Part of the great thing of working in ILL is you get to see all of the books that come through for patrons. However, something that patrons should be aware of is when not to use an interlibrary loan request. Yes, most university libraries can borrow from most libraries in their network but not all material is equally ILL-able. Some simple steps taken by you as a patron may actually help you get the book faster than by using the ILL system. I may have missed some topics and I’m sure I’ll return to this in later posts but here are some tips to bear in mind when submitting an interlibrary loan request.
1. You can request whatever you want, that does not mean we can get it.
I know when you went through your new student orientation to become a freshly minted grad/faculty/adjunct they told you – and you can request whatever you want from interlibrary loan. Yes, you can request everything but you cannot have everything, or some things may have restrictions. When you’re in WorldCat take a look at who owns an item. For example, look up the title “Attitudinal change towards women’s values as experienced by Peace Corps volunteer women” a thesis by Bruce Hoffman. As you will see there is one library who owns this work. Chances are, they will not lend their only copy of this thesis. In this case it would be better to either suggest a purchase to the library or contact your department to see if it can be uncovered another way.
2. Do not request popular literature.
So you’ve heard about Game of Thrones on HBO and now you just have to read the book, right? Well, you’re not alone lots of people want this book and not just at your university. If your university owns a copy of this place a hold, don’t place an ILL. Here’s why. Any library that participates in interlibrary loan reserves the right to recall any book that has been borrowed if their patron asks for it. That means if you are a patron of Anytown Library and Anytown has just sent out their only copy of Game of Thrones to University X they will place a recall notice and the book will be returned to Anytown for you. But what if you are the student at University X, now your request has been canceled! It’s always better to be the primary patron if possible in this scenario. Libraries will bend over backwards for their patrons sooner than they will for other libraries patrons. If you are a university student, go to the nearest public library and put yourself on the hold list – don’t worry it’s not as long as it seems, usually they don’t let the person who is using it renew it if others are waiting.
3. Pay attention to due dates.
The ILL department does not set the due dates for any of the items we send out to you. You’re our patron and our priority, we would give you as much time as you want if we could. But we can’t. Whenever you keep a book for too long you run the risk of ruining our relationship with the lending library, which means when you do return the book they might never lend it to us again. Or they may block our account and not let us borrow anything from them until the book is brought back. This can be a huge problem if the library doing this to us is the Smithsonian or Library of Congress. Please don’t put us in this situation, keep an eye on the due date, request your renewal about a week in advance, if the school says no renewals be gracious and bring the book back in a timely manner. You can always request another copy.
4. If you don’t get your request right away, call or email us – don’t resubmit!
I understand your frustration, you placed a request two weeks ago, you’ve been waiting for your book and it still HAS NOT COME IN!!! Run to the computer and re-request it? NO! There are many reasons your request may seem to not be moving. First, here’s the broad strokes of how an ILL request works. Your request goes into the system and bounces out to schools who have lent things to us before. Each school gets three business days (read as: no Saturdays and Sundays) to try to fill the request. Then, if they cannot fill it, the request will go to the next school in the list. When a certain number of libraries have been tried, it bounces back the ILL department where we can either continue with another set of libraries or we contact you for questions. So what happens if you send in a new request while the first request is in the middle of going through this process? The system pulls out BOTH requests, puts them into the idle queue until a staff member has time to look at it and cancel the duplicate. So you’ve pulled your first request away from the school that might be filling it for you. Call or email the ILL department if it’s been longer than two weeks, it’s very unlikely that they’ve forgotten about your request, it may already be shipped and on its way in the mail but you won’t know unless you ask.
5. Only fill the notes field with information that will help us fill your request.
Please use the notes field, that’s how we know that you only want the 2nd edition, the 3rd volume, a copy of chapter 12 or would prefer only the illustrated edition. There are some notes that are nice but not necessary (ie. Thanks!). And there are some notes that make you seem obnoxious (ASAP, hurry, as soon as possible). We fill every request on a first come first served basis and do our best to fulfill every request, you are not our only patron and this is not the way to make yourself a favorite. Other things not to put in the notes field – your phone number, email or address. The notes in an ILL request form very often go out to any library who will be trying to fill your request, you may have just given your phone number to a stranger across the country, protect your personal information and we usually email you updates on your request, we won’t call if you put your phone number in the notes field. (Side note – this is not what the call number field means either; call numbers are for the book) Additionally, if your library (like ours) has a no textbook policy it’s not the best idea to try to game the system by putting in a note like “Home Library’s copy is on course reserves” or “I need this for class.” It is not fair to our students to request textbooks for some patrons and not others; there are not enough textbooks to go around so policy is that no textbooks may be requested. When you request a textbook, even if it slips through the system and we do not find it until it has arrived at the university, we will still send it back. Sending it back takes staff time on both ends of the request, it costs shipping and generally causes a lot of angry grumbling. Play by the rules, they’re in place for a reason.
That’s it for this week – let me know if these are helpful and I’ll continue to add more as the blog continues.
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