UoL Library Blog

Develop, debate, innovate.

World Cat Local and ILL – a paper review

Posted by gazjjohnson on 11 December, 2009

Thanks to Keith for pointing me in the direction of this article WorldCat Local implementation: the impact on interlibrary loan.  Following on from a demo of WCL the other week, and with my ILL hat on, this is obviously of some interest to me.  Like us the University of Washington seems to have had a fairly steady state if high level of ILL requests to deal with over the years.  Like us not all of their information resources weren’t locatable via a single interface, which they suggest meant that most end users didn’t get as far as requesting an ILL to satisfy demand.

With WCL it seems that the system searches across all e-only and print collections, and if it is unable to retrieve an item flags up the ability to place an ILL.  This raises a question with me, knowing that a small but steady stream of users fail to search effectively before placing an ILL that is actually available locally (or via e-resources).  I can see that with a WCL implementation like this the big advantage for readers is that they are made more aware and able to seamlessly place pre-populated item requests. 

This will doubtless lead to an elevated number of requests being placed, of which my concern is that the same proportion will be of items requested inappropriately.  As we do check every item to see if we can satisfy the request from local collections, this might well have an impact on workflows.  Washington reports a 92% increase in loan requests placed, which is by any measure a phenomenal rise; although interestingly article requests did not significantly rise.  interestingly 17% of items delivered were never actually collected by their requesters.

The university did commit an additional 2.17FTE staff to deal with this increase (at 52,000 students and staff UoW is around twice as big as Leicester).  Interesting to note as well that with more items being requested, a broader spectrum of venues were used to source these requests.  It doesn’t take a big stretch of the imagination to see that as more institutions set up WCL (or similar) systems, that this means an increasing demand on research rich non-British Library collections like our own.  One final note in the paper was that resolving requests resulted in increases of 82% 07-08, and another 36% in 08-09 in terms of overall ILL costs to the institution.

Overall a very interesting case study, and while one can admire the increased service to the user community of the integrated searching, as an ILL member of staff I must of course reflect on the impact of increased demand on delivery of the document supply service.

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