UoL Library Blog

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Inter-lending electronic only items

Posted by gazjjohnson on 25 January, 2011

Increasingly many libraries, including the British Library, with whom we interact for inter-lending and document supply purposes are purchasing materials in electronic only formats, and in some cases this is the only format in which they are produced.  For many this means that their licenses restrict the ability to loan or otherwise supply an item to another institution.  This means for our customers that there are items that we are unable to supply.  Thankfully for the most part this is only a small number of items but it is likely to grow.

Here at Leicester we keep a list of licenses, maintained by our Copyright Administrator, that details what we can and cannot do – to the best of our knowledge – in terms of interlending or supply from electronic only items.  For the most part this tends to be a “cannot be supplied” option, but this isn’t quite true across the board.  Some publishers do enable the lending or supply of physical duplicates of electronically sourced materials.  Thus when we do get requests for electronic materials to inter-lend we do our best to see if they can be on a case by case basis. 

I was curious if other organisations take the same approach, and so mailed a question off to lis-ILL

How are other institutions and organisations handling this when you get requests for eonly items? Do you have a blanket “can’t loan/won’t loan” approach or do you check licenses in each and every case in the event that items are loanable under some circumstances?

My thanks to the ten institutions whom took the time to feedback comments on their approach.  Numbers below refer to the number of institutions in my (small) sample and how they responded:

  • We check some, but not all of the licenses before making a loan decision: 1
  • We would check all of the licenses before making a loan decision: 6
  • We have an automated system that makes license checking easy: 1
  • We have a blanket “don’t loan” for electronic resources: 2
  • We maintain an electronic list of license terms: 1
  • We keep a physical license set of documents: 1
  • Would approach the publishers directly: 1

Quite a few of the respondents noted an issue with time or staff resource for checking licenses terms, especially where they had a blanket no-loaning of electronic resources approach.  It seems the picture on the whole is a mixture, although most people seem to have begun to think about the issue (and a few in my sample are quite concerned for the future of interlending as a consequence!)

I think there’s scope here for a bit more research across the UK, and if there’s enough interest in my findings here I’d be happy to sort out a more structured survey!

2 Responses to “Inter-lending electronic only items”

  1. LF said

    I am becoming increasingly worried about the number of Libraries who just send out electronic copies of anything quoting ‘fair use’ or just blithly assuming that it does not apply in the NHS case – which I know it does not in a lot of situations that I am aware of. As I am applying for CILIP membership this is doubly worrying as I assumed that some kind of professional code of conduct applied yet there does not appear to be any method in bringing this kind of behaviour to anyones attention, or clear sanctions in place should anyone be found be acting incorrectly.
    I think that this is indeed an area that needs more research to clarify the legisltation coupled with some clear advice about what should be done if infringements of copyright occur.

    • I think that’s a fair point, we’re pretty copyright safe here at Leicester in that our Copyright Administrator maintains a list of what we can/cannot do with various resources and enforces is (thanks to excellent top management support!). I think in terms of admonishments that employers are quite well placed in this respect, and it’s certainly been my wagging finger on the odd occassion there’s been some internal mis-steps.

      On the other hand though, I think there’s a role for us as professionals to take the lead in questioning just why publishers and the like are locking down interlending rights to such a degree. I’ve been doing this with open access rights for some time, and it seems here’s another area where we need a bit more people power…

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