Monday, September 18, 2006

Interlibrary loan (ILL)

A staff person at Olin recently asked me why we had to proceed quickly in terms of, as she put it, overhauling ILL. Here is an edited version of my response to her. Of course, what I think is not necessarily what will end up happening, there need to be a lot more people involved than me.

Parenthetically, isn't it interesting that we always refer to the service as interlibrary lending not borrowing? My philosophy is that we lend our materials to other libraries so that we can borrow material for our users. Getting stuff that our users want is the real core service here

One of the services I heard about that our users, at least the ones who spoke to me, thought needed improving is ILL. I heard about it at my interview and I heard about it as soon as I arrived on campus. I have learnt that when this happens, you listen. One of the big issues most liberal arts college libraries face is that their collections are too small to satisfy their active faculty and student users. ILL can be one of the most effective ways to alleviate this pressure.

Here are some of the things we should be thinking about:
  1. Our policies regarding fees to users, limitations on the number or type of requests, how they place requests, and what we loan to other libraries. We need to think about whether what we do now best serves our users and if it does not can we change it.
  2. Are we making the best use of technology in ILL and in connection with ILL? Some of the things we have to think about here are an ILL management system (currently we use Clio) that will enable our users to request materials they find in a database without having to retype the bibliographic information (.i.e an Open URL compliant ILL system like Clio Advanced or Illiad. To implement that we would also need a Link Resolver that would enable our users to find licensed fulltext anywhere in our system. Take a look at Article Linker for an example. We need to consider ways of increasing borrowing turnaround like RapidILL We also need to think about ways to enable our users to track their own requests online, again take a look at Clio Advanced or Illiad to examples. We also need to maximize our use of Ariel so that we are not printing out articles for our users but posting them to a web server where our users can get them when they want them and sending our users a notifying e-mail. Finally, we need to think about ways we can maximize our use of the OCLC ILL subsystem with systems like custom holdings, direct borrowing etc.
  3. We need to think about why we lend twice as much as we borrow. We have a small collection and a smart student body and actively researching faculty. Why do we lend more than we borrow? My intuition tells me there are a number of answers to that question that include borrowing service level in ILL, direct cost of borrowing from Rollins for partner libraries, quality if not quantity of our collection, etc.
  4. Improving our resource sharing relationship with UCF. At the moment they are an active ILL partner and our users travel to UCF to borrow. We should think about a shared patron initiated borrowing service in which our users can borrow from the partner library quickly and easily without having to travel.
  5. Over the long term, the next decade, I want Rollins to be linked into statewide borrowing systems that rival OhioLINK and I-Share.
  6. The most important thing we need to think about is our customer service. We have to look at this from our users perspective. Are we giving them the service they want? LibQual will help answer some of this, we will also have to find other ways to answer this question.
Much of what I describe above can be investigated over time and implemented during the summer or at various breaks. There are some small things that I hope we can change quickly, others will take longer.

ILL is an important part of the array of library services. Just remember: what do our users want? Our goal should be to get it for them, with no hassles.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

A new faculty member recently told me that when he went looking for a book he had just ordered, he was surprised to find that it had gone out on ILL. This makes me wonder whether we should re-evaluate our lending policies and keep newly purchased items from going out to other libraries for a certain period of time.
Do other libraries have restrictions on lending new titles? If so, could this be one reason why we lend so much more than we borrow?

Naomi said...

Thanks for this great overview of fantastic possibilities before us with our Interlibrary Loan and Delivery Services. I've looked at info on Illiad and I was impressed of the capabilities. Article Linker is a great resource for keeping users informed of what and where to find items, if not online. I like bother products. I am not familiar with the latter one. Are we going to explore these soon?

Erika said...

Jonathan, I think our office at UConn has been pretty cutting edge regarding our policies and practices. In the past few years we have completely eliminated paper copies. Patrons must access their scanned documents online. This has streamlined our workflow and increased our delivery time. We also belong to RAPID (the academic and Boston Library Consortium pods) which is pretty amazing. Quite often we receive articles before the system knows we've even asked for them--sometimes within the hour. Patrons are amazed. We now belong to the BLC for returnables, often getting books within 24 hours. Our library is fortunate to be able to afford UPS as a delivery mechanism for our 5 regional campuses and for our outgoing material. The newest change is our purchasing VDX. It was a controversial move for our area head, since it seems no one is using the software the way we would, but she feels it will increase our turnaround time and be much less mediated. We'll see pretty soon, I guess! In terms of the collection, our office as a whole felt like the books were doing nobody any good sitting on the shelf; we try not to place limitations. If someone somewhere can use the item, we say let it go out. We're in the middle of altering our media and music policies to reflect this. Phew, that's all for now, just felt I had to chime in!

Erika said...

Jonathan, I think our office at UConn has been pretty cutting edge regarding our policies and practices. In the past few years we have completely eliminated paper copies. Patrons must access their scanned documents online. This has streamlined our workflow and increased our delivery time. We also belong to RAPID (the academic and Boston Library Consortium pods) which is pretty amazing. Quite often we receive articles before the system knows we've even asked for them--sometimes within the hour. Patrons are amazed. We now belong to the BLC for returnables, often getting books within 24 hours. Our library is fortunate to be able to afford UPS as a delivery mechanism for our 5 regional campuses and for our outgoing material. The newest change is our purchasing VDX. It was a controversial move for our area head, since it seems no one is using the software the way we would, but she feels it will increase our turnaround time and be much less mediated. We'll see pretty soon, I guess! In terms of the collection, our office as a whole felt like the books were doing nobody any good sitting on the shelf; we try not to place limitations. If someone somewhere can use the item, we say let it go out. We're in the middle of altering our media and music policies to reflect this. Phew, that's all for now, just felt I had to chime in!