Academic Library Web Sites as a Source of Interlibrary Loan Lending Information: A Survey of Four- and Five-Year Colleges and Universities

Article excerpt

We surveyed library Web sites of four- and five-year colleges and universities to determine the extent to which interlibrary loan (ILL) information is provided to users not affiliated with the institution, specifically ILL staff at other colleges trying to find lending policies, contact information, and holdings.

The Web has penetrated academia to such an extent that we are now surprised when a college lacks a Web site. Many institutions now consider their Web sites to be a major means of communicating with constituencies in and out of the institution. This is also true for academic libraries whose Web sites are an effective way to provide remote services and electronic database access. The majority of academic libraries have Web sites, which usually emphasize the services available to faculty and students and offer descriptions about the libraries.

Library Web sites provide information to visitors not affiliated with the college. Colleagues at other libraries seek information on library programs, services, and policies, and with its availability of information, the Web has become a preferred means of obtaining that information. In the area of ILL, librarians have traditionally consulted a variety of sources to find the lending policies and procedures of other libraries, including such tools as the Name-Address Directory (NAD) on the OCLC Online Computer Library Center, the Interlibrary Loan Policies Directory (Morris 1999), or policy directories specific to a particular consortium. Our goal in this survey is to determine how useful library Web sites are as a source of ILL policy, contact, and holdings information.

This issue is important for two reasons. The use and acceptance of the Web as a multifaceted source of institutional information is rapidly changing how people in different institutions communicate. Academic libraries are expanding their Web sites to carry information that was available only in print five years ago. Second, while librarians currently use a variety of printed and online tools to ascertain ILL policies and procedures, the Web offers potential convenience and accessibility worth investigating. ILL staff can call the lending institutions to determine lending policies, but this can be time consuming and disruptive for both parties. Certainly the use of OCLC's NAD is common, but not all libraries use OCLC, nor is OCLC access always readily available to an ILL staff member--when an ILL librarian is on the reference desk, for example. Printed directories, such as Morris (1999), are an option, but some libraries do not have entries in this directory, and not all libraries have this source either. Libr ary consortia often have ILL policy directories, but this information is not readily available to those outside the consortium. Library acquisition, cataloging, and collection development departments have developed informational Web sites to assist in their work, and such sites might be useful in support of ILL activities.

Literature Review

Surveys of library Web sites in the literature primarily fall into two categories: articles in which technical aspects of Web design are examined, and articles in which the content of sites is analyzed. With regard to technical aspects, King (1998) surveyed the library Web sites of libraries in the Association of Research Libraries and focused on design issues, such as the use of backgrounds and document headers. Stover and Zink (1996) examined the physical layout of library Web sites and found that they did not adhere to fundamental design guidelines. Cohen and Still (1999) compared the content of library Web sites at research universities and two-year colleges. They identified the core elements common to the sites studied, such as contact information, descriptions of services, and links to search engines. More recently, Agingu (2000) studied the content of library Web sites at historically black colleges and universities to determine their usefulness as tools for disseminating information about the library and for providing services to its primary users on campus. …