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Purchase on Demand (ILL Trends & Challenges)

Purchase-on-Demand for Interlibrary Loan in Minnesota

Minitex/MnLINK ILL Committee, January 27, 2011

Short History of Purchase-on-Demand Programs Through Interlibrary Loan

Purchase-on-demand (POD) is a program that gives the library an option to purchase an item once it is requested via interlibrary loan (ILL) by a patron. In the interlibrary loan process, purchase-on-demand may be used to fill a request in-house rather than requesting the item from another library to get the material.

Purchase-on-demand programs as part of the interlibrary loan service are gaining ground in Minnesota as they are throughout the country. Many academic and research libraries in the U.S. have conducted pilot studies over the last few years – The State University of New York, Ohio State University, Utah State University, and University of Southern Indiana – to name a few. Public libraries in Minnesota piloting purchase-on-demand include: Carver County Library, Rochester Public Library, Duluth Public Library, St Paul Public Library, Kitchigami Regional Library System, and Washington County Library System. Some academic libraries in Minnesota conducting POD programs through ILL are: Minnesota State University Mankato, University of Minnesota Duluth, Macalester College, and Concordia College, Moorhead. In all cases, the pilot studies were a success and the service will continue, if possible.

National Guidelines for Purchase-on-Demand Through Interlibrary Loan

Other than the National Interlibrary Loan Code, there are no national guidelines for POD thru interlibrary loan. Libraries choose the parameters that best match their needs for this service.

Issues for Purchase-on-Demand Programs Through Interlibrary Loan

What are the issues for purchase-on-demand thru Interlibrary Loan?

  • Budget – with declining dollars, trying to find more dollars for a purchase-on-demand program through interlibrary loan is challenging. In consortiums and large multi-branch systems, the participation/contribution is even more precarious. A number of libraries are funding purchase on demand programs through their acquisitions budget.
  • Efficiency – one of the reasons for POD programs are working is that they answer the customer's request in a quick and efficient manner. Setting up steps for the POD process is crucial for success. Good communication between the ILL and Acquisitions departments is required for the efficiency of the POD program.
  • Criteria – for POD in interlibrary loan it includes determining a price point, copyright date (recently published), material type, and it's suitability for the library's collection.
  • Suppliers – finding vendors to quickly supply the requested material.
  • Cataloging – determining whether or not the material will be cataloged before filling the ILL request.

General Criteria and/or Best Practices for Purchase-on-Demand Through Interlibrary Loan

In looking at the data from the different programs, nationally and in Minnesota, there are several criteria that are central and essentially the same in all the programs.

  • The price of a title does NOT exceed a predetermined amount set by the institution.
  • Textbooks are not ordered in academic libraries.
  • Publication dates older than a predetermined date set by the institution are not eligible.
  • Fiction titles are not ordered in academic libraries.
  • Titles selected for purchase-on-demand fit the institution's curriculum, for academic libraries.
  • Audiovisual materials with publication dates that are newer than a predetermined date set by the institution are not ordered in public libraries.

Various Other Criteria Listed for Purchase-on-Demand

  • No theses or dissertations are ordered in academic libraries.
  • The title can be purchased and available within an allotted time.
  • The title must be related to course-work or research for academic libraries.
  • Self-published works are not eligible for purchase-on-demand.
  • The title must be available through Amazon (or other book supplier used by the library).
  • The title must have been requested more than three times in the past year.

Comments on Success of Purchase-on-Demand Programs Through Interlibrary Loan

  • Libraries are guaranteed at least one circulation on the title purchased, and thus, the title is an asset to the collection. Many libraries reported that POD materials have a greater than average circulation for the collection.
  • Libraries are using their resources for purchases rather than borrowing materials.
  • Libraries can better meet the needs of the patrons.


Minnesota libraries, academic and public, are establishing purchase-on-demand programs through their interlibrary loan departments. A number of libraries across the country are doing the same. The general criteria listed by all libraries are price cap and date of copyright. Minnesota libraries seemed to have less formal procedures for their programs. National academic institutions seemed to have more budget, criteria and procedures in their programs. All the institutions we learned about are continuing the programs.

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