College library system partners with Williamsburg Regional Library

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Students, faculty and staff at the College can now receive library privileges at Williamsburg Regional Library with their William and Mary ID. COURTESY PHOTO / TAMI C. BACK

The William and Mary Libraries and the Williamsburg Regional Library recently announced a newly established partnership April 8 in honor of National Library Week. The program formalizes the relationship between the two libraries and increases community members’ access to library resources by allowing inter-library lending.

The partnership constitutes a commitment on the part of both libraries to continue their collaborative efforts. The partnership aims to make library collections more accessible, encourage collaborative programming, and promote lifelong learning. 

The primary component of this partnership is the reciprocal borrowing privileges agreement, which grants WRL cardholders and those affiliated with the College the ability to borrow resources from both institutions. The conditions of these borrowing privileges are stipulated in the Partnership Agreement. 

Previously, access to WRL resources was limited only to those whose primary residence was located in a city or county that funds the WRL. Now, with the College’s partnership, College students, faculty and staff who may live outside of the City of Williamsburg, James City County or York County can now apply to receive an enhanced privilege WRL library card at no additional cost, upon presentation of a valid ID from the College. Enhanced privilege WRL cardholders are allowed to borrow up to 32 items from both the James City County Library and the Williamsburg Regional Library, are given access to online collections and can download digital resources.

“We heard from a lot of staff who wanted to use WRL because of the proximity to their workplace,” Back said. “There are a significant number of people who commute from Richmond, Surry, Hampton and other areas, and it can be challenging to find time to visit your local library when you spend most of your days away from home.”

William and Mary Libraries Director of Communications and Strategic Planning Tami Back is optimistic about the partnership and the benefits that WRL access will have for the College’s students, faculty and staff. 

“We heard from a lot of staff who wanted to use WRL because of the proximity to their workplace,” Back said. “There are a significant number of people who commute from Richmond, Surry, Hampton and other areas, and it can be challenging to find time to visit your local library when you spend most of your days away from home.”

Similarly, anyone eligible for a WRL card will now be able to open an account with the William and Mary Libraries upon showing a photo ID and proof of address. They will be granted William and Mary Libraries visitor privileges at no additional cost, foregoing the previous $100 visitor account charge. This means that they will be given borrowing privileges from the majority of the College’s libraries, including its Earl Gregg Swem Library, Swem Offsite Storage, Music Library, Chemistry Library and Physics Library locations, but will not be able to check out equipment or have remote access to any of the library’s licensed electronic resources. 

This agreement provides residents, who previously had to request William and Mary Libraries resources through the WRL as inter-library loans, with a simplified borrowing process. 

“By taking down the barriers of having them have to work through inter-library loan it allows them to now go to Swem and borrow directly,” WRL Assistant Director Janet Crowther said. “I think it’s a real strength for the entire community.”  

In addition to increasing users’ borrowing privileges, the two institutions will continue to work together on community programming opportunities and expanding inter-library loan services. 

This includes collaboration on specific projects, such as combining each institution’s expertise for genealogy, and promoting each other’s programs to their respective audiences. 

“As one community we kind of complement and offer a lot of resources that we can bring to programs,” Crowther said. “[The partnership agreement] gives a structure to have more of an ongoing conversation about what’s possible by working library to library.”

Though representatives from both libraries only began developing this agreement in December 2017, William and Mary Libraries and the WRL have a long history of collaboration. The two institutions have had an on-and-off agreement of inter-library loaning for the past 14-15 years. Looking to have a greater influence on the community, Dean of University Libraries Carrie Cooper recently reached out to WRL Director Besty Fowler to initiate formalization of the two institutions’ collaborative relationship. 

“I could not be more thrilled to see this vision come to fruition,” Cooper said in a press release. “It’s been a goal for many years. Our community is best served when we work together toward common goals, and increasing access to library resources is undoubtedly one of those goals.”

William and Mary Libraries Associate Dean of Research and Public Services Lisa Nickel said she was optimistic about the possibility of further collaboration between the two libraries. 

“We think there is so much potential for our libraries to work together more closely in the future,” Nickel said in an email. “We’ve already spoken with WRL about events in the fall that we would like to partner on, like Frankenreads (a celebration of the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein).”

Crowther finds this partnership to be a natural progression of the institutions’ relationship with each other. 

“I think that libraries historically, whether you’re an academic or a public library, we try to think of the end user and what’s going to be best for them and so I don’t think the idea of libraries working together is all that unusual,” Crowther said.

“I think that libraries historically, whether you’re an academic or a public library, we try to think of the end user and what’s going to be best for them and so I don’t think the idea of libraries working together is all that unusual,” Crowther said.

The partnership agreement extends from Jan. 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019. Representatives from each institution will meet quarterly to review the agreement and discuss any potential new opportunities for collaboration. 

Once the current agreement expires, Fowler, Cooper and their respective partnership teams will revise the document if need be and decide whether to renew it for another year.