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Greening of Interlibrary Loan (ILL Trends & Challenges)

Guidelines for Reducing the Environmental Impact of Interlibrary Loan

Written by the Minitex/MnLINK ILL Committee, 2010.

OCLC Research recently conducted an important study on the environmental impact of current interlibrary loan practices. In May 2010, Dennis Massie, author of "Greening Interlibrary Loan Practices," presented a Greening interlibrary loan webinar discussing the recent findings. Minitex staff, on behalf of the University of Minnesota, participated in the research process for Massie's report.

Massie found that the largest environmental impacts in interlibrary loan operations are:

  • Packaging (the simple step of reusing ILL packaging materials can decrease greenhouse gas emissions by half)
  • Paper use
  • Shipping

Minnesota Libraries

We have the following advantages in reducing our ILL environmental impact:

  • Our libraries are connected in a regional environment.
  • Our libraries participate in a statewide delivery system.
  • Our libraries use a single pick/ship slip that eliminates paperwork.
  • Our ILL delivery best practices are shared and implemented quickly.
  • Our libraries encourage electronic delivery of materials. (MEDD)

Greening ILL Best Practices

Some libraries across the state have made an active effort to become more "green" when dealing with interlibrary loan. We have gathered some of the recommendations and welcome additional suggestions to this list.

General Best Practices:

  • Use "pick" slips as shipping slip for delivery and return.
  • Encourage the staff members who write your contracts for electronic materials and online journals to insert language allowing for the electronic transmission of articles for ILL purposes. This saves paper, time, and money. It also reduces the environmental impact of shipping paper copies.

Packaging Best Practices

  • Reuse durable packaging materials that contain recycled content.
  • Use padded mailers rather than corrugated cardboard, which is not recyclable.
  • Use bubble wrap rather than shredded paper padded envelopes, as they are sturdier and more readily reused.
  • Minimize packaging size for items to ensure items have the smallest packaging possible while still protecting the item.
  • Collect packaging and shipping materials from other library departments or from local sources (e.g. reuse acquisition packaging materials for ILL or check with local shipping companies or even beverage distributors for boxes).
  • Reuse Styrofoam peanuts (not recyclable), and only purchase corn starch peanuts. Please view the following vendor links for more information on corn starch packing peanuts:
  • Staples
  • Uline
  • Use reusable courier bags and bins. Unless you are shipping enough materials to fill a plastic bin, nylon bags are preferable to plastic bins, as they take up less space in delivery vehicles.

Paper Use Best Practices

  • Purchase paper with recycled content.
  • Use back sides of used paper that is printed on only one side to make new photocopies.
  • Scan and fax from computers directly without printing.
  • Set copier and printer defaults to double-sided.
  • Use the size-reduction feature set to the lowest readable size when copying.
  • Eliminate fax cover sheets by using "sticky" fax notes.
  • Use paperless billing and record-keeping.
  • Scan and save documents to a USB drive, instead of printing.
  • Communicate with patrons electronically.
  • Use native barcodes to eliminate the waste created by using temporary barcodes, paper wraps, and/or other labels.
  • Encourage the use of electronic materials whenever possible, including electronic delivery.

Shipping Best Practices

  • Use ground shipping when mailing out-of-region requests as ground transportation produces fewer emissions into the environment than air travel.
  • Use available local delivery options first, if they minimize delivery time and travel distances.

Contact Us

University of Minnesota
Wilson Library, Room 60
309 19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455

Phone: 612-624-4002
Toll-Free: 800-462-5348
Fax: 612-624-4508