Interlibrary loan

Interlibrary loan (abbreviated ILL, and sometimes called interloan, interlending, document delivery, document supply, resource sharing, or interlibrary services, abbreviated ILS) is a service where patrons of one library can borrow materials and receive photocopies of documents that are owned by another library. The user makes a request with a library, which identifies libraries with the desired item, places the request, receives the item, gives it to the user, and arranges for its return. In some cases, fees accompany interlibrary loan services.

Procedures and methods

Picking up books requested through interlibrary loan

A borrowing library sends, on behalf of its patron, a borrowing request to an owning library for original, photocopy, or scan materials. The owning library sends materials to the borrowing library or supplies a reason for why the request cannot be filled.

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. Two major systems used are ILLiad[1] and Worldshare Management System.[2]

Interlibrary loan provides users with access to articles from journals that their library does not own. Many journal or database licenses specify whether a library can or cannot supply journal articles via ILL, with many libraries negotiating for ILL to be allowed in licenses.[3] In the early 1990s, the Research Library Group (RLG) created and released Ariel, a software that made communicating both photocopies and native digital articles more efficient.[4] In the early 2000s, Atlas Systems, creators of ILLiad, created Odyssey, which allowed for direct communication of articles between libraries, and ultimately direct sending of articles to library patrons.[5] OCLC created Article Exchange, a cloud-based article sharing platform that automatically deletes articles after a specified number of downloads and/or a number of days.[6]

Medical libraries primarily use DOCLINE, developed by the National Library of Medicine, which comprises libraries in the National Network of Libraries of Medicine.[7]

Link+ is an interlibrary loan scheme in California and Nevada,[8][9] and OhioLINK is the system used in Ohio, where the catalogs and databases of state libraries are joined electronically.[10]



Kate Edith Pierce became the chair of the newly formed East Midlands Regional Library Bureau in 1935. This had been enabled by Carnegie Trust funding and it enabled "Inter-Library Lending".[11]

United States

Joseph C. Rowell

In 1886, Joseph C. Rowell, librarian at the University of California, Berkeley, sought permission to begin interlibrary loan; his request was granted sometime during 1894–1898.

In 1894, Rowell initiated U.C. Berkeley's first program of interlibrary lending in California State Library. Later that year, Rowell expanded the invitation for a group of libraries, such as NUCMC. Librarians then filled out the 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 libraries that are not members of an electronic interlibrary loan network.

In 1994, the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) of the ALA (America Library Association) formed an ALA Interlibrary Loan Code for the United States, which sought to establish resource sharing as a core service and to provide guidelines for libraries.[12] The RUSA section on Resource Sharing has also engaged in initiatives to expand resource sharing, including the Rethinking Resource Sharing Initiative[13] and Committee.[14]

The Ohio State University and others in Ohio began integrating campus library systems at an early date. In the 1960s, state funds supported development of the Ohio College Library Center (now the Online Computer Library Center). OCLC has since grown into an international organization with a database of 30 million entries representing materials held in more than 10,000 libraries.

Resource sharing networks

Libraries have established voluntary associations, often on a regional basis, to provide an online union catalog of all 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. Software facilitates ILL requests and supplies tasks. In the U.S., 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[15] 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 call, referred to as manual requests. Manual requests can be submitted in the United States through the American Library Association.

Some libraries establish arrangements with each other to furnish loans and copies for free. These can be national or regional, as with Libraries Very Interested in Sharing (LVIS),[16] Amigos,[17] the Mid-America Association of Law Libraries (MAALL),[18] the Bibliographical Center for Research, and the Greater Western Library Alliance;[19] they can also be local, between libraries who have an administrative organization in common, as with the Washington County Cooperative Library Services, the Whatcom County Library System, or the Minuteman Library Network. Individual libraries may also agree to arrangements with one another outside of any particular organization. Organizations that facilitate reciprocal borrowing may provision other services, such as a courier network for materials (as with the Trans-Amigos Express[20]) or a union catalog for use by patrons of all member libraries (especially in local-level arrangements).


  1. "ILLiad: Atlas Systems". Retrieved 2016-03-24.
  2. "WorldShare Management Services". OCLC. Retrieved April 13, 2022.
  3. Croft, Janet Brennan (2005-05-31). "Interlibrary Loan and Licensing". Journal of Library Administration. 42 (3–4): 41–53. doi:10.1300/J111v42n03_03. ISSN 0193-0826. S2CID 152664274.
  4. "Ariel".
  5. "Odyssey". 25 September 2018.
  6. "Article Exchange". 30 April 2020.
  7. "DOCLINE® System". Retrieved 2016-03-24.
  8. Aggarwal, Anil (2000). Web-Based Learning and Teaching Technologies: Opportunities and Challenges. Idea Group Inc. p. 21. ISBN 978-1-878289-60-5. OCLC 43095789.
  9. "Link+ Catalog". 2012. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
  10. "What Is OhioLINK". 2012. Archived from the original on February 6, 2012. Retrieved 4 March 2012. OhioLINK
  11. Kerslake, Evelyn (2014-09-25). "Pierce, Kate Edith (1873–1966), librarian". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. 1 (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/70123. ISBN 978-0-19-861412-8. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  12. "Interlibrary Loan Code for the United States". RUSA. 29 September 2008. Retrieved April 13, 2022.
  13. "Homepage". Rethinking Resource Sharing Initiative. Retrieved April 13, 2022.
  14. "Rethinking Resource Sharing Policies Committee". RUSA. 9 March 2007. Retrieved April 13, 2022.
  15. "Te Puna Search". National Library of New Zealand. Retrieved April 13, 2022.
  16. "Libraries Very Interested in Sharing".
  17. "Amigos Library Services - Resource Sharing Through Technology".
  18. "Mid-America Association of Law Libraries". Retrieved 2013-12-31.
  19. "GWLA". GWLA. Retrieved 2013-12-31.
  20. "Trans-Amigos Express | Amigos Library Services". Retrieved 2020-12-16.

Further reading

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