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Regental Decision to End SDLN for Public Libraries Deprives Readers of Resources

South Dakota’s school and public libraries are looking for new vendors for their online catalog services. Since before the Internet, the South Dakota Library Network provided that service. But the Board of Regents decided in June 2014 to kick most libraries off SDLN and use that network solely for the university libraries.

The South Dakota Library Network facilitated 52,000 interlibrary loans in South Dakota in 2014. Now, thanks to the decision to make SDLN exclusive to Regental libraries,

The loss of the shared ILS via SDLN will make impossible the libraries’ ability to search multiple library catalogs simultaneously. Because of the loss of the shared catalog, locating and requesting materials to borrow (ILL) will become more difficult [state library board, “Nebraska Model—Proposal ‘A’ for a South Dakota Libraries’ Networked System,” January 2015].

Aberdeen library director Shirley Arment says Aberdeen will eventually enjoy some cost savings from the switch from SDLN to a private vendor:

After the initial cost of migrating the library’s records into the new system, the ongoing cost for the Polaris system will be less than the $26,000 paid for support from South Dakota Library Network, she said [Elisa Sand, “Aberdeen Library Eyes New Management System,” Aberdeen American News, 2015.04.16].

Vermillion library director Jane Larson is having a harder time seeing the fiscal sense of dropping most libraries from SDLN:

The libraries covered the cost to keep this system running, so the state wasn’t paying which makes this decision even more confusing.

“We each paid a pro-rate fee for 70 databases which, for our small library, is like getting 50 more than we normally could because of the price.”

The Department of Education is responsible for making the final decision of cutting these resources and has yet to provide an explanation for the change.

“We weren’t given any real reason except the fact that they don’t want to offer it to anybody else in the state, even though we were self-supporting, all of us were.

“We paid our own way so it wasn’t like the state was spending any dollars, so I’m not really sure what the real reason was,” Larson said [Elyse Brightman, “Library Affected by Statewide Changes,” Vermillion Plain Talk, 2015.04.14].

And whatever the dollar figures involved, Larson says South Dakota students will lose access to resources:

This system allowed anyone with a Vermillion Public Library, or other towns, card to search a consolidated database of all the libraries in the state. That person would then be able to borrow what they find using their card. Without that system, patrons will need to search each individually library websites and won’t be able to borrow using their card.

“So, if I want to see what Sioux Falls Public (Library) has, I won’t be able to do it. I can go to their website, but I can’t borrow it from them, so it cuts out a lot of resources,” Larson said.

The database was accessible from anywhere with an internet connection.

This change also affects the public school libraries meaning students won’t have the same number of resources to work on class assignments.

“I just think it’s a bigger impact than they think because libraries are part of the education circle and they just cut out a big chunk there and it’ll take years to get back to where we were,” Larson said. “We’ve been on since 1990, that’s 25 years, and some of the libraries have been on 30 years” [Brightman, 2015.04.14].

I’ve used SDLN throughout its existence to track down books in libraries around the state. Having moved from town to town, it’s been nice to know that I cold rely on the same familiar interface at each library for looking up books. Kicking most libraries off SDLN and leaving local libraries to patch together their own coordinated book searching systems makes reading and scholarship a little harder for South Dakotans.


  1. qlz 2015-04-17 09:06

    This is really unfortunate. Small town library collections are very limited, and the ability to search for and borrow books from other libraries in the state has been a great asset. There are many important books that are not old enough to be on Gutenberg (with expired copyright), not new enough to be available via Kindle etc., often no longer in print and too expensive to purchase even if they were, and only found at maybe one library in the state. Thanks to the current system we’ve been able to find and borrow these via interlibrary loan. I sure hope they can come up with something comparable to replace this system.

  2. Roger Elgersma 2015-04-17 09:28

    Someone who is not looking at the big picture made this decision. Which means it was a somewhat selfish decision.
    All libraries are there to dispense information and knowledge. Most libraries are public whether they are a city library or a public University library. So when looking at the overall purpose of public libraries, this decision does not fit well since it makes it harder to find the most indepth educational books which are typically found at University libraries.
    We also have a situation where the younger generation is into technology so they are spending more time on their computer on the internet to do their research than older people so the University and college libraries are not getting as much use as in the past. So further limiting the best knowledge from the public through University libraries is not making good use of the state funded public asset of knowledge.
    The only reason to limit the University library to the students is to try to make more take classes rather than use the library. Older people do not have the time to take classes and are more likely to know what knowledge they want to find and can do that on their own. The state is constantly cutting funding as compared to inflation so it is more costly to go back to school. Why not let people use the resource of knowledge for specific needs which can make a difference now rather than just for young people who do not always know which knowledge they will need in the future but just need it for the next test.

  3. Douglas Wiken 2015-04-17 13:01

    Continuing the Rounds tradition started when Marion Michael converted a state library building into more office space for his space holding relatives and cohorts.

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