Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Interlibrary loan expands resources

As a patron of Lake County Library, I have the combined catalogs of Lake, Mendocino and Sonoma counties available to me. Lake County is additionally part of the North Bay Cooperative Library System, which allows me access to the holdings of Napa, Solano and Marin county libraries. Public and community college libraries alike are represented by the cooperative.

I access the "SuperSearch" telnet connection via a link accessible from the Lake County Library’s online public access catalog.

With so many libraries’ holdings available to me, it is not often that a book is unavailable either through the domestic catalog or through the North Bay cooperative.

The delightful picture book, "All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome," by Kathy Hoopmann, is one such book not readily available.
To obtain the book through Interlibrary Loan (ILL), I began by looking it up via Worldcat.org. It allowed me to sort my results by distance from my location and I thought this information might be useful to staff at the Lake County Library when placing my ILL.

As it turned out, however, Jan Cook, the library technician who handles ILL, had to look it up for herself as part of the process of placing an ILL. I paid a visit on Aug. 19 to request my ILL.

Cook used an Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) interface available to the Lake County Library. It accesses the same online database as Worldcat.org but is designed for use by library staff. As Cook explained to me, "It’s like looking through two different windows to see the same thing."

The OCLC results displayed which libraries had the book and whether its status permitted borrowing. Cook selected four or five libraries as potential suppliers for my book.

I asked what would happen if all of the libraries attempted to supply the request but Cook said only one library would be given the request at a time. OCLC would wait a few days and if that library didn’t respond, that request would expire and OCLC would send a request to the next library in the queue.

I was able to designate which branch of the library to arrange pick-up at, same as I would when placing holds through our catalog or through "SuperSearch."

I place "SuperSearch" holds regularly online, when an item is not in our domestic catalog. Because I’ve found so much available through the domestic catalog and through the North Bay cooperative, I’ve not pursued ILL requests with libraries outside the area.

My one prior experience was to request newspapers on microfilm from a library in Madison, Wis. The request was placed through an in-person visit to the Lake County Library. Once the microfilmed newspapers arrived, I used the microfilm reader on-site.
I think that ILL is a valuable resource, whether among member libraries of a shared catalog system or cooperative or between libraries in a larger geographic area. The books usually take longer to arrive when ordered via ILL, but I think the wait is worth it.

Even though our combined library catalog and our cooperative membership gives me access to so many materials, it is nice to know that ILL can make so many more resources available.

Published Sept. 13, 2011 in the Lake County Record-Bee. A version of this was compiled for Cuesta College LIBT 105, Library/Information Center Collections.

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