Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Explanatory Supplement for Use with the Interlibrary Loan Code for the United States January 2001

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Explanatory Supplement for Use with the Interlibrary Loan Code for the United States January 2001

Article excerpt

These Guidelines are intended to amplify specific sections of the Interlibrary Loan Code for the United States, providing fuller explanation and specific examples for text that is intentionally general and prescriptive. Topical headings in these Guidelines refer to the equivalent sections in the Code. Libraries are expected to comply with the Code, using the Guidelines as a source for general direction.(1)


The U.S. Interlibrary Loan Code, first published in 1917 and adopted by The American Library Association in 1919, is designed to provide a code of behavior for requesting and supplying material within the United States. This code does not override consortial agreements and regional or state codes which may be more liberal or more prescriptive. This national code is intended to provide guidelines for exchanges between libraries where no other agreement applies.

This interlibrary loan code describes the responsibilities of libraries to each other when requesting material for users. Increasingly libraries are allowing users to request material directly from suppliers. This code makes provision for direct patron requesting and at the same time affirms the responsibility of the patron's library for the safety and return of the borrowed material, or for paying the cost of a nonreturnable item sent directly to the patron.

1. Definition

This code is intended to cover transactions between two libraries. Transactions between libraries and commercial document suppliers or library fee-based services are contractual arrangements beyond the scope of these guidelines.

The terms "requesting library" and "supplying library" are used in preference to "borrowing" and "lending" to cover the exchange of copies as well as loans.

2. Purpose

Interlibrary loan is intended to complement local collections and is not a substitute for good library collections intended to meet the routine needs of users. ILL is based on a tradition of sharing resources between various types and sizes of library and rests on the belief that no library, no matter how large or well supported, is self-sufficient in today's world. It is also evident that some libraries are net lenders and others are net borrowers, but the system of interlibrary loan still rests on the belief that all libraries should be willing to lend if they are willing to borrow.

3. Scope

The conduct of international interlibrary loan is regulated by the rules set forth in the IFLA document International Lending: Principles and Guidelines for Procedure.(2)

Although the U.S. shares a common border with Canada and Mexico, it is important to remember that these countries have their own library infrastructures and ILL codes. The IFLA Principles and Guidelines regulate the exchange of material between institutions across these borders. Further, U.S. librarians would be wise to inform themselves of customs requirements that take precedence over library agreements when material is shipped across these national borders as described in the Association of Research Libraries' Transborder Interlibrary Loan: Shipping Interlibrary Loan Materials from the U.S. to Canada.(3)

4. Responsibilities of the Requesting Library

4.1 Written Policies

A library's interlibrary loan borrowing policy should be available in a written format that is readily accessible to all library users. Whenever possible the borrowing policy should be posted on the library's Web site as well as be available in paper copy at public service desks or wherever other library user handouts are provided.

4.2 Confidentiality

Interlibrary loan transactions, like circulation transactions, are confidential library records. Interlibrary loan personnel are encouraged to be aware of local/state confidentiality rules and laws as they relate to interlibrary loan transactions. Appropriate steps, such as using identification numbers or codes rather than users' names, should be taken to maintain confidentiality. …

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