The boards of the Arrowhead Library System (ALS) and the North Country Library Cooperative (NCLC), both of Mountain Iron, have voted to merge the two agencies.

The Arrowhead Library System was established in 1966 and is one of twelve regional public library systems that cover all 87 counties in Minnesota. ALS provides coordination, support, and technology for 29 public libraries in the seven-county Arrowhead region, as well as delivering services directly to residents via Bookmobile and Mail-A-Book services. The North Country Library Cooperative is one of the state’s seven “multi-county, multi-type” library cooperatives designed to foster cooperation between all types of libraries: public libraries, K-12 school libraries, academic/higher education libraries, and special libraries in public and private agencies.

Both agencies serve the same geographic area, and there are commonalities in some of our services. NCLC has leased office space from ALS since 2002. There has often been confusion about the distinctions between the two agencies on the part of our customers and some officials. As we began to look at operational efficiencies, particularly in these challenging economic times, a possible merger of the two library systems became a viable option.

The merger will become official with approval by the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Education to designate the Arrowhead Library System as the “multi-county, multi-type” library system for northeastern Minnesota. The merger will be effective July 1, 2012. During this transition, the two agencies will engage in a collaborative strategic planning process to determine service priorities, staffing needs, and other administrative and operational functions. The boards of the two agencies would not have approved the merger unless they felt the end result would be improved services.

Questions about the merger should be directed to me, Jim Weikum, ALS Executive Director, at (218) 741-3840 or jweikum@alslib.info .