Borrowing From Our Users to Fill #ILL Requests

SMB Library loans desk
Image by moonflowerdragon via Flickr

Here is something that I have been thinking about for a few months now.

When a user can’t find an item in our catalog they go to ILL. ILL then contacts various libraries to see if they would lend the item in question. What if ILL instead contacted local users who have volunteered their personal library “holdings” as potential lenders?

I am calling this Patron-to-Patron Lending. Here’s what it would look like: The loaning local user would bring their book to the ILL office. ILL would then check out the book for a typical checkout period to the borrowing local user. When finished with the item, the borrower would then return the book to the ILL office to be returned to the loaner.

The borrowing patron would never know their request was filled by a local user; ILL would be the full mediator of the exchange.

This could also have implications for items that we do own but are currently checked out. This could be a way to alleviate pressure on long queues for holds on popular items.

Is anybody doing something like this? I have done some extensive searches but come up empty. Maybe not using the correct keywords? I would be really shocked if no one has ever thought of this.

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15 Responses to Borrowing From Our Users to Fill #ILL Requests

  1. […] to Patron Borrowing…08.13.09 13 08 2009 Thanks to the Shaping Libraries posting Borrowing From Our Users to Fill #ILL Requests for this interesting […]

  2. Great, you might look at 2 of the most successful reader peer to peer sharing services;

    Readers have successfully created a direct delivery program that is very cost effective, efficient. Last year, Paperbackswap exchanged about as many as 1/5 of the OCLC returnable traffic. Readers Rock & Deliver!

  3. […] Shaping Libraries – “Here is something that I have been thinking about for a few months now. When a user can’t find an item in our catalog they go to ILL. ILL then contacts various libraries to see if they would lend the item in question. What if ILL instead contacted local users who have volunteered their personal library “holdings” as potential lenders?” […]

  4. […] From Our Users to Fill #ILL Requests August 13th, 2009 admin Shaping Libraries – “Here is something that I have been thinking about for a few months now. When a user […]

  5. connie says:

    Very interesting idea. I often buy books by my local authors rather than borrow from the library to ensure they get the sales. Once I have read them, though, I tend to lend them out. I’m sure having the library keep track of them would be just as trustworthy as me remembering who has what, or perhaps even more so.

  6. interesting- you could build it around LibraryThing, I suppose, with loaning patrons making their libraries available to enable staff to locate the titles of interest.

  7. Gerrit says:

    Yeah part of the reason I thought about this was because so many users are already doing it around us. Why not try to tap into the market? It would be great not to reinvent the wheel but libraries could stay relevant in the future if they are not above competing with other platforms.

    That is amazing how many books were exchanged between private owners last year!

  8. Gerrit says:

    connie–exactly! many of the books users get–esp. the popular titles–get read immediately then sit on the shelf. Wouldn’t it be great if we gave them some incentive to share their unused books?

  9. Gerrit says:

    richard james
    this is a great idea. LibraryThing already has the infrastructure. Users who would like to remain private could still let the library view their collection without making it public to other users.
    This would work great if there was some way to search on LT only across certain users and not the entire site.

    Hmmm…great idea, RJ!

  10. wolfshowl says:

    I dunno. Not to be the wet blanket here, but it sounds highly inconvenient to me, both as a user and a librarian.

    First, the user offering to lend this book out (without any sort of compensation), has to trek to the library to hand it over to the ILL staff. Who wants to go to the library just to lend a book out?

    Second, the users you see lending books to each other know each other and trust each other. I wouldn’t want to loan my book I bought with my hard-earned money out to some random stranger who’ll do god only knows what with it.

    Think too of how much hold shelf space will be taken up with returned books waiting for their owner to pick them up.

    I really don’t think it’s a good idea.

  11. wolfshowl- not that there wouldn’t be implementation problems, but the idea of piggybacking on the passion that so many of our users have for certain books is worth exploring, isn’t it? Haven’t you read a book and immediately wanted to make everyone you know read it? Users will participate if they want to, or not, so they’ll know up front about “trekking to the library” (and we prefer to not think of a library visit as being such a chore) and the possibility of damage- although God knows I bet people would take better care of something they know belongs to someone else- tragedy of the commons and all that.

    As for LT- I have found their development people very responsive to ideas and tweaks that are within their general technical parameters- I’d be happy to be part of a conversation with them about it.

  12. Gerrit says:

    Yes, I agree with many of these points. I really appreciate these challenges because that opens a real dialog.

    Users will not lend without some kind of incentive. You are absolutely correct. So the question is, what can we offer them? Several ways to compensate come to mind, depending on the type of library.

    As far as security goes, the ILL offices deal with lost or damaged books all the time. Local users, however, do not charge processing fees on top of replacement fees, unlike other libraries.
    Of course we would encourage users to loan only items they would be comfortable receiving a replacement for–again, similar to the library model. Please don’t lend your personal special collections! The library would bill the borrower the replacement cost just like the library model.

    You make a good point about shelf space also. My only answer to that would be that we need shelf space for ILL already. The increase would happen in waiting for our lenders to pick up items like you mention. Again, though, we would have shipped the item back to a lending library, why not ship back to a lending user, except in that case the lender is local and therefore the shipping is likely cheaper?

  13. SFL says:

    My gut says there’d be insurmountable problems with serving as the lending administrator & dispute mediator. Incentivizing friends of the library donations via a point system (a la paperback swap) would achieve many of the same social goals without the administrative headaches and labor sink. Hi value titles get you a grip of points. Old copies of national geographic get you nothing. Points would be redeemable for books from the friends, DVD rentals (if your lib charges), or waving overdue fines.

  14. Gerrit says:

    Thanks for the LT connection–sounds great!

    The point system is a compelling incentive package. As an ILL manager much of what I do is dispute mediation between us and another library. It would be nice to avoid that!

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