Today is the go-live day of MPOW’s OCLC authorization for interlibrary loan. Prior to this, our ILL procedure involved paper forms, which partly explains why we did 4 ILLs last year, the other half of that being that we charged patrons, and the third half being that we hadn’t conditioned patrons that we provide this service.
So let me digress from the momentous occasion to ponder charging for ILLs. If we buy a book we think patrons might use, we don’t charge them. If we buy a book a patron requests, we don’t charge them. So why do some libraries–most of them, perhaps?–charge patrons for interlibrary loans, in some cases passing on the entire cost, in other cases charging a flat fee?
The answer can’t be that libraries are poor, because the syllogism then fails, due to the other conditions. My guess is it’s a mix of habit plus a view of the library budget that is focused on thingies rather than services (the ownership/access seesaw). Charging for ILLs is also oriented toward the idea that the library makes most of the collection decisions. An ILL is, after all, a patron-driven selection.
Meanwhile, I need to get up and out, but–call me Nerdbrarian–my heart flutters that My Place of Work now has the capability to request and provide items worldwide. We’re still in need of procedures, policies, training, and marketing, but we have a chassis with four wheels and an engine in it!
Oh, and on conditioning patrons: at the EPA library I managed in the late 1990s, my boss, an engineer and a huge library supporter, said “People need to be conditioned to use libraries.” It’s absolutely true. A library is a truly amazing service, so amazing that no one could possibly divine all the things it can do for people. We can have wonderful services, but if patrons don’t know about them, the job isn’t complete.