program materials, memos, and other documents will be transferred in the same
bags. Additionally, new materials are cataloged and processed at the main location then
delivered to the branch and any damaged or donated materials will be sent back for repair or
incorporation into the catalog.
The integrated library system (ILS) used by FPL is a proprietary system by SirsiDynex.
Because of the shared catalog and system, both the Pequot Library and the Fairfield Museum
receive assistance from FPL personnel. The IT librarian and members of the Technical Services
and Circulation Departments have provided assistance with the ILS, cataloging, and statistical
tracking and reporting, respectively.
Through the sharing of the catalog, materials, and personnel, both the FPL and the Pequot
Library increase the number of materials available to their patrons, while the association library
and the history museum also gain personnel expertise. Ultimately, it is the patrons of both library
systems who benefit with increased resources, the ability to search the materials of the museum
offsite, and the convenience of being able to borrow and return materials and the location closest
to them.
Statewide Network: iCONN
Begun in 2000 with funding from the state, iCONN ( is Connecticut’s
state digital library. This service, administered by the state library in conjunction with other
libraries in the state, provides many important services to residents and students. A main goal is
“[t]o ensure universal access to a core level of library and information resources for every
resident of Connecticut through their public library, school, college, and from home” (About
iCONN, line 7). One of its biggest services is the provision of databases that would otherwise be
prohibitively costly for many libraries and schools. It also provides other services such as access
to training information, digital collections of materials found in libraries throughout the state,
ebooks and audiobooks available for downloading, and maintains the system for an interlibrary
loan program.
On its website, FPL lists the databases and websites for which it provides access. These
resources are organized by subject, although they can be sorted alphabetically, and are listed
along with brief descriptions of their content. Because of the cost of databases, many of these
resources require Fairfield residency to access. A majority of the listings are provided through
iCONN and a few are freely accessible websites that the Reference Dept. recommends.
Other electronic resources, such as downloadable audio and electronic books, magazines,
and music are available for Fairfield residents through the FPL website. These materials are
provided through the library’s direct subscription to the services Overdrive, Zinio, and Freegal.
In the case of Overdrive and Zinio, the library has some control over what titles are included in
its holdings. The library does have quite a few podcasts of events and talks hosted by the library
that are available to anyone through the website.
Databases and most electronic resources are very expensive. The library and its patrons
benefit greatly by having databases provided by iCONN. While the databases provided by FPL
are used regularly, the iCONN databases receive far more use. Subscribing to services that
provide a wide assortment of materials and titles to its patrons saves the library in personnel
resources that would otherwise be spent dealing with licenses. These services have vast holdings
and are established companies, making updates routine and any troubleshooting handled quickly
by their support departments.
Interlibrary Loan
The Fairfield Public Library participates in the iCONN interlibrary loan (ILL) service,
Request. The program allows libraries or patrons to simultaneously search the catalogs of other
libraries in the state and request materials that their hometown library does not have. FPL
previously used the ILLiad service of the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) for ILL as
well, but budgetary constraints as well the loss of a full-time, dedicated ILL library position
made it impractical to continue. Thus, the library provides ILL service only to Fairfield residents
and only with resources within the state. It does not charge patrons for this service.
Patrons can place requests directly through the library webpage or by contacting the
Reference/Information Dept. Requests are then sent to the Technical Services Dept. for
approval. Once approved the requests are sent through the iCONN system. FPL policy restricts
patrons to only five active requests at any one time and only for print materials (books or
articles). It is also the policy of FPL that if a requested item would most likely circulate well in
its collection and would be relatively cheap to buy compared to the cost of ILL, the item will be
purchased instead of requested through ILL. Individual policies at other libraries as well as
current availability of items may also affect the filling of requests. Thus, FPL successfully fills
approximately 46% of its patrons’ orders. The Fairfield Public Library receives significantly
fewer requests for materials from other libraries and is able to process even less because of a lack
of manpower.
Interlibrary loan service can be quite time consuming. From July of 2013 through May of
2014, 75 items per month on average were taken out by FPL patrons through ILL. While that
figure may not be very high, the other 164 requests per month that don’t get filled still get
processed to some degree, including notifications to patrons on the status of their requests. There
is a fee to use the Request service, but the bulk of the cost of ILL comes from the labor itself. At
FPL, the Reference and Technical Services Dept.’s do most of the processing. These departments
are usually staffed with professionals who are paid at higher rates than clerks. The higher hourly
rates combined with a time-consuming service translates into a high cost per request filled.
The high cost per item and the relatively low numbers of items filled through ILL (during
the same 11-month period, an average of 79,950 items from the library’s own collection were
circulated each month), makes for an exorbitant price for a service that not many patrons use. At
FPL the bulk of the requests come from regular users. However, the value of the service to them,
and to any other users, should not be dismissed. Instead, efforts to reduce costs and streamline
the process should be sought. So far, however, suggestions to move all or some of the processing
to the Circulation Dept., where labor costs are typically less and where patrons come to pick up
their filled orders have not been addressed or investigated.
Statewide Public Library Lending & Connecticar Program
For decades, the public libraries of CT have agreed to allow borrowing privileges by any
patron at any public library, as long as they have a valid library card from their hometown. In
support of this system, the Connecticut State Library oversees the Connecticar Program (Ccar)
( Books can be borrowed at any
public library and returned at any other public library, making it necessary to have a system that
returns materials to their home locations. The Ccar program provides the pickup and delivery of
library materials, to and from public and academic libraries in the state. This service makes the
rounds five days a week, ferrying regularly circulating materials as well as ILL matter. All the
returning library has to do is label each item (or bundle of items belonging to the same library)
with their location, the library it’s being shipped or returned to, and the date and place in a Ccar
bin. It certainly makes the transfer of materials easy, routine, and uniform. At FPL, the Ccar bin
is kept at the main location, with items to and from the branch location being transferred by the
town’s intra-library courier.
Cooperative Cataloging: OCLC
When items are added into the FPL system, the appropriate bibliographic records are
imported from OCLC. The same record in OCLC is then tagged so that a search in OCLC lets a
researcher know that FPL has that item. Conversely, when items are removed from the FPL
catalog, the tag is removed from its corresponding bibliographic record in OCLC. As most items
added in to the FPL catalog are current or popular, it is rare to need to create an original record.
Using OCLC as a source of bibliographic records is a very convenient and quick way of
updating the FPL catalog. Searching and importing records is fast, even if some records need to
be modified slightly to improve patron searching in the catalog. While not a free service, the time
saving is immense, allowing new items to be processed and in to the hands of patrons quicker.
Blogs, Social Media– Library Outreach
The Fairfield Public Library has several blogs which are accessible to anyone from their
website (no library card necessary). The blogs are primarily reader’s advisory posts, with
information on various types of books (new, teen, children’s) and movies that are available at the
library. They receive a fair amount of viewings, but rarely elicit comments. For instance, the
“Right Book at the Right Time” blog, which began in 2007, currently receives over a hundred
views per month and yet has been commented on only about 250 times in total.
The library uses the open source WordPress software for the blogs. This allows
convenient setup of each, but with each blog being customizable for a different feel depending
upon authorship and targeted audience. For example, the teen blog has links for Facebook and
Twitter while the movies blog has a link for RSS subscription.
The library uses social media in other ways to increase library and patron
communication. The FPL website has links for Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. These tools are
a convenient way for the library to share information about upcoming events as well information
about hours, closings, or other access issues.
Seed Library
In 2011, the Fairfield Public Library opened its “Seed-To-Seed Library.” Located at its
branch, this library provides a variety of organic vegetable and flower seeds to patrons, free of
charge. Begun in collaboration with a local organic organization and augmented with seeds
donated by a CT company (Fairfield Public Library, 2014), the library continues to work with
community organizations to provide gardening demonstrations and talks by experts as well as
provide seeds to school gardens. In a physical form of crowdsourcing, patrons are encouraged to
retain some of their seeds at harvest time and use them to replenish the library’s collection.
(Rowlands, 2014) Returned seed packets have varying degrees of information attached to them
by patrons, such as growing conditions and success rates.
One Book, One Town
Begun in the late 1990’s in Seattle, “One Book, One Town” (OBOT) is a program where
an entire community not only reads a particular book, but has opportunities to discuss the book
through various programs and events. The FPL has been running its own OBOT program for
several years. These are well-attended programs, including several informal book discussions,
scholarly presentations, and writing classes, culminating in a talk by the author of the chosen
title. The library collaborates with many local organizations and groups in presenting the various
programs as well as Fairfield University, which serves as the host site for the author talks.
Bicycle Sharing Program
In another instance of thinking outside box and building community services, the library
is looking in to hosting a bicycle sharing program in collaboration with the town Health Dept.
and the Senior Center. This sort of program helps develop relations between town departments
and other members of the community while, hopefully, expanding the role of the library within
that community.
The ways that libraries can partner with each other and other organizations to save
money, enhance existing services, and provide new services are numerous and growing. New
technologies mean new resources to be shared and new demands for expertise. As the role of the
library in the community evolves, even old technologies such as gardening or bicycling become
sources for collaboration and partnerships.
It is not just small libraries or libraries in poor communities that find themselves fighting
for funding or community support. Every library needs to keep itself relevant and useful in
providing information for its patrons. Marketing itself and its services is constantly necessary.
Building relationships with other libraries to enhance services and minimize costs is not only
wise, but often financially necessary. Building similar relations with other members of the
community also helps to promote those services and build community support, particularly with
people who may not be regular patrons already.
About iCONN [Webpage]. Retrieved from
Connecticut Economic Resource Center, Inc. (2013). Fairfield, CT CERC Town Profile 2013.
Retrieved from
Horton, V. (2013). Whither library consortia? Collaborative Librarianship 5(3): 150-153.
Retrieved from
Fairfield Public Library [Homepage]. Retrieved from
Rowlands, W. (March/April, 2014). New England’s first seed library. Connecticut Gardener,
20(1): 6-7.
Town of Fairfield [CT]. (2014). Proposed Budget 2014-15. Retrieved from