Behind the Scenes of Interlibrary Loans

Here at SDG Library, we pride ourselves on the ability to provide a diverse collection of materials for our library patrons. Providing a dynamic collection of materials that are regularly evaluated and made available in a variety of formats, to serve the needs and support the interests of all members of our community. 

Unfortunately, we can’t own everything!  

Interlibrary loans (ILLOs) are items borrowed from other libraries in Ontario. If we cannot provide an item from our own collection, we can request to borrow it from another library system. Any library member in good standing can use the ILLO service. Through our Zportal, we can help you find almost anything. Whether you want to read everything written by your favorite authors, do a research project on a specific topic, or you’re just an avid reader, who loves to read; ILLO is here to help fill in those gaps! 

So how does it work? 

The very first step is to request the item you are looking for! Once the request has been placed, your book then goes into a large queue with other requests from other library systems across Ontario. If a Library system owns a copy of the matching title and ISBN number of your request, they have a choice of answering the request with ‘will-supply’ or ‘non-supply.’ If they are unable to supply the item, it then moves on to other library systems in the queue. This is why sometimes we may choose a closer location to SDG, but when the item arrives it is from somewhere hours away!  

They have arrived!

Items arrive daily here at our administrative office, packages are opened and sorted by returns (items we have loaned to other libraries) and receiving (items for our SDG patrons).  Staff then processed the items on our end through the Zportal, letting the lending library know we had received the items.  This procedure curates the yellow slips that you may recognize, indicating the due date given to us by the lending library and your name and branch location. Each item comes with a return postage label and an item information page. Staff transcribe the item’s information and condition, on the back of the return label and file it away until you are ready to return the item you have borrowed. It then goes into our courier box for transport to your branch, where branch staff will notify you, your book is ready for pick-up.

Finished reading? Now what happens?

You have read and hopefully enjoyed your borrowed item, now it is time to return it. After you return your items to the library branch; staff replace the yellow slip inside the book and send it back to admin. Once it arrives here, staff will then prepare the item to be returned to the lending library, processing it through the Zportal system again and creating return slips for each item. We then locate the lending library’s return postage label for the item and verify that everything matches, before packaging the item for its return.

Each day ILLO books are processed for return and shipping. It takes upwards of three to four hours to complete all the transactions. Shipped items are requested titles that belong to SDG Library, from other library systems. Currently, we have over 200 SDG items out to other library systems. We have books as far north as Hornepayne, Ontario, as far west as Wyoming, Ontario and everywhere in between. One of the things we love about ILLOs is the ability to support small libraries and extend our collections to the hands of their patrons. Also finding places called ‘Moonbeam Public Library’ or ‘Smooth Rock Falls Public Library’ makes us want to take a road trip!

Interlibrary loan is a tremendous resource for all Library systems. Together we can support each other and do what we love most; which is finding that request, no matter how obscure or specific it is; and getting it into the hands of our patrons. I hope you enjoyed our little trip behind the scenes; for more information on Interlibrary loans please visit our webpage Interlibrary loans, or contact your local branch for more information.