Tiers for Fears: inter-library loans and Special Collections

Special Collections on inter-library loan?  Surely not?  But wait … A new report from OCLC Research, Tiers for Fears: sensible, streamlined sharing of Special Collections*, shares the results of a 2010 survey on interlending of Special Collections.

Detail of cover design from books by Yorkshire Dales author Willie Riley. We would lend most of our copies in this book collection on ILL as they are pretty common second-hand, but not the rarities or things with Riley provenance. All are valuable in Special Collections because they are a distinctive collection enhancing Riley’s archive.

Historically such lending was mainly for exhibitions; now there is growing demand from researchers, thanks to increased visibility of collections online.  Like other OCLC R reports, Tiers is thoughtprovoking and challenging, but also pragmatic, suggesting a tiered approach to improve and streamline procuredures in libraries.

I wonder whether this is one area where UK and US Special Collections differ. The survey seemed mainly to attract US respondents. What do other UK librarians think?  Is there an increase in demand for ILLs?  Maybe the geography of the UK makes it easier to visit other libraries?

At Bradford, we are very rarely asked for inter-library loans of Special Collections, despite our significant online presence.   This means we are able to consider requests case by case.  I’m happy to lend modern printed books and pamphlets which aren’t unique and are robust enough to travel.  I do try to get in touch with the original enquirer, especially if the answer is No, as often there is another route such as our repro service.

I don’t think we’ll use the Tiers tools unless demand increases.  The new report has however prompted me to make sure that info about our ILLs policy is online (it isn’t at present – mea culpa!).

* Great title: a music reference, a pun, and a bit of alliteration!  Well done!


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