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Picking up books requested through interlibrary loan

Interlibrary loan (abbreviated ILL, sometimes called document delivery, document supply, interlending, interlibrary services, interloan, or resource sharing) is a service that enables patrons of one library to borrow materials that are held by another library.[1]


After receiving a request, the borrowing library identifies potential lending libraries with the desired item. The lending library then delivers the item physically or electronically, and the borrowing library receives the item, delivers it to their patron, and if necessary, arranges for its return. In some cases, fees accompany interlibrary loan services.

Libraries can define what materials from their holdings are eligible for interlibrary loan. Many journal or database licenses specify whether a library can or cannot supply journal articles via ILL, with libraries negotiating for ILL eligibility.[2][3]

With multiple interlibrary loan systems in use, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) developed ISO standards 10160 and 10161 to standardize terminology and define a set of communication protocols between various interlibrary loan systems.[4][5]


Informal borrowing and lending between libraries has examples in Western Europe as early as the 8th century CE.[6]

In the 16th century, Nicolas Claude Fabri de Peiresc unsuccessfully attempted to establish an interlibrary loan system between the Royal Library at the Louvre Palace in Paris and the Vatican Library in Rome.[7]

In 1876, Massachusetts librarian Samuel Swett Green published a proposal for an interlibrary loan system modeled on European examples, writing, "It would add greatly to the usefulness of our reference libraries if an agreement should be made to lend books to each other for short periods of time."[8]

Joseph C. Rowell

In 1886, Joseph C. Rowell, librarian at the University of California, Berkeley, sought permission to begin an interlibrary loan program. In 1894, Rowell initiated U.C. Berkeley's first program of interlibrary lending with the California State Library.[9] In 1917, the American Library Association established a national code for interlibrary loan in the United States.[10]

In China, formalized interlibrary loan policies were established as early as 1924 through the Shanghai Library Constitution.[11]

In 1927, an increase in international lending and borrowing between libraries following the First World War led to the establishment of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA). IFLA published the "International Resource Sharing and Document Delivery: Principles and Guidelines for Procedure" in 1954.[12]

In Great Britain, Kate Edith Pierce became the chair of the newly formed East Midlands Regional Library Bureau in 1935. Enabled by Carnegie Trust funding, the Bureau introduced formalized "Inter-Library Lending".[13]

The Ohio State University and others in Ohio began integrating campus library systems at an early date. In the 1960s, state funds supported development of the Ohio College Library Center, now the Online Computer Library Center or OCLC.

In 1994, the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) of the ALA (America Library Association) formed an ALA Interlibrary Loan Code for the United States.[14]

In 1997, following a flash flood that significantly damaged its physical journal holdings, Colorado State University developed RapidILL as a resource sharing solution for expedited article delivery.[15] The service has since grown to include over 300 member libraries internationally, with most member libraries in the United States. In 2019, Ex Libris acquired RapidILL from CSU.[16]

Resource sharing networks

Libraries have established voluntary associations for resource sharing, organized on a regional or national basis, or through other affiliations such as university systems with multiple campuses, communities of libraries with related holdings and research interests, or established library consortia.

The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) guides interlibrary loan policies internationally.[17]

North America

In the U.S., OCLC is used by public and academic libraries. Formerly, RLIN (Research Libraries Information Network) was used primarily by academic libraries, but merged with OCLC on October 1, 2007. The Center for Research Libraries is a major resource sharing network in North America with a buy-in membership system. Other large resource sharing networks include Libraries Very Interested in Sharing (LVIS)[18] and Amigos.[19]

Medical libraries in the United States participate in the National Network of Libraries of Medicine to share resources. The National Library of Medicine developed the request routing system DOCLINE for this purpose.[20]


The South African Bibliographic and Information Network (SABINET) was developed in 1983 for the purposes of collection development and resource sharing across libraries in South Africa.[21]

In Ghana, the Ghana Inter-Library Lending and Document Delivery Network (GILLDDNET) pioneered resource sharing in West Africa. The network was replaced in 2004 by the Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries (CARLIGH).[22]

Central and South America

Consorcio Iberoamericano para la Educación en Ciencia y Tecnología (ISTEC) is a consortium and resource sharing network of 50 institutions across 17 countries in Latin America and the Iberian Peninsula, with a focus on sharing science and technology materials.[23] Many ISTEC member libraries use the ILL software Celsius, which was developed as part of the consortium initiative.[24]

Consorcio de Bibliotecas Universitarias de El Salvador (CBUES) is a resource sharing consortium of institutions on the Atlantic coast, including libraries from Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Mexico and Panama.


In France, the PEB interlibrary loan network services over 300 libraries using the SUPEB ILL software.[25]

In Germany, Gateway Bayern is the interlibrary loan network and tool for Bavarian libraries, including the Bavarian State Library.


DELNET, the Developing Library Network (formerly the Delhi Library Network), is a large resource sharing network supporting India and South Asia.[26][27]

The National Diet Library of Japan serves as a resource sharing hub for Japanese-language materials domestically and internationally.

Launched in 2000, China Academic Library and Information System (CALIS) is a Beijing-based academic library consortium that facilitates interlibrary loan among research libraries in China.


Australia uses Libraries Australia, and New Zealand utilizes the New Zealand Libraries' Catalogue.[28]


  1. ^ lnterlibrary Loan Committee, Management and Operation of Public Services Section, Reference and Adult Services Division, American Library Association, National lnterlibrary Loan Code for the United States, 1993. RQ 33 no. 4 (Summer 1994).
  2. ^ Croft, Janet Brennan (2005-05-31). "Interlibrary Loan and Licensing". Journal of Library Administration. 42 (3–4): 41–53. doi:10.1300/J111v42n03_03. ISSN 0193-0826. S2CID 152664274.
  3. ^ Litsey, Ryan; Ketner, Kenny (2013-11-18). "Oh the possibilities: ebook lending and interlibrary loan". Interlending & Document Supply. 41 (4): 120–121. doi:10.1108/ILDS-09-2013-0027. ISSN 0264-1615.
  4. ^ "ISO 10160:2015". ISO. Retrieved 2023-03-12.
  5. ^ "ISO 10161-1:2014". ISO. Retrieved 2023-03-12.
  6. ^ Miguel, Teresa M. (2007). "Exchanging Books in Western Europe: A Brief History of International Interlibrary Loan". International Journal of Legal Information. 35 (3): 499–513. doi:10.1017/S073112650000247X. ISSN 0731-1265. S2CID 162691373.
  7. ^ Gravit, Francis W. "A Proposed Interlibrary Loan System in the Seventeenth Century." The Library Quarterly: Information, Community, Policy 16, no. 4 (1946): 331–34. JSTOR 4303518.
  8. ^ Green, Samuel (1876). "The Lending of Books to One Another by Libraries". Library Journal. 15 (16).
  9. ^ Nesta, Frederick (2019-01-14). "Consortia from past to future". Library Management. 40 (1/2): 12–22. doi:10.1108/LM-02-2018-0006. ISSN 0143-5124. S2CID 57969972.
  10. ^ Russell, Harold. "The Interlibrary Loan Code." ALA Bulletin 33, no. 5 (1939): 321–54. JSTOR 25690164.
  11. ^ Fang, Conghui (2007-08-21). "The history and development of interlibrary loans and document supply in China". Interlending & Document Supply. 35 (3): 145–153. doi:10.1108/02641610710780818. ISSN 0264-1615.
  12. ^ "Guidelines for Best Practice in Interlibrary Loan and Document Delivery". 2012.
  13. ^ Kerslake, Evelyn (2014-09-25). "Pierce, Kate Edith (1873–1966), librarian". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. 1 (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/70123. ISBN 978-0-19-861412-8. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  14. ^ "Interlibrary Loan Code for the United States". RUSA. June 13, 2023. Retrieved August 14, 2023.
  15. ^ Breeding, Marshall (2019-08-01). "Ex Libris Acquires RapidILL". Smart Libraries Newsletter. 39 (8): 2–5.
  16. ^ "Ex Libris acquires RapidILL to help improve resource sharing among libraries | Built In Colorado". Retrieved 2023-02-11.
  17. ^ "International Interlibrary Voucher Scheme". IFLA. Retrieved 2023-03-12.
  18. ^ "Libraries Very Interested in Sharing".
  19. ^ "Amigos Library Services - Resource Sharing Through Technology".
  20. ^ "DOCLINE® System". Retrieved 2016-03-24.
  21. ^ Willemse, John; United Nations. Economic and Social Council; United Nations. Economic Commission for Africa (1995-04). The South African Bibliographic and Information Network (SABINET) as a model for library and information resource sharing. UN. ECA African Regional Symposium on Telematics for Development (1995, Apr.3-7 : Addis Ababa, Ethiopia). Addis Ababa :. © UN. ECA,. hdl:10855/9068
  22. ^ Nche Che, Eugene; Njiraine, Dorothy; Makori, Elisha (2022-09-22). "Impact of Library Consortia on Resource Sharing in Academic Libraries: Evidence From the University of Nairobi Library". Library Philosophy and Practice (E-journal).
  23. ^ Marvin, Stephen G (2015-08-17). "Resource sharing in Latin America". Interlending & Document Supply. 43 (3): 138–144. doi:10.1108/ILDS-05-2015-0015. ISSN 0264-1615.
  24. ^ Schmidt, LeEtta M., "Interlibrary Lending in Mexican, Caribbean, Central American, and South American Libraries" (2014). Academic Services Faculty and Staff Publications. 172.
  25. ^ Menil, Céline (1999-12-01). "Interlibrary lending in France: the situation today". Interlending & Document Supply. 27 (4): 166–170. doi:10.1108/02641619910300602. ISSN 0264-1615.
  26. ^ Kaul, Sangeeta (2010-06-01). "DELNET – the functional resource sharing library network: a success story from India". Interlending & Document Supply. 38 (2): 93–101. doi:10.1108/02641611011047169. ISSN 0264-1615.
  27. ^ "DELNET - About Us". Retrieved 2023-03-13.
  28. ^ "Te Puna Search". National Library of New Zealand. Retrieved April 13, 2022.

Further reading