ILL and Collection Development on a Tight Budget

December 12, 2009
Steacie Science and Engineering Library at Yor...
Image via Wikipedia

With the economy the way it is has been over the past year or so a lot of libraries have turned back to ILL as an alternative to shrinking book-buying budgets. I wonder if this is really working the way we want it to.

In the most recent study I could find about the cost for mediated ILL transactions the Association of Research Libraries showed that the average cost of ILL is about $27.00 USD. $17 for the borrowing library and $10 for the lending library. Even if we eliminate the lending library costs, $17 could purchase a fair amount of titles, especially popular but not necessarily brand-new ones.

If the study done in 2002 on patron-driven collection development can be duplicated in other libraries, 68% of titles requested through ILL which were purchased received at least one more use (see  Anderson, et al). In this study, the librarians limited their pilot to scholarly non-fiction titles (Anderson 10). Presumably popular reading titles would see even more usage which could be of particular interest to public libraries who are active ILL participants.

There can be even more benefit to ILL in cases where the borrowing library is requesting a title that they own but all copies are checked out. ILL and holds/recall operations really should work together. Some colleagues of mine and I have been looking at the holds queues in relation to ILL requests. In many instances it is more cost-effective to purchase another copy of a title to offset existing holds rather than spend money on ILL for the title. These kinds of items usually have a large usage potential automatically as is evident by the extended holds queues for local copies. Why spend $27 for one use when you could spend a comparable amount and get 10s if not 100s of uses?

If an item costs the same as an ILL request, purchasing it will at the very least be the same cost-per-use as ILL. But if it circulates even one more time, the borrowing library copy now effectively is 25% of the cost-per-use of ILL. Ordering the book twice through ILL would be almost $60 but if it was purchased once ($30), then used again, the cost-per-use drops to $15. For really popular items the holds queue essentially guarantees several uses, which would bring the cost-per-use down to mere cents instead of dollars.

If a library is not worried about shelf space it makes more sense economically to not ILL items which are popular–purchasing another copy or two for local users is potentially much cheaper in the long run.

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Borrowing From Our Users to Fill #ILL Requests

August 13, 2009
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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Our Kindle ILL Model

June 5, 2009

Our Interlibrary Loan Office was recently approved to officially start a pilot loaning Amazon Kindles to our university faculty.


We looked at the number of requests facutly requests which we had to cancel, either because they were too new or too popular (no other library would lend them). We found that about 10% of these requests could have been filled by purchasing a Kindle Book. Why not try to fill these in a faster, and often, cheaper way?

An interesting sidenote: almost half of the requests we could have filled through the Kindle Store were scholarly monographs.


So far we are limiting the service to faculty only but this is just to keep the demand down. If it takes off we will buy more devices and open it up to other university populations (staff, grad students, etc).

Basic Checkout and Checkin

The ILL staff search for any book that is a popular title or too new to see if Amazon has a Kindle version. If so, the item is purchased, uploaded to a device, the device is then deregistered (this prevents users from purchasing on our Amazon account) and delivered along with a charger through our faculty delivery service to the patron.

Upon return, the device is emptied of all titles (except for the Kindle user guide), reregistered to our ILL Amazon account, and plugged into a charger, to await the next request.

So far this has worked ok. We are excited to provide a new service which will hopefully fill a need and prevent over-lending and borrowing of popular/too new titles, as well as (eventually) saving money.

— UPDATE 6/16/09 —

Since Amazon has continued to deny any written agreement with us, we have decided to discontinued our (brief) pilot. I hope to update further in the future.

Amazon: “OK to Lend Kindles in Libraries”

March 13, 2009

I have written before about my interest in using Amazon’s Kindle for circulation and interlibrary loan. Yesterday I received a response from Amazon about doing so. On the phone, the Amazon rep. and I reviewed the public policy found here under section3. Digital Content, subsection Restrictions:

Unless specifically indicated otherwise, you may not sell, rent, lease, distribute, broadcast, sublicense or otherwise assign any rights to the Digital Content or any portion of it to any third party, and you may not remove any proprietary notices or labels on the Digital Content.

Amazon said this only applies to for-profit ventures. “If you’re gonna let someone borrow the Kindle just to read a book, you should be fine.”

Since my interlibrary loan department does not charge for interlibrary loan use, we would essentially be loaning for free. Good news to our library and many others I would guess. I am looking forward to seeing how this affects our collection development and patron reaction when we implement the service.

— UPDATE 3/16/2009–

Since there has been a lot of traction on this post, I want to share a word of caution that may or may not have been implicit in my original post:

Amazon states in its Terms of Use that each agreement is sort of in perpetual Beta:

Amazon reserves the right to amend any of the terms of this Agreement at its sole discretion by posting the revised terms on the Kindle Store or the website. Your continued use of the Device and Software after the effective date of any such amendment shall be deemed your agreement to be bound by such amendment.

I recommend everyone who is interested in loaning Kindles in libraries first contact Amazon for the customized OK. Again, I would hope that this update is redundant and you would have already done this :).

“I Have Never Heard of Interlibrary Loan”

March 4, 2009

It is really sad when people wait for books that they could get really easily from another library through interlibrary loan services; many libraries do this for free for their patrons! To @averageAlanna and others like her: call your local library and ask about interlibrary loan 🙂

“I Don’t Want to Leave My House for Library Books”

February 17, 2009

To @drewlaplante and any others out there who would love to have the library in their home: we are getting closer and closer everyday. Of course what I am talking about is electronic journal access and ebooks but my guess is Drew still is thinking Library 1.0 (aka, books).

Libraries are getting closer and closer to supporting that mindset, too, however. We have all heard of home delivery but the process is becoming easier, quicker, and more libraries are doing it. On top of the traditional delivery book mobile, OCLC is partnering with Better World Books now (and hopes to get other book vendors like Amazon on board someday) to let users make an interlibrary loan request and have the book come straight to their house complete with a return envelope with paid postage…just due back in 30 days.

Libraries Loaning Kindles

February 13, 2009

I have been looking into the possibility of libraries using the Kindle to support circulation and Interlibrary Loan now for about 6 months. Now that Amazon has released their second version of the eReader, I thought I would share some of the things I have found on the web about libraries using it. If you know of others, by all means post in the comments.

New Kindle

Textbooks and kindle


licensing discussion private blog

more licensing

discussion on patrons purchasing direct with the Kindle and how to prevent this

new jersey library loaning kindle