The phone rang one morning, and it was a colleague and friend from the Newburyport Library (another library in my consortium). She had checked the catalog and found that Chelmsford had a copy of a book she was looking for on the shelf. She gave me a call number and a page number, and asked if I could fax it over to her.
No problem. The whole process took maybe ten minutes to find the book, copy the page, and send the fax, and we even had a nice little chat.
Later that afternoon, I got the following email message from her:
Thanks for the recipe---a patron called and was in the middle of cooking the soup when she realized she didn't have the whole recipe! The recipe you copied did have the last two steps she was missing so now her family can enjoy a big pot of minestrone tonight. 🙂
Not only did I get to help a friend and fellow librarian, but this simple act provided a positive library experience for a woman and her family thirty miles away.
There is always lots of talk about how important the local library is to its community. Which is true, but as this question shows, individual libraries don't exist in a vacuum. I think it's the spirit of networked cooperation between Public Libraries in general (and other types of libraries too) that is our true strength, and that's what allows us to have a positive impact on the lives of the people in our shared community.
At the risk of being too luddite-preachy, I would also like to point out the technology involved here: an opac, a telephone, a photocopier, and a fax machine. I use Library 2.0 tools all the time, but I like that a lot of good library work can still be done without flickr, Google apps, WordPress, del.icio.us, Twitter, Facebook, et. al.