Sharing Remotely: Interlibrary Loan Now

The librarians and library resource sharing specialists at the Graduate Center Library, today, as always, understand that interlibrary loan services are essential for meeting the information needs of our community. So, even now, when we cannot access so much of the invaluable print material that people need, or receive or send items through the mail, because so many library stacks are closed, we continue to process requests and borrow and lend digital material according to fair use and copyright guidelines and license terms. In fact, since mid-March 2020 we have supplied over 1,000 borrowing requests, almost 1,000 lending requests and found over 100 more locally available items. And we just completed our 600,000th request on our current ILL system. (Thanks to the whole ILL team: Silvia Cho, Rachael Cleary, Mert Erdem, Herbie Pollard and Diana Teeter!)

The GC community requests items—articles, book chapters, books, media items, conference papers, dissertations, entire boxes of microfilm rolls, to mention a few—from libraries near and far.  We also supply information to other libraries, helping fill the information needs of students, researchers, and readers beyond the GC. We are now lending to other libraries as much as we borrow from them, which is novel, as we usually borrow more heavily than we lend, thanks to the generosity of other libraries. So it is especially gratifying to be able to help other libraries—and through them, library users—that are facing such great need during these times.

We did not expect to face this milestone while away from our library. Nor were we sure how many requests we could help people with as libraries developed new policies and procedures. But we are not surprised that now, more than ever, interlibrary loan remains an essential and vital service that our library provides to the GC community, helping support education, research and scholarship no matter where you or we are. And, we are able to do this, at this time, precisely because interlibrary loan has always been about networks and collaboration.  We rely on the collections and colleagues in our library, as well as those of libraries all over the world, working together.

To better serve the community during these times, interlibrary loan is taking new approaches to expand access.  We are reviewing the application of fair use and copyright guidelines during crisis times. We are looking at e-book license terms to utilize interlibrary loan for e-books to the maximum possible extent.  We are working closely with our library’s E-book Detective Service to direct those requests that cannot be filled via interlibrary loan at this time. We are updating the look of our ILL request pages. We are volunteering to lend to libraries outside of our existing networks, many of them international libraries, who would not otherwise have as much needed access to information.  We are keeping track of materials that we cannot borrow so that we can follow up with you later, as library spaces become accessible again. And we remain actively in conversation with colleagues in different networks and consortia, navigating these uncertain times in a collaborative way so that we may all thrive.

We know that staying safe, taking care of loved ones, and nurturing our communities is our first priority during these times of COVID-19. And, we know that education, research and scholarship also remain important. So, we remain ready, willing and able to support your work. As we always say, if you cannot find something, please request it and we will try our very best to find it!


Photo: Image by Ahmad Ardity from Pixabay


About the Author

Beth Posner is the Head of Library Resource Sharing at The CUNY Graduate Center Library.