Learn About Interlibrary Loans!

Customers checking out an interlibrary loan

The Interlibrary Loan or ILL library staff are some of our unsung heroes. While library visitors get to meet and interact with the friendly people at Customer Service and Research, there are also people working behind the scenes to get you your materials from other libraries outside our system, as well as lending CRRL materials to libraries all over the country. Through the years, the Interlibrary Loan department has gone above and beyond simply getting customers hard-to-find materials. They have also helped students ready their dissertations and writers research topics for their books.

During the almost two decades that Mercy Sais has been in charge of the Interlibrary Loan department, she has borrowed books from Canada and Alaska, lent a book to Belgium, and has worked with the Smithsonian, Harvard, Princeton, and the Library of Congress to find what our customers want. However, you should know that some materials, such as those from the Library of Congress, are so rare and fragile that they come to us marked “in-house use only” and must be enjoyed inside a library branch. Thankfully, there are quiet reading rooms and also plenty of comfy places to sit during your visit.

It’s a pretty simple process to ask for an interlibrary loan of your own, whether you would like a book, a movie, a CD, or even a reel of microfilm. CRRL customers can fill out an online form or stop by the Research desk to fill out a request form. Then, any time from a couple days to a couple of weeks later (depending on the rarity of the item and which library loans it), we will call you, and you will be able pick up your ILL at the Customer Service desk—after paying a small postage fee.

My last question to Mercy Sais was also my most important. What is the biggest thing that you want people to know about Interlibrary Loan? She said, "I want people to understand that ILL is changing. Materials are becoming more openly available through online sources such as Google Books and the HathiTrust, as well as the digitized libraries of schools such as Harvard and Princeton." This new way of accessing books outside of the CRRL system means that often you won't have to wait or pay a postage fee. You might be able to get the materials you need through one of these alternative online sources almost instantaneously.

If you would like to request an interlibrary loan, you can use our online form or contact a research librarian who can answer your questions.