During good times and bad, library cooperatives are a major asset for community and district libraries in Michigan, improving the level of service that libraries can provide their visitors. Each cooperative assists libraries within a geographic region in Michigan and provides collaborative services, resource sharing, and cost savings to member libraries.
Currently, the library cooperative that serves the most populous region in the state is The Library Network (TLN), which is located in Southgate and serves 65 libraries in Wayne, Washtenaw, Oakland, Livingston and St. Clair counties.
With a commitment to providing services that meet its member libraries’ needs, TLN offers assistance with: shared technology services; interlibrary loans; catalogs and databases; book and material acquisitions; and training opportunities.
TLN uses state funds and dues from its member libraries to offer resources to libraries that they could not attain or afford on their own. The cooperative efforts enable smaller community libraries to provide more services to its patrons.
A major benefit that The Library Network provides its member libraries is a fiber optic network that links 58 locations, enabling high-speed data exchange between the libraries and other services.
Through the network, libraries can access The Library Network’s shared Library Automation System (LAS), a searchable catalog of books, audio books, compact discs, videos and other materials owned by 41 member libraries. For library patrons conducting research, sharing a common LAS easily allows users to find materials that can be checked out at their local library or requested by interlibrary loan.
TLN’s fiber optic network also provides connected libraries with Internet and Internet2 access through a link to Merit Network’s backbone network. The high-speed connection enables TLN to offer web hosting services to its member libraries, and currently, over 40 Michigan library web sites are hosted on its servers.
The Library Network also offers its libraries email accounts. In 2008, TLN began using MeritMail, which is provided by Merit Network and allows email access through web browsers or email clients, such as Outlook Express and Thunderbird.
A shared resource that libraries can use to provide onsite programs or training is TLN’s Mobile Lab.
Created through a grant in 2004, the Mobile Lab features eight Dell laptop computers, a projector, a smartboard, and external speakers. The Mobile Lab includes a secure wireless network and software for student-teacher interaction.
Member libraries can request the use of the Mobile Lab and check its availability through the TLN web site.
The Mobile Lab has been very popular with libraries and has reservations booked for several weeks in advance. Over the last couple months, the Mobile Lab has been used in Hazel Park, Highland, Manchester, Pontiac, Redford, River Rouge, and White Lake.
As more library resources move to electronic formats, the expertise necessary to set up and deliver technology has become an important need for libraries. Thankfully, The Library Network can assist its member libraries with setting up local area networks, procuring new equipment, and providing research databases.
TLN staff helps libraries with planning, connecting and maintaining their local area networks. They can also aid with acquiring hardware quotes from Hewlett-Packard and Dell and provide a list of software and hardware vendors that libraries can use to purchase items at a discount.
Through funds distributed by the Library of Michigan and the Library Services and Technology Act federal program, The Library Network offers many electronic catalogs and databases that can be used to search journals, books, and reference collections. With over 18 categories of research catalogs and databases, TLN provides libraries with an essential piece of the research puzzle, giving library visitors and librarians more powerful tools to find information.
In addition, TLN subscribes to OverDrive Digital Media, giving its libraries and their visitors access to eBooks, audiobooks, and MP3 music files. By sharing the OverDrive subscription, The Library Network saves its members money for the downloadable media service.
Combined with its fiber-optic network and innovative Mobile Lab, The Library Network’s technology services perfectly compliment the efforts of Southeast Michigan libraries, delivering more research options, educational tools, and resources to their communities.
The Library Network is located in Southgate, Michigan. TLN has been a Member of Merit Network since 1993.