I recently attended the Forum for Interlending (FIL) British LibraryUpdate & Experience Sharing Day at British Library Document Supply Centre (BLDSC) in Yorkshire. This was a great opportunity to meet other librarians working in interlending, find out how BLDSC works and learn how others carry out their inter-library loans (ILL) services.
ILDS 2011 (Chicago) Experience Report – Lucy Wilkins
Lucy received sponsorship to attend the ILDS 2011 conference in Chicago and her presentation focussed on her experience applying for the sponsorship and attending an international conference for the first time, including some lovely holiday snaps! Her application concentrated on how she would feed information from the conference back to a wide range of people. It was a global conference so had an international perspective. Other countries don’t have a facility like BLDSC, so it was interesting to hear about initiatives they undertake to fulfil ILL requests.
Talks that Lucy fed back on included RapidILL, which is an interlending initiative between 6 neighbouring US libraries that began after one library’s print journal holdings were completely wiped out by a flood. The conference also offered the opportunity to visit some libraries, such as the University of Chicago Mansueto Library, which has an automatic robot to pick books. The fetching time is an impressive 5 minutes.
Health Libraries and Interlending - Margaret Rowley
As someone with little knowledge of health libraries, it was interesting for me to hear the health library perspective. To give some context, Margaret explained why library services are needed in the NHS:
- current emphasis on evidence based health care
- healthcare professionals working on difficult cases need articles urgently
- support nurses and junior doctors who are undertaking qualifications
- CPD for all health staff
Services are provided in the library, via virtual services and workplace delivery. Available eresources include those that are taken nationally by the NHS on behalf of all health libraries, but libraries can also buy their own eresources.
Moving on to interlending, Margaret talked about the Worcestershire perspective. Herefordshire and Worcestershire health libraries share the same catalogue and interlend between themselves. Margaret added that budget cuts mean taking fewer journals. They interlend within different networks – local, regional, national co-operative networks e.g. NULJ, and national e.g. British Library, BMA. As a last resort they email specialist lists.
Digital information is in different places, with different passwords. Busy, highly-paid clinicians shouldn’t have to keep up to date with where to find information, as library staff can do this for them. This is an interesting contrast to working in an academic library, where we tend to see our role as showing people how to find things, and helping them develop the skills to find information for themselves. Document delivery to the library’s users is increasing, and almost all document delivery is articles – there are hardly any book loans.
An NHS copyright licence allows interlending and scanning within the NHS, as all NHS libraries are counted as one unit. All requests are now scanned as it is quicker and cheaper than photocopying. However since they don’t charge for scans, their income is falling and does not cover costs. There has been a low take up of ebooks by health library users. This was interesting to hear as we have just taken a trial of some medical ebooks and had encouragingly high usage of the trial books from undergraduate medical and clinical students.
British Library update “The world is changing – part 2!”
Andy Appleyard, Head of Document Supply & Customer Services, began by recapping on “The world is changing” presentation from last year. The top information sources 2010 found search engines at no. 1 and books right down at the bottom. Creation of knowledge is shifting to other countries, for example China. With budget cuts, we no longer have the luxury of the ‘just in case’ model. Andy gave the example of an NHS Trust that is cancelling 57 journal subscriptions as the subscription cost of these journals was £21,000 while the cost of obtaining the articles needed via ILL was £2,000. The British Library’s customer survey showed that customers deemed e-content, light DRM and digital signatures to be important. British Library intends to be a niche supplier – not the first or last resort for document supply.
The new BLDSS system has a web interface that allows small organisations and individuals to order in an Amazon-esque experience. The new system has an online tracking process for orders. The changes are about efficiency in the BLDSC building as well as new systems.
Anthony Troman, Product Development Manager, outlined new projects in the pipeline:
- API – BL are working with main library system suppliers on links to other library systems e.g. when a user searches their own library’s catalogue they could see a link that says ‘can’t find what you want, try the British Library’. This link will provide real time information on availability and price. The idea is that real time information will replace the ARTEmail system of placing a request and waiting for a reply.
- Delivery to hand-held device, search and order via an app.
- DRM without the need for a plug-in (i.e. no additional software needed)
- E-signatures – this is in the very early stages and BL are investigating legal aspects
The online admin system will be available end of March 2012, and will allow libraries to report problems, cancel requests etc. The online ordering system will be available end of April 2012.
Positive and negative feedback from early adopters was highlighted. Colour photocopies and scans were popular, along with the notification of download of SED documents and reminders when SED documents are about to expire. The main negative was ambiguity of reply codes, which will be improved in the next release. From the end of April, all requests will be migrated to the new system.
After a chance to eat lunch and talk to other attendees, it was time for a tour of the BLDSC. My group started on floor 5, where the new system requests are dealt with. Forms are printed every 15 minutes and are sorted into pigeonholes for fetching. Each form has a barcode, which is scanned when the book is fetched. This notifies the customer that the item is despatched. For scans, scanning the barcode on the form automatically emails the scan to the requestor. Next we visited the team who deal with urgent requests and requests that do not match on the shelf. We then visited Customer Services, with a chance to discuss issues. As books are now automatically renewed the day after they are due, one library has adjusted the loan periods they give their users by taking a week off the date due back to BL. However they feel this will be better overall as waiting list times will be reduced. The last stop on the tour was the despatch and packing area. Our guide showed us how the new system is more efficient. For example, items are now scanned back into the building and this notifies staff if a book is on a waiting list, so that it can be sent straight on to the next customer. This is much quicker than the old system where a book had to go back to the shelf first. The new sticky labels are much quicker than the old sellotaping method! We saw how items for the same customer are batched to save on postage costs.
Tips, tools and resources
We kicked off this workshop by discussing the resources that we use for interlending:
- Catalogues such as COPAC, SUNCAT and Worldcat.
- Some use special regional, medical or Scottish catalogues.
- Google for checking references and whether they are available on open access.
- Some use OCLC for overseas requests and find that US libraries are more likely to lend as they seem to be less strict about declining due to age of the item.
In an ideal world, someone suggested that a catalogue showing what cannot be lent due to legal deposit restrictions would be helpful. Some libraries have cancelled some print subscriptions as they find it cheaper to obtain articles on ILL. There is a sense of community in the ILL world, with colleagues sharing information and helping each other. Events like this one are useful ways of learning what others are doing.
Some libraries use electronic signatures, and one noticed a big increase in the number of requests placed once this was introduced. In order to meet restrictions, users need a unique login and to agree to a copyright statement. The requirement to keep data for 6 years was discussed. One library using Aleph noted that the data stays on the users record, however if the user record is deleted, the data is lost. Another library uses a specific email address that all e-signature requests are sent to. The emails can be kept in this email account without filling up staff own accounts.
E pub ahead of print articles were discussed. BL have access to some of these, so it is worth trying them. If not held at the BL, some libraries fail the request, some buy access for their reader and some reapply later when the article may be published.
Feedback after the workshops showed that group A and group B had different responses. In group B, most attendees felt their service had medium-low visibility within their institution. Most libraries charge their users for ILL requests, although one has a quota of 25 per year for free. One person suggested an approach similar to some commercial enterprises – the first 3 requests are free, to draw people in a give them a taster for the service.
We moved on to talk about promoting the ILL service and whether we should promote the service in this financial climate as charges don’t cover costs. Ideas for promotion included notes in the library catalogue giving different options, including ILL, if a search does not find what the user wants. Promotion could focus on the speed and convenience of secure electronic delivery (SED).
We looked at perceptions of ILL service among other library colleagues. The importance of the document supply clause in e-journal licences was mentioned – are our eresources colleagues aware of this when they negotiate licences? We can also raise service visibility by passing good feedback on to senior management.
There was a short session which fed back on workshop discussions to both groups, then the day drew to a close and we boarded the coach for our journey home, full of new knowledge and ideas.