Interlibrary loan
Interlibrary loan is a service whereby a user of one library
In a traditional sense, a library is a large collection of books, and can refer to the place in which the collection is housed. Today, the term can refer to any collection, including digital sources, resources, and services...

 can borrow books or receive photocopies of documents that are owned by another library. The user makes a request with their local library, which, acting as an intermediary, identifies owners of the desired item, places the request, receives the item, makes it available to the user, and arranges for its return. The lending library usually sets the due date and overdue fees of the material borrowed. Although books and journal articles are the most frequently requested items, some libraries will lend audio recordings, video recordings, maps, sheet music, and microform
Microforms are any forms, either films or paper, containing microreproductions of documents for transmission, storage, reading, and printing. Microform images are commonly reduced to about one twenty-fifth of the original document size...

s of all kinds. In many cases, nominal fees accompany interlibrary loan services.

The term document delivery may also be used for a related service, namely the supply of journal articles and other copies on a personalized basis, whether these come from other libraries or direct from publishers. The end user is usually responsible for any fees, such as costs for postage or photocopying. Commercial document delivery services will borrow on behalf of any customer willing to pay their rates.

How interlibrary loan works

Interlibrary loan, or resource sharing, has two operations: borrowing and lending.
  • A borrowing library sends an owning library a request to borrow, photocopy, or scan materials needed by their patron.
  • The owning library fills the request by sending materials to the borrowing library or supplies a reason why it cannot fill the request.
  • If the item is sent, the borrowing library notifies the patron when the item arrives.

Interlibrary loan and resource sharing have a variety of systems and workflows, often based on the scale of service, regional networks, and library systems. Processes are automated by computer systems such as VDX based on ISO
International Organization for Standardization
The International Organization for Standardization , widely known as ISO, is an international standard-setting body composed of representatives from various national standards organizations. Founded on February 23, 1947, the organization promulgates worldwide proprietary, industrial and commercial...

 ILL standard
Standardization is the process of developing and implementing technical standards.The goals of standardization can be to help with independence of single suppliers , compatibility, interoperability, safety, repeatability, or quality....

s 10161
ISO 10161
ISO 10161 is the ISO standard that defines the interlibrary loan application protocol for communication between various document exchange systems. It allows ILL systems at different libraries and residing on different hardware platforms and using different software packages such as VDX to...

 and 10160
ISO 10160
ISO 10160 is the ISO standard that defines the terminology that is used for interlibrary loan transactions between various document exchange systems such as VDX. It is closely related to ISO 10161, the Interlibrary Loan Application Protocol....


Loan requests between branch libraries in the same local library system are usually filled promptly, while loan requests between library systems may take weeks to complete. However, if an item is rare, fragile, or exceptionally valuable, the owning library is under no obligation to release it for interlibrary loan. Some collections and volumes, especially bound journals and one-of-a-kind manuscripts, are non-circulating, meaning that they may not be borrowed. Books may be delivered by mail or courier service. Photocopies may be faxed or scanned and delivered electronically. Urgent requests are placed if the item is needed right away, sometimes for additional fees. Public libraries do not usually offer urgent service.

History in the United States

In 1886 U.L. Rowell, Librarian at the University of California, Berkeley, sought permission to begin Interlibrary Loan; his request was granted during the years 1894-1898.

In 1894 Rowell initiated U.C. Berkeley's first program of interlibrary lending, with the California State Library as partner. Later that year Rowell expanded the invitation for in a group of libraries such as NUCMC
NUCMC is the abbreviation for the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections. It is a national-level program based at the Library of Congress that seeks to promote free access to the documentary heritage of the United States. It does this by providing cataloging for archives and historical...

. Librarians then filled out on a standardized form (i.e. an ALA Interlibrary Loan Request Form 2002) and sent it by postal mail to a library that owned a copy. This procedure is still used by the few libraries that are not members of an electronic interlibrary loan network.

Since the mid-1980s, searching for books located at other libraries has become easier, as many libraries have enabled their users to search their online catalogs
An Online Public Access Catalog is an online database of materials held by a library or group of libraries...

 at the library or over the Internet
The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet protocol suite to serve billions of users worldwide...

. Today everyone can freely use
WorldCat is a union catalog which itemizes the collections of 72,000 libraries in 170 countries and territories which participate in the Online Computer Library Center global cooperative...

 to identify needed items that are not owned by their local libraries.

Resource sharing networks

Libraries have established voluntary associations, often on a regional basis, to provide an online union catalog
Union catalog
A union catalog is a combined library catalog describing the collections of a number of libraries. Union catalogs have been created in a range of media, including book format, microform, cards and more recently, networked electronic databases...

 of all the items held by all member libraries. Whenever a library adds a new title to its catalog, a copy of the record is also added to the union list. This allows librarians to quickly determine which other libraries hold an item. Software then facilitates the request and supply tasks. In the U.S., Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) is used by public and academic libraries. Formerly, another network RLIN (Research Libraries Information Network) was used primarily by academic libraries but merged with OCLC on October 1, 2007. Australia and New Zealand use Libraries Australia and New Zealand Libraries' Catalogue respectively, the national bibliographic networks of those countries.

Online requests are usually submitted via OCLC's WorldCat or FirstSearch in the United States. Libraries without access to either can participate in interlibrary loan by submitting requests by postal mail, fax, email, or telephone. These are referred to as manual requests. Manual requests can be submitted in the United States by using an ALA (American Library Association
American Library Association
The American Library Association is a non-profit organization based in the United States that promotes libraries and library education internationally. It is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with more than 62,000 members....

) Interlibrary Loan Form.

Some libraries establish reciprocal arrangements with each other to supply loans and copies for free. Examples of such arrangements in the United States include Libraries Very Interested in Sharing (LVIS), Amigos, Mid-America Association of Law Libraries (MAALL), Bibliographical Center for Research
Bibliographical Center for Research
Bibliographical Center for Research was a library cooperative and regional libraries network. Its members included over 8000 libraries in an 11-state region of the western United States. BCR was created in 1935 and was the nation’s oldest and most established multistate library cooperative...

, and the Greater Western Library Alliance (formerly the Big 12 Plus Library Consortium). Sometimes these arrangements include other services such as the Trans-Amigos Express (TAE) courier services which will ship and deliver items to Amigos members on the TAE route. Individual libraries can agree to reciprocal arrangements between each other.

Useful information for interlibrary loan users

  • Interlibrary loan policies vary from country to country and library to library.
  • New releases or high-demand titles (such as Harry Potter
    Harry Potter
    Harry Potter is a series of seven fantasy novels written by the British author J. K. Rowling. The books chronicle the adventures of the adolescent wizard Harry Potter and his best friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, all of whom are students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry...

    or The Da Vinci Code
    The Da Vinci Code
    The Da Vinci Code is a 2003 mystery-detective novel written by Dan Brown. It follows symbologist Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu as they investigate a murder in Paris's Louvre Museum and discover a battle between the Priory of Sion and Opus Dei over the possibility of Jesus having been married to...

    ) are not always immediately available through ILL because most libraries need to satisfy local demand first. Similar limitations apply to textbooks.
  • The patron requesting the item does not need to identify a library who owns it. Librarians offer this as a service for their patrons. For those who enjoy searching, however, the WorldCat website is the best place to look for items not owned by your local library. Many libraries have an online order form for interlibrary loan requests.
  • If an item is not available from libraries in your own country, it is possible, although sometimes difficult, to get it from another country. Neighboring countries should be tapped first for faster turnaround time. Insurance and shipping charges may be an issue. Check with your local interlibrary loan staff regarding questions on these charges and whether any costs will be passed on to you.
  • A rare book may be hard to obtain, but some libraries are willing to lend books that may be considered rare in other places. Rare items are almost always restricted to on-site use, meaning that the patron must use the book on library premises and will not be allowed to take it home. The alternatives are to look for a reprint or newer edition, search for the item at full-text or digitized book websites such as Project Gutenberg
    Project Gutenberg
    Project Gutenberg is a volunteer effort to digitize and archive cultural works, to "encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks". Founded in 1971 by Michael S. Hart, it is the oldest digital library. Most of the items in its collection are the full texts of public domain books...

     or Google Books, and if necessary, pay to have a microfilm copy made.
  • Journals
    Academic journal
    An academic journal is a peer-reviewed periodical in which scholarship relating to a particular academic discipline is published. Academic journals serve as forums for the introduction and presentation for scrutiny of new research, and the critique of existing research...

     are not usually loaned; rather, a photocopy is made of the needed article. Some sources charge a copyright
    Copyright is a legal concept, enacted by most governments, giving the creator of an original work exclusive rights to it, usually for a limited time...

     fee, which may be anywhere from $3 to $35 and sometimes higher. Policies vary about whether these fees are passed on to the patron.

Further reading

  • Boucher, Virginia. Interlibrary Loan Practices Handbook, 2nd Edition; American Library Association
    American Library Association
    The American Library Association is a non-profit organization based in the United States that promotes libraries and library education internationally. It is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with more than 62,000 members....

    , Chicago and London, 1997
  • 2008 Document Delivery - Best Practices and Vendor Scorecard—Outsell, Inc.
  • Journal of Library Administration
    Journal of Library Administration
    The Journal of Library Administration is a peer-reviewed academic journal that provides information on library management. It is published quarterly by Routledge, and was launched in 1980. Its current editor in chief is Sul H. Lee, Dean of University Libraries at the University of Oklahoma....

    ; Volume 23, Numbers 1/2, 1996

The leading journals in the field of interlibrary loan are:
  • Interlending and Document Supply
  • Journal of Access Services
  • Journal of Interlibrary Loan, Document Delivery and Electronic Reserve, Haworth Press
    Haworth Press
    Haworth Press was a publisher of scholarly, academic and trade books, and approximately 200 peer-reviewed academic journals. It was founded in 1978 by the publishing industry executives Bill Cohen and Patrick Mclaughlin. The name was taken from the township of Haworth in England, the home of the...

    . (Earlier title: Journal of Interlibrary Loan, Document Delivery & Information Supply).

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.