How Interlibrary Loan Works

Want books or other materials your library doesn't have? Try an ILL!

With ILLs, you can access just about any library material your heart desires.

It can be disappointing to learn that your local library doesn’t carry the specific item you’re looking for. Thankfully, there’s already an established system in place that allows you to borrow materials from other library locations: interlibrary loan. If you’ve never heard of ILL or want to understand how the process works, here's what to know. 


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What Is an Interlibrary Loan?

Otherwise known by its abbreviation ILL, interlibrary loan is a service that allows patrons to borrow library materials from other facilities. This typically occurs if the borrower’s requested material isn’t found at their local library. The process goes back to 1886 when the University of California, Berkeley librarian Joseph C. Rowell expressed interest in an interlibrary loan. He would go on to expand the first known interlibrary lending service at U.C. Berkeley and pave the way for others in the future. 

How It Works

If a patron can’t find a specific library material at their local facility, they may request these resources from another location. They’ll first make a request with their local library, where they’ll explore other locations housing their materials. Once they’ve selected their materials, the other library will be notified of their request. From there, the materials will be sent to their local library along with arrangements for retrieval. Although the process is usually free, some libraries request a very small and affordable fee. 


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ILL Resources

If you’re looking for a particular library material that isn’t at your local location, ILL will surely be able to help. Request systems will vary by library and region, but you should be able to find the same materials for every library. This should include commonly borrowed items like books along with research materials from online databases and journals. The nearby library may also provide photocopies of your requested materials, particularly if they’re from magazines. 

How to Use ILL

ILL is very user-friendly and rarely requires any fees. If you’re interested in learning more about your local library’s ILL guidelines, feel free to speak with your librarian. The process may vary by location, but you’ll generally look up a specific library material through an online system. Once you’ve found your selected materials, you’ll be assigned a loan period and a limit on how much you can borrow. Depending on the material’s demand, your item may take up to two to three weeks to transfer. You’ll likely be notified by phone or email when it has arrived. 



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