Columbus Metropolitan Library, Worthington Libraries and Southwest Public Libraries have agreed to join the Central Library Consortium in 2013.

Columbus Metropolitan Library, Worthington Libraries and Southwest Public Libraries have agreed to join the Central Library Consortium in 2013.

The agreement means the partnership will grow to include include 11 library systems serving 1.4 million residents across six counties with nearly 1.2 million titles, doubling the number of titles all of the libraries now offer their patrons.

Through the partnership, participating libraries share resources, servers, licenses, group purchases and staff while remaining independent library systems.

Libraries currently participating in the 25-year-old consortium include Alexandria, Fairfield County, Grandview Heights, Marysville, Pickaway County, Pickerington, Plain City and Wagnalls Memorial.

Columbus, Worthington and Southwest have participated in their own consortium for more than two decades.

The decision by the three library systems to switch to the same vendor providing the core software to manage library business that CLC members use, Polaris Library Systems, was the factor that led to the agreement, said Patrick Losinski, chief executive officer of the Columbus Metropolitan Library.

"The time was right for us to take advantage of the new technology and the ability to share resources with the other library systems will be a great benefit to our customers," Losinski said.

The Columbus Metropolitan Library's board of trustees voted Sept. 26 to contract with Polaris and to join the CLC, Losinski said.

"We're excited about the opportunity to become part of a larger consortium. Libraries have always been about sharing materials and resources and we're appreciative that the CLC has seen fit to invite us to join their partnership," said Mark Shaw, Southwest Public Library's executive director.

"It's especially important that we demonstrate good stewardship with our financial resources during these tough ecoomic times," he said.

Once the new arrangement takes effect, most likely in May or June 2013, patrons will be able to order materials from any of the other CLC member libraries, said Mary Ludlum, executive director of the Grandview Heights Public Library. Grandview is a CLC founding member and the administering library for the consortium.

"Having so many more titles available to our customers will mean a much greater efficiency in purchasing items," Ludlum said. "There are some items that it doesn't make sense for every library to own. The important thing will be for our patrons to have access to them."

Patrons will not at first be able to use their library cards at the new CLC members' branches, but plans are to make that possible in the future, she said.

Patrons will be able to order items from any of the library systems through their library's online catalog system or place an order at their local branch, Ludlum said.

There is much that has to get done technically before the arrangement can go into effect, Losinski said.

"It's quite an undertaking," he said.

It currently costs about $500,000 each year to implement the CLC and the cost is shared by the eight members, Ludlum said. The amount each library system pays is based on the number of transactions its patrons make.

While that cost will go up "significantly" with the addition of three more library systems to the CLC, the cost for each library will not rise because of the large systems joining the partnership, she said.

"The new arrangement will allow us to operate more efficiently, economically and effectively," Ludlum said.

"Every dollar counts and any time we can cooperate with other libraries and get more for our money, it's a benefit for our customers and something we want to do," said Chuck Gibson, Worthington Libraries director and chief executive officer.

"It's exciting that we will be able to have more materials available for our patrons," he said.

The economics of the agreement are particularly important at a time when libraries, like everyone, are trying to stretch their dollars further, Ludlum said.

In a time when state funding for libraries has been slashed, it is necessary to spend financial resources wisely, she said.