Magazine article American Libraries

Creative Automation Boosts ILL Rates; User-Friendly Terminals Simplify Borrowing by Patrons

Magazine article American Libraries

Creative Automation Boosts ILL Rates; User-Friendly Terminals Simplify Borrowing by Patrons

Article excerpt

Creative automation boosts ILL rates

In a recent article questioning the need for resource sharing networks, Thomas H. Ballard says, "I have looked in vain for a statement that resource sharing would rise from present levels to 2%, 5%, or 10% of total circulation if certain automation activities were put in place . . ..'1 He goes on to call for objective data to substantiate the purported benefits of resource sharing.

The following account offers such data. It describes resource sharing in Illinois academic libraries that allows patrons to borrow materials from other libraries through user-friendly interlibrary loan commands on an IBM PC terminal. This capability resulted in an increase in interlibrary borrowing at one library from 3% to 8% of total circulation in just two years. While Ballard is mainly concerned with networks of public libraries, these figures for academic libraries provide evidence that the use of automation can significantly increase interlibrary borrowing.

Resource sharing through computer-based interlibrary loan systems has long been a dream for libraries. In the past few years, this dream has been realized through several systems, particularly OCLC's subsystem for interlibrary loan and its Micro Enhancer software. In OCLC's and most other interlibrary loan endeavors, processing of the request is done by library staff. The idea of allowing patrons to use a terminal to borrow directly from other libraries without consulting the library staff is new and in practice in only a handful of institutions.

The Library Computer System (LCS) network in Illinois permits direct patron borrowing at a terminal. With a standard terminal, the process is cumbersome and difficult. However, over the past few years, the library at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) has replaced a number of its standard terminals with IBM personal computers (PCs) equipped with a program that offers prompts and other features to assist patrons in using LCS. The result has been a marked increase in interlibrary loan activity.


LCS was imported to Illinois from Ohio State University in 1977. It was modified to support a network of libraries and put into use by the campuses of the University of Illinois in late 1978. In 1979, LCS was expanded to include other academic libraries in Illinois. It now encompasses 27 academic libraries with combined holdings of over 12 million volumes. Based on an IBM mainframe computer in Chicago operated by the University of Illinois, the system supports more than 800 terminals.2

Each library in LCS maintains its own database of short bibliographic records containing the following elements: call number, author, title, edition, place of publication, date of publication, LC card number, language code, format code, and detailed holdings. These records and be searched by author, title, author/title, and call number.

LCS contains short bibliographic records and detailed holdings for virtually every title owned by its member libraries.3 In addition to circulating within the holding library, items in one library may be charged out from a terminal in another library. When this occurs, a page slip with details on the book and the borrower is generated at the holding library. The book is then sent to the borrower's library through the Illinois Interlibrary Delivery System, a system supported by the Illinois State Library and used by academic and public libraries. When the book arrives, the patron is notified and asked to pick it up at the circulation desk. Faculty members or graduate students with a campus office at UIUC can receive their books through campus mail.

A patron can initiate an interlibrary loan request at a standard LCS public terminal, but the procedure is cumbersome. It requires knowledge of codes for the campuses in the network, and a search must be repeated for each campus until an item is located. …

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