All things being equal, the simplest interlibrary loan (ILL) process is usually the best. That’s the idea behind Occam’s Reader, a software add-on for the OCLC ILLiad work flow solution that makes it possible for academic libraries to “loan” ebooks electronically to one another for easy access by students and researchers.
For patrons who live in rural areas, finding the book they want is not always easy. The local library can’t collect everything, and interlibrary loan (ILL) can be slow to deliver, if it is even available. Purchase and fast shipping from Internet booksellers like Amazon.com offer an alternative, but not everyone can afford it. Now, the California State Library (CSL) has embarked on a pilot project to redress that situation.
In my last column, I suggested that librarians’ attachment to the traditional practice of interlibrary loan (ILL) and our desire to extend it into the ebook realm are an example of something like Stockholm Syndrome—an unhealthy and irrational affection for an onerous practice by which we were held captive during the print era. In the past, ILL was necessary because of the limitations of the print format; in the online era, we should be thinking entirely differently about what it means to “share” resources between libraries, and thinking carefully about whether and how doing so actually makes sense.