I got into interlibrary loans while reading my way through Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing. My library system only had the first few graphic novels. I spoke with the librarian on duty about the later graphic novels, and her response was to pull an interlibrary loan form out of a drawer.
Interlibrary loans always seemed like a hassle before, but… I had to know what happened next! I was motivated! I tracked down the Amazon listing for the next book in the series, filled out the form, and handed it to the librarian. About a month later, I had my book! I read the rest of Swamp Thing this way. Interlibrary loans added an extra level of interest to the checkout process, because every book came from a different library in the Northeast.
My perception of interlibrary loan as a gigantic hassle, it turns out, came from my experiences with it in college. When an interlibrary loan request is handled by a professional instead of an undergrad with a beret and an attitude, things get much speedier. Also, now that I’m reading my way through a stack of library books for pleasure instead of being on deadline for a paper, I can be much more relaxed myself.
The librarian at our local library says that all she needs to put an interlibrary loan through are your library card number and the book you want to request’s title and author. Some library systems do the requests entirely online.
Why am I so enthusiastic about interlibrary loan? Because it expands reading possibilities exponentially. You, the reader, can request anything—as long as you have a library card and know the title and author of the book you want to read. It doesn’t matter how big or small your library is or where you live. No book is beyond you.
We are currently on hold for How to Train Your Dragon: How to Cheat a Dragon's Curse. Before I started requesting the titles in this series, no one in our library’s system had ever done interlibrary loan for a children’s book before. My librarian’s response: “It’s never been done, but why not?”
Remember how summer vacations seemed endless as a child? Mastering the interlibrary loan process is well within the capabilities of most middle- and high-schoolers! This process takes patience and attention to detail beyond what an elementary schooler can muster, but for an older child interlibrary loan can really pay off. It opens up a limitless supply of books while teaching the value of persistence and attention to detail. Want to find out what happened to the Fossil sisters after Ballet Shoes? Time to find that library card and get up the courage to go talk to the librarian.
Pro tips for interlibrary loans:
- Know what you want to request. You can get the title, author, and other information off the Amazon page for your book.
- Be polite but persistent. Librarians love patrons who, like them, are on scholarly missions.
- If you have to go to the library to request a loan, print out the pages you need from Amazon and take them with you.
- Is there a form involved? Save yourself some time by making a master copy with all of the information that is the same for each request (your name, library card number, branch, etc.). Then, each time you need a book, fill out a copy of your master with the information that is unique to that book.
On April 10, 2017, interlibrary loan services within the Canadian province of Saskatchewan were cancelled due to provincial budget cuts. Thankfully, patrons of the library system kicked up such a fuss that on May 1 the service was restored. Read on—and speak up to preserve library funding!