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Jefferson County Free Library Bookmobile early 1900s History and Purpose

Jefferson County Library Cooperative (JCLC) started doing business as The Public Libraries in Jefferson County (PLJC) June, 2013. PLJC is the name for the consortium of public libraries in Jefferson County. The administrative office of the organization is housed at Birmingham Public Central Library. There has been some type of countywide public library service since 1924; however, it was in 1978 that no-fee service for all citizens of Jefferson County was established. The organization was restructured as Birmingham Area Library Services in 1985 under the guidelines for systems issued by the Alabama Public Library Service. Renamed the Jefferson County Library Cooperative in 1997, the organization continues under its formal establishment as a not-for-profit educational organization. This enables PLJC to apply for grants, and to enter into joint purchasing agreements on behalf of its member public libraries. The Internal Revenue Service recognizes the organization as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt educational organization. PLJC revenue is derived from State Aid to Public Libraries, fees for cooperative services paid by member libraries, and until 2011 the Jefferson County Commission. After 33 years the Commission cut PLJC from its budget in 2011.

As members of a cooperative library system, each public library in Jefferson County, including the Birmingham Public Library, maintains its autonomy. Each has its own board, hires its own director, obtains and spends its own budget. As members of a cooperative system, however, the libraries work together to provide service to all citizens of Jefferson County and to agree upon policies which will make it easier for patrons to use libraries throughout the county.

The Public Libraries in Jefferson County coordinates and/or provides services for its members. PLJC contracts with the Birmingham Public Library for provision of certain countywide services such as automation, Books-by-Mail, delivery van service, cataloging, etc.

The most visible service is the operation of the automated library system, which integrates modules for acquisitions, serials control, cataloging, and circulation. This creates an online public access catalog (OPAC). The current software vendor for this system is Innovative Interfaces. PLJC owns the central computer equipment and operates and maintains the network of resources such as Internet access and full text databases in accordance with policies established by the directors of the member libraries.

PLJC is also the fiduciary agent for state and county funds expended within Jefferson County. The Alabama Public Library Service sends all state aid for Jefferson County libraries to PLJC. Those funds are then distributed to libraries Within Jefferson County based on a formula established by the state legislature, based on population. PLJC has no discretionary authority over those funds beyond those established by law. The organization must account to the state for the expenditure and proper reporting of state aid. PLJC is the organization officially responsible for applying for, and qualifying for, all state aid distributed within Jefferson County.

Revised July 2013