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Interlibrary Loan:Policies, Trends and Practices By Sean Eisele and Elizabeth Walker
DefinitionInterlibrary loan is defined simply as:• the process by which a library requests materials from, or supplies materials to, another library (ALA definiton)Purpose: For that crucial resource you cannotfind at your own library.
In the context of an academic library:Only a few elite universities (i.e. Ivy League)have such a vast collection that this service isnot necessary. It is used primarily by faculty overstudents as a patron base, and more extensivelyin small colleges. (See Applegate, page 309)
Goals of interlibrary loan in an academic library:• Serving disciplinary researchers• Reducing cost of ordering books (or other costly materials) based on demand
• Other important notes:• Some libraries are able to fulfill most or all interlibrary loan requests with a turn around time of only a couple of days. These types of libraries are smaller, and have a collection based on materials other than books, such as a periodical/journal collection.• Reciprocal borrowing arrangements are done by joining a consortium. The consortium is the basis of interlibrary loan agreements.
Benefits of a consortium:• Expands each institutions collection• Unique collections are able to take the spotlight
What is the process?The process for interlibrary loan determines thepolicies and agreements that each participatinglibrary practices.
• Patrons go through a process of requesting the Interlibrary loan via citation of an unavailable item.• A free user account is then created• The library picks up all requests by patrons, often via ILLiad software (OCLC product designed to manage ILL requests via the web)
The rest is up to the appropriate librarian. They areespecially checking for any copyrightviolations, when journals are involved. There is afive item limit. Books do not undergo the copyrightprocess.*Many libraries moving in favor of openaccess, where all of their journal articles are freeand open to the public online.
The policy is that five lenders must be chosenfor a “lending string.” ILLiad software willfacilitate the process by managing the requestsand checking the available lenders.
How do they send it?Method of delivery is based on the item itself. Itcould be through:• Physical delivery to another library, sometimes through a subscribed courier service• Electronic retrieval, automated e-mail and copy available on ILLiad account
Down the lending stringMaterials in a patron’s queue are searched forfrom the first available library to fulfill therequest. An item can make it through thelending string without being fulfilled.Sometimes requests are declined based onspecial stipulations from the lending institution(i.e., payment arrangement for microfilm)
Trends are changing policy!Examples:• Lending audiovisual materials• Using e-readers• Hiring MLS graduates to work in ILL departments• Open access
ConclusionExploring new trends for ILL: Fast, cheap, and easy at last?Joyce Neujahr, in her article, "Lightening fast interlibraryloan" describes the basic dilemma with interlibrary loanas always involving combinations of fast, cheap, or easy,but never all three in an ideal way. Fast and easy is nevercheap. Cheap and easy is never fast. Fast and cheap isnever easy. With some innovation and creativity, fast,cheap, and easy could become a reality for Interlibraryloan.