The State Library of North Carolina launched N.C. Cardinal at a few test sites in 2011, and it’s now grown to 35 counties across the state. Libraries in Johnston County, with the exception of Clayton, are planning to join the system next year.
The program is a boost for smaller libraries that have limited budgets and can’t afford to buy every title their communities might want. There’s also a benefit for library users who travel around the state: Their library cards also work at other libraries that participate in Cardinal.
Cardinal adds four or five new library systems each year – slow growth that allows state library officials to help with each launch. In 2014, library users checked out materials from the Cardinal system 7.9 million times – up from about 5 million the year before.
Cardinal has replaced more costly inter-library loan systems, which often involve fees for library users requesting something from outside their local collection.
State library officials hope to eventually have 70 percent of public libraries in North Carolina using Cardinal. The state spends about $700,000 to $800,000 annually on the program, with local libraries taking on a share of the cost after their first few years.
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