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Notes from Executive Director Scott Garrison – May 2022

Addressing RIDES pricing equity throughout Michigan

We at MCLS have heard concerns regarding RIDES (Regional Interlibrary DElivery Service, the statewide library courier service in Michigan which MCLS facilitates) pricing equity for libraries in Michigan’s lower (LP) and upper (UP) peninsulas for some time, and I’m happy to share that our staff has worked hard this year to make RIDES base pricing more equitable for all participating libraries, beginning in July 2022. RIDES has a long and complicated story, and below are some basics about our new approach for our fiscal year 2023 (FY23). If you have questions about the details, please visit the RIDES pages on our website, or contact me at Our staff and I will help get your questions answered.

One important note is that achieving greater equity means that pricing for many libraries will decrease, and that pricing will increase for some. To account for this, and recognize that RIDES pricing is based on a set of interdependent variables that can be difficult to manage as libraries may alter their service levels during a given fiscal year, we plan to phase in our new pricing model over the next few years. During the phase-in, MCLS will use some reserve funds to assist libraries whose RIDES prices will rise, so they are not hit with large increases in a single year.

Here are some highlights of the story, from the past twelve months.

After we sent FY22 RIDES base pricing information to libraries last April, we heard from several UP libraries who were very concerned about the fact that their base prices were significantly higher than for LP libraries. As we worked to arrange a meeting with UP libraries, we also received a letter dated May 25, 2021, signed by libraries and cooperatives from throughout the state, which recognized some challenges RIDES has faced historically, from different funding streams to working with both ProMed (LP) and Waltco (UP) as RIDES couriers. The letter rightly asked, “that the costs for the statewide delivery system be equitably distributed to all who participate.” We met with several UP libraries on May 26, and to demonstrate that we took libraries’ concerns seriously, we agreed to hold FY21 RIDES pricing for FY22. To accomplish that, MCLS covered ProMed’s and Waltco’s price increases for FY22 out of our own funds. Our goal each year is for RIDES to break even. In recent years, MCLS has provided over $10,000 annually to cover a gap between RIDES revenue and costs.

Over the next several months, our staff worked to analyze our actual costs for RIDES anew, and determine how we could make RIDES pricing more equitable, as the letter had asked. Debbi Schaubman, our Shared Library Systems Manager, and I presented at the Upper Peninsula Region of Library Cooperation (UPRLC) online meeting in late September, highlighting some of the issues surrounding pricing and reaffirming our commitment to greater pricing equity. During the fall, I kept the MCLS Board of Directors informed, and along the way we also welcomed Lisa Waskin, director of the Superior District Library and a prominent UP library leader and earnest voice for RIDES pricing equity, to the MCLS Board as Michigan Public Library Representative (2022-2024).

By early 2022, Tara Kanon, MeLCat Support Specialist and Statewide Delivery Coordinator, and Janet LaCross, our business manager, had analyzed RIDES costs with fresh eyes, and reached a more equitable approach: equalizing the RIDES base per-stop price for 2-day-per-week service for all RIDES participating libraries throughout Michigan, and replacing our price-per-stop administrative fee with an annual participation fee of $130 that is the same for everyone. Our new model lowers the difference in 3-day and 5-day pricing between LP and UP libraries from between 20% and 30% to a much more manageable 3% (which accounts for the unavoidable fact that Waltco typically charges higher price increases annually than ProMed does).

As we understood going into the analysis, our new model does require price increases for some LP libraries. To help libraries with multiple direct delivery sites, we will cap the increase at 5% and cover the remainder with MCLS reserve funds for FY23. Most other LP libraries’ increases will be capped at 10%, with exceptions due to changes in volume or number of delivery days. We will also monitor how RIDES’ interdependent variables change during FY23, and will commit to capping increases and helping again for FY24 as needed. Our goal is to transition the full cost of RIDES subscriptions to all participating libraries by FY25, so that RIDES can break even into the future. 

We met with a group of LP and UP libraries and cooperatives this past March (including Lisa from Superior District Library) to lay out the basics of our new model, and our UP representatives expressed satisfaction and appreciation that we’ve achieved greater pricing equity. While we would have preferred to transition to the new model in a single year, we also know that libraries need time to plan their budgets, especially when costs rise. MCLS can help with a transition, and that is the right thing for us to do.

RIDES is one of MCLS’s most highly-valued services, and in peak years has moved over one million physical items between hundreds of libraries who participate in MeLCat across Michigan. As the organization who administers RIDES (including answering a steady stream of help desk tickets each year), we are keenly aware that the service isn’t “perfect.” I also know that our staff care deeply about providing the best service we possibly can with our courier partners. Tara and Janet did an amazing job crafting a more equitable pricing model, and I hope you’ll join me in thanking them for all their hard work.

Have a question or concern about RIDES service to your library? As always, please use the RIDES Assistance Form to submit them to our staff. We’ll help you as quickly as possible. Have a question or concern about other MCLS services? Let me know, at

Thank you as always for reading, and see you next month.