Section I: Purpose and Overview of Interlibrary Loan
A goal for most of today’s libraries is to provide all of their users with the information they need or want, when they need or want it. Reality intrudes through issues related to space, budgets, availability, etc. and prevents most libraries from reaching the ideal of this goal, though the spirit of it is still quite relevant. Interlibrary loan (ILL) exists to help bridge that gap between the ideal and the real worlds. However, ILL does not replace responsible collection development.
Interlibrary loan has been in existence in American libraries for well over 100 years. The idea of cooperative borrowing and lending, to aid and expand the options in any particular library’s collection, has been a welcome one embraced by the library community. Because improving access to information also improves the mission of a library, libraries today increasingly participate in networks and cooperative groups for the purpose of ILL.
The shared catalogs that are one product of library networks give their members easy access to a broader range of materials than any single library could afford to collect on its own. Networks also provide an administrative structure for working out cooperative guidelines for the process of sharing resources.
Interlibrary loan is not intended to be a fair or free process. Some libraries will always loan more than they borrow, and some will be the other way around. Some libraries will charge to recover some of their costs for the processing and time taken to provide this service, and other libraries will consider it a part of their overall information options and make it available for free.
Either way, ILL transactions will cost between $10 and $20 per item in staff time and delivery costs. Because this service, like many in libraries, has a price attached to it whether it is covered specifically or not, it is important for all of the libraries involved in ILL to be considerate in and cognizant of the ILL process and aware of how each library can cooperate more fully in the various steps. This will help the ILL program to flow most easily and reliably from one library to another, ultimately adding to the provision of information for all libraries involved.
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