Increasing Volume of Requests (ILL Trends & Challenges)

Libraries across the region have seen an increase in patron requests for their materials. While we love that patrons benefit from our materials and services, the increasing number of requests and increased delivery are creating staffing and collection challenges for all libraries. As collection budgets are reduced or remain flat at best, the stress of meeting increased demand on collections is difficult to ignore. Materials wear out more quickly and new materials are seldom on browsing shelves at local libraries. User expectations have changed with increasing Internet information sources. Users now define success by the speed of access, choice of delivery method and, ultimately, the delivery speed of the information to their location.

Collaborative Solutions

Developing a system-wide or regional-wide approach to collection development and purchasing materials for our libraries may be a possible solution. One potential area of collaboration is for the regional public library systems to provide a professional collection for the region's use. This type of collection would free up additional dollars locally for public collections. Other types of library systems could implement a similar process.

Wider access to materials using partners in multitype libraries and other collections including museums, archives, and vendor (new and used) collections will be critical to ILL success. Some challenging ideas to consider are:

  • Floating collections between systems
  • Purchase on demand and give to requestor
  • User option to purchase and donate to library
  • Direct delivery to patrons from lending library
  • 7-day per week delivery
  • No due dates, no overdues, automatic renewals

Collection partners from the public and private sector can drive down costs of ILL. Using Netflix, Amazon, Google, Elsevier, or even Librarything can create a link from patron to materials without involving library staff.

Other possibilities to consider are:

  • Purchasing two copies of specific popular titles (DVDs, etc.)
  • Implementation of Publication/Date Cost check
  • Print on-demand option (Barnes & Noble)

Best Practices in Staffing

Staffing reductions combined with increasing workloads create a stronger need to prioritize tasks and establish the most efficient workflow in each library. Best practices in staffing can be shared among libraries to help everyone improve their services in circulation, interlibrary loan, and handling materials. When library staff members agree to standards, such as a faster turnaround time for processing requests, everyone will understand the importance of these services.

Collecting best work methods and practices will help staff develop a work plan that meets the needs of patrons. The most difficult part of implementing best practices can be changing long-standing practices, many of which have served libraries well in the past. Staying open to new ideas and methods can help libraries keep up with patron demand.

NCIP & Other Technological Solutions

The advancement of technology may be another solution to this issue. NCIP, a national standard for sharing circulation and ILL information between various ILS, is being implemented across Minnesota. The process of sharing information helps reduce the amount of processing and paperwork in ILL. Streamlining the work process for library staff will benefit patrons in the future. Other standards, such as Z39.50, ISO ILL, OpenURL, and SIP2, also contribute to improved end-user satisfaction.

Other Interesting Information

Mary E. Jackson's presentation, Resource Sharing: More Than Just Numbers, provides some key values of users that need to be incorporated into our ILL services. These are:

  • Fast access and delivery
  • Predictable delivery time and tracking
  • Easy to use, standard interfaces for seeking information
  • Seamless service
  • Barrier-free services
  • A consistent set of circulation rules for all materials, including ILL materials

Rethinking Resource Sharing contains a great collection of documents and ideas, including a document that outlines the user-centric model for resource sharing. This model includes:

  • Restrictions shall only be imposed as necessary by individual institutions with the goal that the lowest-possible-barriers-to-fulfillment are presented to the user.
  • Library users shall be given appropriate options for delivery format, method of delivery, and fulfillment type, including loan, copy, digital copy, and purchase.
  • Global access to sharable resources shall be encouraged through formal and informal networking agreements with the goal towards lowest-barrier-to-fulfillment.
  • Sharable resources shall include those held in cultural institutions of all sorts: libraries, archives, museums, and the expertise of those employed in such places.
  • Reference services are a vital component to resource sharing and delivery and shall be made readily accessible from any initial "can’t supply this" response. No material that is findable should be totally unattainable.
  • Libraries should offer service at a fair price rather than refuse but should strive to achieve services that are not more expensive than commercial services (ex. Bookstores).
  • Library registration should be as easy as signing up for commercial web-based services. Everyone can be a library user.

Contact Us

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

Phone: 612-624-4002
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