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With a Little Help from my Friends (Interlibrary Loans)

January 23, 2019

My first three months as an interlibrary loan librarian for a community college have been a very rewarding experience. Using OCLC WorldShare®, I have been able to connect with libraries all over the United States for both lending and borrowing purposes. Naturally, there are regulars with whom I do consistent business; those libraries who are in the locality and whom I can rely upon for fast and secure lending. We know where each other is located within the area and have probably attended a seminar or conference together at some stage in our careers. In my case of working two part-time jobs, I see interlibrary loans being requested from the public library where I also work and I think to myself, “Why bother even shipping that out? Save the postage and I’ll run it over there the next time I work, which is usually three nights a week.” I am enthralled by the connectivity between our institutes, no matter the type of library or the population served.

Then there are those libraries who are on the other side of Pennsylvania or on the other side of the United States helping me out with journal articles and printed material. It is a wonderful, reciprocal relationship and I am very appreciative to OCLC WorldShare® for making interlibrary loaning a smooth operation. (Which makes me wonder: What was it like for libraries prior to automated systems and OCLC? I can only imagine how much more taxing it most likely was to obtain rare articles and all those photocopies. Oh, the photocopies!)

For all the conveniences OCLC WorldShare® has to offer, there are many incidences when an article is either unavailable or comes at a cost. I have yet to have a patron agree to pay for a copy of an article. This is when I turn to my helpful librarian friends on the OCLC interlibrary loan distribution list. To contact the list owners directly please send your message to ILL-L-request@OCLCLISTS.ORG.We are quite an active group and really pull through for one another. If you work on interlibrary loans, I highly recommend this feature of OCLC. I have had responses within minutes of my requests, and I cannot thank enough the speediness and attention with which other librarians pull through for me.

However, there are times when even the extremely resourceful librarians on the OCLC interlibrary loan distribution list cannot provide me with a particular periodical. Drawing upon my passion to one day work as an academic librarian in New Zealand, I have subscribed to a few mailing lists for libraries in that corner of the globe. One list, in particular, is the NZ-Libs, a discussion of library and information services in New Zealand. As a last resort, I reach out to them to see if perhaps they might have access to a  periodical which could be more popular in that hemisphere. (For instance, some south Asian and Oceania periodicals are extremely hard to find or come at a cost on OCLC WorldShare®, but a country like New Zealand or Australia might have obvious easier access to such publications.) As with my OCLC distribution list, my kiwi librarian friends are quick to answer me and assist me with my search. It really is a refreshing experience when you start to realize that we are alike no matter where we may be situated on the globe. Our academic library in little Schnecksville, Pennsylvania, is run similarly to the university libraries in the bustling metropolis of Auckland.

Aside from assisting one another in fulfilling interlibrary requests, we are also forging connections and developing a rapport with one another not only as fellow librarians but as human beings. It is so interesting to hear each other’s stories of how procedures are conducted at individual libraries and how we are all helping one another to harvest and disseminate knowledge; it is empowering in a lot of ways! Or it is encouraging when I make connections with academic and public libraries in New Zealand because I feel like it gives me a little more insight into their culture, and now I can place names with positions and locations, which can be extremely useful for when I try to make the immigration. (Unless of course, I can get into that country based solely on my attractive looks… ha ha ha.)

Are any of you serving as your library’s interlibrary loan librarian? Are you subscribed to the OCLC interlibrary loan distribution list? What other tricks might you have up your sleeve to pull off requests for rare periodicals and printed materials, or to fray the costs for some these requests? Do your patrons agree to make the payments to obtain such resources? Or do you absorb the costs for your patrons? I am intrigued to learn about how you handle those circumstances.

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