Licensed to ILL

Sure, the MidYork Library System has millions of titles in its collection, and yes, we have most things you’re looking for in our humble 22,833 item library, but not everything. So what happens when you want to read an out of print book or watch an obscure movie? You just have to say, well, better luck next time, right? Wrong!

Did you know that no item is too difficult to find through the exciting process of Inter-Library Loan? Commonly referred to by the three-letter acronym of ILL (as scholars and librarians are still debating whether or not to include the dash or space between “Inter” and “Library” – trust me, I’ve seen all variations of this phrase), this magical process joins together libraries, databases, and package delivery. In the library world, “ILL” can refer to both the process of ordering out-of-collection items as well as the item itself once it arrives. This really isn’t as confusing as I’m making it sound.

All you need to know is if you have a book that is hard to find, we’ll put our experts on it and have it to you as soon as possible. Sometimes these will be shipped from as close as Colgate University, other times they can even come from other countries. Secretly, we prefer them to come from the U.S. because customs forms are confusing and seldom used, slowing down the process considerably.

So let’s get to the big question – how much is this process going to cost you, the patron? First, there’s the shipping cost, then labor, plus tip, then package insurance all tallying up to… nothing. This is free to library card holders! So then what’s in it for us? Why would we go through the lengthy process of finding a book just so that it can be checked out by one person and returned with no profits? Because we’re awesome, and because rather than charge people individually, this is already worked into our annual budget which, as it turns out, you do actually pay for. Thanks!

On to the other big question – why am I writing about it this week? Because with an average of about eight ILL checkouts per month, this is not a very popular service we provide. Perhaps that is due to me not writing enough columns about it, so maybe this will help. Additionally, I worked for about five years at an academic library and pretty much ONLY handled ILL during that time. Honestly, I don’t know why it’s taken me a year and a half to bring up this topic.

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