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Sladen Blog

Interlibrary Loan Challenges during COVID-19

by Colleen Streeter on 2021-02-15T07:00:00-05:00 in Document Delivery, Sladen Services | Comments

Borrowing books from other libraries is taking much longer in recent months. The average time many libraries are reporting is 3-4 weeks between requesting a book and receiving it. Why so long, you ask? There are a few reasons.

First, many libraries are working under Covid-19 safety precautions, which means they may have reduced and/or remote staff, leaving fewer people to fill requests. In addition, many libraries are still closed, and librarians are working from home, which makes locating and sending a physical book an extra challenge.

Second, delivery methods for books are also slowing down the process. The United States Postal System is still experiencing significant delivery delays and backlogs. Many libraries send their books to other libraries via USPS.

A third issue is fewer libraries buying print books. As eBooks have become more popular and more libraries have remote users, print books are being replaced with eBooks. This is a great option for the users of individual libraries, but it makes lending to other libraries almost impossible. Most eBook publishers have licensing restrictions that prevent those books from being lent to other libraries.

So, what can we do to work around these challenges? How do we get print books to people who need them? Here are a few things to consider:

  • Request as far in advance as you can. Even a fast book request usually takes 7-10 days to arrive. If you need a book by a certain date, request it at least 2 weeks beforehand.
  • Make your request as complete as possible, and put as much citation information as you can in your request. If you have an ISBN, include that. If you have a date after which you don’t need the book, include that too. If you’re willing to accept a previous edition, let us know.
  • If you need a chapter or two from a book, request a copy of those chapters instead of the whole book. Most libraries will scan and email copies of chapters to us and that eliminates the shipping time.
  • If you need a textbook, you may have to purchase it. You can consider purchasing a used book or renting an eBook to save money. It is very difficult to borrow textbooks through Interlibrary Loan (ILL). ILL borrowing periods are usually 4-6 weeks, which isn’t usually enough for a whole semester-long class. Plus, common textbooks are often in closed collections in many libraries and cannot be borrowed.
  • If the book was published in the last few months, you may have to be patient and wait for more libraries to purchase and catalog it. It takes some time for new books to be available in the ILL borrowing system and we can’t request items until they are added to that system.
  • If it’s a book that others in your field would also use, you can suggest we purchase it:

Sladen Document Services is doing our best to get the items our users need. We are carefully selecting which libraries we request from to try to make the process as fast as possible. If you have any questions about requesting a book, please contact us at:

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