Streamlining ILL Processing (ILL Trends & Challenges)

Written by Dianne Schmidt, 2010.

Sometimes we get ourselves in a rut when it comes to our job. We're stuck doing things the same way we did them in the 90s. I hope some of these ideas will help you get out of that rut or make you think of some new ways to process your interlibrary loan requests.


If the unmediated process is available to you, do it. Having your requests go unmediated will cut down on your searching time.

Are you searching multiple catalogs before you find what you are looking for?

  • Aleph, MnLINK, and OCLC are a few that come to mind. Ever thought about searching just one? When I'm searching I use WorldCat. By using WorldCat, you are linked to all types of libraries: academic, public, private, and state. You can still check to see if the item is available to circulate by clicking on the library name. Yes, I still occasionally use Aleph or MnLINK.
  • If you still need to search multiple catalogs and you have a lot of requests, search all of your requests in one catalog at a time and then move on to the next catalog.

I also started searching Google. It is amazing what a person will find, even those hard to located items. I have found old and new items that are full text and free.

This idea might not be available to everyone right now, but it's wonderful. I have two monitors connected to one computer. I thought, at first, I don't need two monitors taking up space on my desk. Now, I would not be without them; I just love having two monitors.

Having two monitors lets you have multiple screens up and open at the same time. When searching you can have your ILL program open plus Aleph, MnLINK, OCLC/WorldCat, or whichever catalog/program you want on the two monitors. This saves you a lot of time, no going back and forth from one program to another, no minimizing or maximizing. If the budget is short right now, check with your computer center or maybe you have an extra monitor in the library. You just need two video cards or a single video card with two monitor connections.

Receiving Items

I'm not sure if a person can do a lot of streamlining in receiving. But if you have a multiple step process, try doing one step at a time. This way if you get interrupted you will not forget where you are in the process.


  • Check in books separately. DO NOT USE THE BULK CHECK-IN.
  • Clearly write or stamp the due date on the paperwork, so the patron knows when the item is due.


  • If your system allows you, use the "bulk check-in" for articles.

Returning Items

  • If the paperwork is missing, print a copy of the request or write the request number on a post-it note. This will help the lending library check the book in.

Housekeeping Ideas

Here are a few ideas to help you with the daily/weekly workflow:


  • Check your message files, borrowing and lending, daily. Try the first thing in the morning and when you get back from lunch.
  • Check your renewal requests daily. You can do this when you are checking your messages.


  • Work on overdues once a week. Pick a day and time that is convenient to your schedule. Friday is my day.
  • Remember to check the due dates on items that haven't been picked up yet. You will want get those sent back to the lending library.
  • Check the status on your "shipped" items in borrowing and "return" items in lending. You will want to notify the library on the other end if there is a problem with the delivery.

I know that we all have our own protocols to follow, but I hope this helps or at least gets you thinking about different ways to streamline your work. If you have an idea about ways to streamline and want to share, let us know.

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