Inter-Library Loan

Hey y’all. it’s been awhile. You look great! <3

I want to talk about libraries and interlibrary loan.

So first off, libraries are still crazy-relevant, even if you live in a small town and have weird research interests.


Because of Inter-Library Loan.

So when I think about ILL, I imagine covert library agents, usually wearing super nifty spy-gear, comparing legers and exchanging notes in seedy underbelly places. It’s very noir. In reality, it’s run by computer systems like WorldShare and iLLiad that link up the catalogs of various libraries so you can easily tell who has what and ask if they will pretty-please-with-sugar let you borrow it for one of your patrons.

From the patron side, this is what you do:

1.Fill out a little form (usually online, but sometimes still paper) telling the librarian what you want to borrow. 

PRO-TIP: Double and Triple check that your library definitely does not have this item. Also, if the item is less than a year old, considered a textbook, or is a ebook, most libraries won’t/can’t lend it. Also, make sure it’s available from libraries near you – or at least libraries in your same country. Worldcat is GREAT for this. So do your homework before you fill out the form.

PRO-TIP #2: Include AS MUCH INFORMATION AS YOU CAN. Publication date. Place of publication. ISBN. OCLC number (which you can find on Worldcat). The more information you provide, the easier it will be for the librarian to find what you’re looking for.

2. Give the form to the librarian.
3. Wait.
4. Receive book.
5. Read book. (If needed, ask the librarian to request a renewal at least a week out from the due date.)
6. Return book on time.

From the librarian side, this is what it usually looks like:

1. Patron fills out form.
2. You search for item in your ILL client.
3. You find the item and a list of libraries who have it, along with how long they take to respond and whether or not they charge for ILL.
4. You make a big long list (usually 5-10) of libraries you’re going to ask.
5. Submit request.
6. The first library in your list receives the request and decides whether or not they want to/can lend the item. If they say no, it passes to the next library in the list.
7. When a library says yes, they click the appropriate buttons in the client, package the item, and mail it.
8. Item is received at the borrowing library – stuff happens to it to keep track of it – and then the patron is notified that the book is available.
9. Patron borrows book.
10. Patron returns book on time.
11. Book gets more stuff done to it to de-process it it, buttons get clicked in the client, and the book is returned to the lending library.
12. Lending library receives book, checks it back in.


I use ILL for titles that are 1) to expensive for me to purchase, 2) for a quick reference to see if it is useful/worth purchasing.

Some libraries have a small fee associated with ILL, but this is just to cover postage. Some lending libraries charge (my most recent ILL cost me $10), but libraries tend to ask the “free” places first, and will ask you (the patron) about a charge ahead of time.


Research Tips – Things to Remember When Doing Library Research

“Grand Study Hall, New York Public Library”, by Alex Proimos,  CC By-NC 2.0

1. When you’re searching an online catalog or a database, be aware of the subject terms listed on entries you think may be relevant to your question/topic. In most systems, these are links that will help you either broaden or narrow your search.

2. When you go to the shelf to find that perfect thing and it ends up being not-so-perfect, look around  – in both the Dewey and Library of Congress systems, similar items are shelved together. Just because the item corresponding to the call number you wrote down on a small scrap of paper with a golf pencil didn’t pan out, doesn’t mean that there isn’t a diamond lurking in one of the books near it. For many SCA topics, you can find a chapter or section of a book on a larger topic that is relevant to your specific research need.

3. Don’t forget databases! These tools are wonderful treasure troves of information that cost your library a pretty penny – and cost you NOTHING. Search them! The History Reference Center and MasterFILE Premier (both by EBSCO) are decent resources.  If your library gives you access to JSTOR or ArtStor, consider yourself very lucky – these resources are amazing (especially ArtStor – you can see if your institution [or one near you that will give you privileges] has access by looking here. If there is a university near you listed, don’t hesitate to go visit – you may not be able to access remotely, but you should be able to get on using a computer at the library. Seriously. ArtStor is awesome. I miss having access to it.).

4. Despite what Cecil tells you, librarians aren’t that dangerous. We like helping people. Make use of your librarian! For some SCA stuff, you may have to be patient – your friendly neighborhood reference librarian is probably used to helping a few undergrads but mostly high school and younger researchers find stuff. Be very specific, and don’t worry about scaring them. They aren’t like the fabric store people who ask “what are you making?” just to make small talk – the more you tell them, the better help they can give.

5. Use Worldcat – it will show you everything that OCLC (basically this massive library records conglomerate thing) has records for – and they have records for pretty much everything.  You can create a free account and make lists. You can see a list of resources I’ve made on period fools/jesters here: [x] It’s a great way to keep all your resources in one spot (esp. when it comes time to write your bibliography).

6. Don’t be afraid to ask. Ask librarians. Ask me. Ask the hiveminds of Facebook and Tumblr. Even if someone doesn’t know the answer or can’t point you to a resource, nine times out of ten they can point you to someone who can. That’s one thing that the SCA does really, really well. We connect people who are interested about X with other people who are also interested about X.

7. When I take notes, I write down exact quotes, followed by a brief citation (usually in Google Drive or Evernote). This is based on a practice instilled in me by Mrs. Thistle, my 10th grade English teacher, and strengthed by Mrs. Utley, my 12th grade English teacher. Only they had us use notecards. Anyway, even if it isn’t the exact format of the citation you’ll use when you write up your documentation (whether you do APA, MLA, or footnotes), it will help you in terms of remembering where you got that information. By doing an exact quote in your notes, it will also help you paraphrase when you actually write and avoid accidentally plagiarizing.

I could probably write more, but I’ll stop for now.

Happy Researching!

The Book of Margery Kempe – Free eBook at OpenLibrary

The Book of Margery Kempe – Free eBook at OpenLibrary