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VALNet courier Michael Kincart of Lewiston makes one of his stops at
Lewis-Clark State College.
Libraries just got
bigger; VALNet joins with other libraries in Idaho, Washington to make more
than 2 million books available
Ann R. Gannon - Lewiston Morning Tribune
The region's library patrons now have more than 2 million books at their
The Valley Automated Library Network has joined with two other library
consortiums in the Northwest to form the Washington Idaho Network.
This will expand library resources from 640,000 books and sources to 2.3
million, providing dramatically increased opportunities, says Paul Krause,
director of the Lewis-Clark State College Library.
The idea to combine the library networks came two years ago, says Krause,
when VALNet, which served libraries in north central Idaho and southeastern
Washington, started sharing books with libraries in the Silver Valley of
Kellogg and Wallace.
Several months later, the two areas received a library service and
technology grant for $300,000, most of which went to software for the new
Nearby academic libraries also joined, including the University of Idaho,
Gonzaga University and Whitworth College, both in Spokane, and North Idaho
College in Coeur d'Alene.
The Washington Idaho Network will include 71 libraries in 10 Idaho counties
-- from Hayden to Riggins -- and Asotin and Spokane counties in Washington.
There are still some edges that need smoothing in the system, but Krause
hopes the system will be in full force by the start of school in the fall.
For one, each library still has its own database, so users have to search
every library's catalog separately, says Lewiston City Library Director Dawn
Eventually, she says, users will have one large catalog database.
Then users will be able to choose between searching the whole system or
limit it to the local library, she says.
And some of the smaller libraries -- like Grangeville Centennial Library,
which was recently added -- still are in the process of entering their
collections into the system.
Grangeville Library Director Linda Ruthruff hopes to be done by the end of
But already books can be transported quickly through the program's courier
system. When patrons request a book, it will be at their local library
within 24 to 48 hours, says Krause.
Since VALNet provides this service now, it's been relatively seamless and
unnoticed by patrons of Lewiston's library, says Wittman.
"But it's allowed us to get more books faster."
Wittman adds that the system has been helpful for people looking for
specialized topics. For example, one young man needed books for a project
about architecture in monasteries and prisons. Most of what he needed had to
be ordered from another library.
There was also a woman studying a Southwestern artist.
"We found a little bit of information here," says Wittman, "but most on the
specialized artist was at other libraries."
Krause said the program saves a considerable amount of money for the
libraries, because they can rely on other collections for material.
And many libraries have specialized collections.
"I think every library has a certain percentage of special collections,"
says Ruthruff of the Grangeville library. "We have a lot of Idaho history,
especially Idaho County, that may be of interest to some other libraries."
Wittman doesn't believe it will force libraries to limit their own
"Even if another library has material and we have a strong demand for it,"
she says, "we will still buy it."
The libraries will be able to maintain their independence, says Krause. Each
library will adhere to its own policy about lending and fining for late
books, for example.
"You follow the rules of the library you're using."
But if a person is delinquent at one library, he or she is delinquent at all
Patrons will receive a WIN sticker to put on their library cards. That way,
if someone from Orofino or Kamiah is visiting Spokane or Lewiston, that
person will be able to check out books from that library. The book can then
be returned to the local library, says Krause.
"It makes all of these libraries as good as your local library."
Gannon may be contacted at email@example.com