Library-Subsidized Unmediated Document Delivery

By Haslam, Michaelyn; Stowers, Eva | Library Resources & Technical Services, April 2001 | Go to article overview
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Library-Subsidized Unmediated Document Delivery

Haslam, Michaelyn, Stowers, Eva, Library Resources & Technical Services

Throughout the 1990s, libraries experimented with subsidizing end-user unmediated document delivery as a means of expanding collections, offering faster service, and lessening demands on interlibrary loan. An ongoing project at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, is presented here to evaluate whether or not providing the service met expectations. For the most part, unmediated document delivery served to enhance collections and users appreciated the service. Since those who preferred to order articles themselves were not necessarily interlibrary loan users, workloads and costs associated with interlibrary loan were not diminished.


Throughout the 1990s, libraries experimented with allowing their users to order articles directly from commercial document suppliers and subsidizing the resulting costs. Permitting the user autonomy in obtaining articles can potentially affect three-major areas of library operations: collections, services, and staffing. To a large extent, timely access to nonsubscribed journals expands the collection and does so faster than interlibrary loan. In an era of highly inflationary serials, another benefit of unmediated document delivery is that it can soften the blow of journal cancellations by streamlining the process for obtaining articles. The need for specialized information can be met rapidly and economically through document delivery rather than subscribing to journals desired by a limited population. From a service aspect, unmediated document delivery provides for speedier access to information than traditional interlibrary loan because it eliminates the "middleman" and thus decreases processing and delivery time. Ordering articles for themselves offers a convenience to those users who prefer to take charge of their own document delivery needs or are under severe time constraints. Unmediated document delivery appears to offer a means to reduce interlibrary loan operational expenses, salaries, and staff workloads by transferring the ordering and receiving processes to the requestor.

The constant changes in services and d delivery methods that are provided by document suppliers call for a re-evaluation of methods and effectiveness of unmediated document delivery. In this article, we identify reasons for trying unmediated document delivery, evaluate its success or failure in meeting expectations, and present considerations for deciding when using unmediated document delivery is advantageous.


We will describe a recent unmediated document delivery project at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), from the planning of a pilot project to the implementation of a new service. Information gathered regarding usage and patron satisfaction will be presented. We will examine the reasons given for trying the service, selection of those who would be allowed to use the service, choice of document supplier(s), training of users, and results of use. The reasons for use can be compared to the results to see whether or not the service worked as expected. Selection of users will be examined to determine whether or not those who used unmediated document delivery were appropriate for achieving the desired outcomes. The quality of service was a function of the choice of document supplier impacting willingness and success in using the service. Training gave users the opportunity to learn to employ the service according to parameters set by the library. Effectiveness of training may determine whether or not the ser vice is cost effective. By examining these elements it is expected that the success of the service in meeting stated needs can be assessed and considerations for implementing unmediated document delivery service can be developed.

Unmediated Document Delivery Projects

UNLV recently attained Doctoral/Research Universities-Intensive status under the 2000 edition of the Carnegie Classification and is actively seeking Doctoral/Research Universities-Extensive status.

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