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InterLibrary Loan Service

Back in the late 70s I lived in Monroe, Wisconsin, a small town in the south of the Badger state that had a modest but very nice public library. At that time I was also very highly engaged in reading everything by Robert E. Howard (the creator of the Conan books and the man who basically launched the fantasy subgenera known as Sword & Sorcery) that I could get my hands on. It seems that Howard had published a small book of his poetry called "Songs from an Iron Harp") back in the 1930s. The original print run was something like 300 copies and the book was exceedingly rare.

When I asked the Monroe librarian how I might be able to get my hands on a copy she introduced me to something called the Interlibrary Loan System. She put in a request for that rare book for me and about a month later the search turned up a copy in the collection of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. Those good folk wouldn't send me the book itself, but made a photocopy of the entire book, cover and all, and sent me that telling me that I could keep it. I still have that photo copy to this very day.

The Interlibrary Loan Service (sometimes called interloan, interlending, document delivery, document supply, or interlibrary service) is a service whereby a patron of one library can borrow books, DVDs, music, etc. and/or receive photocopies of documents that are owned by another library. The user makes a request with their home library; which, acting as an intermediary, identifies libraries with the desired item, places the request, receives the item, makes it available to the user, as well as arranges for its return. The lending library usually sets a due date and overdue fees of the material borrowed. Although books and journal articles are the most frequently requested items, some libraries will lend audio recordings, video recordings, maps, sheet music, and microforms of all kinds. In some cases, nominal fees accompany the interlibrary loan services. (Wikipedia)

Public and academic libraries have established voluntary associations, often on a regional basis, to provide an online union catalog of all the items held by all member libraries. Whenever a library adds a new title to its catalog, a copy of the record is also added to the union list. This allows librarians to quickly determine which of the other libraries hold an item. Software then facilitates the request and supply tasks. In the U.S., Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) is used by public and academic libraries. Formerly, another network RLIN (Research Libraries Information Network) was used primarily by academic libraries but merged with OCLC on October 1, 2007. (Wikipedia)

Online requests are usually submitted via OCLC's WorldCat or FirstSearch in the United States. Libraries without access to either can participate in interlibrary loan by submitting requests by postal mail, fax, email, or telephone call. These are referred to as manual requests. Manual requests can be submitted in the United States through the American Library Association. Individual libraries can agree to reciprocal arrangements between each other. (Wikipedia)

For those who might be curious, here is a link showing what an ALA Interlibrary Loan Service request form looks like:

I have archived on the Midwest Book Review website every review that I have ever done on 'how to' books for authors and publishers -- covering every aspect of the publishing process from writing an manuscript to marketing the published book. You will find them at:

Writer's Bookshelf:

Publisher's Bookshelf:

Almost all of them (and there are hundreds of titles) can be obtained, for free, by aspiring writers, publishers, publicists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in writing and publishing from their local community library through that same InterLibrary Loan Service that I was introduced to so long ago and have used for other titles from time to time ever since.

James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief
The Midwest Book Review
(with contributions from Wikipedia)

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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