UoL Library Blog

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The Future of Interlibrary Loans – workshop

Posted by gazjjohnson on 13 December, 2010

Another guest post by one of my team members (Izzy Hoskins again!) on a recent ILL event
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On the 8th December myself and two colleagues attended the EMALINK event Inter Library loans: towards the future – differences and parallels at the University of Derby.

This consisted of presentations by both Tim Peacock of the University of Derby and Dorothy Atherton of the University of Nottingham. These presentations were followed by demonstrations of their systems and a discussion between attendees as to the varying natures of our methods.

Tim began by presenting various statistics, notably that after a period of decreasing requests the past two academic years have seen an increase in requests at Derby: 07-08 seeing a 9% increase and 09-10 an 8% increase. They seemed to welcome this rise and felt that this was due to moving towards a user friendly electronic requesting system. Their website was visually accessible and an online requesting service was available to everyone although undergraduates have to pre-pay allowing staff to update their records. This was felt to be a problem and they are hoping to develop an online payment system in order to ease the administrative process. It certainly seemed to be the case that their administrative processes could be streamlined into a much more efficient and staff friendly system. All requests were received (at the staff end) by e-mail and had to be re-keyed in order to be placed with the British Library. I have to say I was quite surprised by this especially given that one bonus of electronic signatures is that it does away with large quantities of paperwork. Printing these requests off effectively recreates this paper work and would be very time-consuming for their staff.

Dorothy Atherton, Services Manager in Resource Acquisition & Supply at the University of Nottingham gave the second presentation. Their department centrally processes three campuses and deals with around 8000 requests annually and are responsible for ILL, Digitisation as well as their digital archive. They have introduced digital signatures with a 100% online requesting system and like Derby were very keen on an accessible online interface. After a period of decline the number of requests that they receive has plateaud since 2006 with the number of loan requests remaining around 40% of their total. In 2010 the number of SED requests has overtaken that of photocopy requests which given the smaller costs of these they are actively encouraging. Like us all their requests are initially sent to the BL although the number of items they receive from them is gradually declining which has pushed them towards a greater use of Amazon marketplace, OCLC, Google and direct searches.

Both institutions used DX as a courier which led to some amusing bursts of horror with claims of items being found on roundabouts and ditches. We moved onto tea and were able to meet the faces behind daily correspondence.
Later it was agreed that a discussion between the attendees, co-ordinated by both Tim and Dorothy, would take place. A number of topics were discussed:

  • Inter-lending of electronic items:
    • Most institutions were aware that they could supply on occasion although most held back on supply as legislation was either not readily available or clear. This is clearly something that needs to be addressed with the movement towards electronic collections.
  •  Charges and quota systems
    • Some very interesting differences were uncovered and there seemed to be a number of somewhat complicated payment systems in place and quota allocation varied drastically between institutions. For example:
      • Lincoln only charge 50p for an inter-library loan
      • Warwick have budgets for departments as opposed to the usual quota system
      • One institution even allowed members of staff to donate their quotas to colleagues..
  • Electronic Signatures
    • Nearly all attendees aside from ourselves had moved to electronic signatures although this did not necessarily mean a simpler system overall.
  • Writing up status
    • Surprisingly most institutions treated writing up students as full time paying students when allocating allowances
  • Charges
    • Many institutions subsidise the British Library costs although most seemed to looking towards increasing their charges in light of imminent budget cuts.
  • Rising costs
    • These were a key feature and it was particularly interesting to note that some institutions purchased items online if they were found to be cheaper than the British Library charge of £12.00 for a loan.
  • Databases
    • Everyone used the same databases, ie: Worldcat, Copac, Suncat and the inforM25 and some also paid subscriptions to Unity amongst others.

It was very interesting to see where we fit alongside other institutions that are facing similar pressures. We came away with a lot of ideas and suggestions to take our service forward and felt that meeting the people we work alongside through e-mail will be of benefit in our work.

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2 Responses to “The Future of Interlibrary Loans – workshop”

  1. selinalock said

    Interesting. Can’t remember the context, but one of our students was complaining that writing-up students don’t have a quota here, when they knew people at other Unis that did.

    • Indeed they don’t, but it varies by Uni and how each uni handles the funding that PGRs bring in. Here it’s my understanding that we don’t get any library funding for students once they pass into a writing up mode (or at least not enoughg for non-core services like ILL) and hence their nominal quota is expired. I’d expect with the funding cuts that those unis that currently offer it, will probably be withdrawing it before too long.

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