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ARL White Paper on Interlibrary Loan

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Interlibrary (ILL) loan services supplement libraries’ collections by obtaining
materials needed for research, scholarship and private study that are not
available at a user’s home institution. Research and academic libraries place ILL
requests on behalf of faculty, staff, and students for returnable items (e.g., books,
audiovisual items, microfilms) and non-returnable items (e.g., copies of journal
articles, conference papers) usually to obtain material out of scope for the
collection or to support a specialized research interest of one of their users. Many
research and academic libraries send reports of items requested on interlibrary
loan to their selectors/bibliographers so they can review these requests for
possible purchase and addition to the collection. Generally, the journals and
books libraries request on ILL are ones they would not purchase because they are
out of scope. These policies are carefully considered and reviewed to ensure that
they reflect the research interests of the institution.
Research and academic libraries provide ILL services only to their own
clearly defined user community. Since ILL services are costly to operate, libraries
attempt to control the volume of lending requests that they handle. Research and
academic libraries set up reciprocal arrangements with very specific and limited
numbers of partner libraries. Fees are charged to libraries not in those consortial
arrangements to set up a barrier for non-reciprocal sites and discourage use of
interlibrary loan. The majority of ILL work is reciprocal; charges are made for
only a small percentage of requests. That small amount of revenue generated
provides only a fraction of the operating expenses of ILL activity


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