I've always had a soft spot for inter-library lending and document supply. Back in 2002, my first full time job in a large university was sole responsibility for ILLs in a campus library. I'd sought the role after starting off in an acquisitions post, so inter-lending felt like I was dealing with another side of the same coin - providing access to an ever-increasing pool of information. At it's peak, I was ordering between 900 and 1500 items a month. I had a good relationship with other ILL folk both in my own institution and across other libraries. A tight-knit community that was willing to share resources and ideas. My proudest moment was being given a copy of a student's thesis. At the front, he'd thanked me for helping him to obtain the materials he's needed for his history Phd. And only I knew the written thanks were partially because I'd quietly allowed him to go over his limit of 100 items per year. Just a little.
I always felt the job gave me a grounding in searching bibliographic databases, understanding sources of information, designing user-friendly processes and deciphering academics scrawly handwritten request forms. I was part of a group that tested and implemented a self-service scheme for academics, enabling them direct access to materials from the British Library via British Library Direct. The service was trialled and then scrapped, but at the time it felt innovative and slightly dangerous. What if the academics went on a wild spending spree?
Ten years later, I'm now in a government library that works very differently from most libraries. Eight years ago, our National Library and Information Service was dismantled in favour of a central library service. The Information Services Unit was born. Serving an internal working population of 13000, we delivered books from our Document Delivery Centre through the post, and provided access to journals, technical reports and legislation, online. Whilst we still purchased books, our focus changed from purchasing items 'just in case' to 'just in time' with customer-led acquisition policies.
Following a Government Review of our department, we found the library service under review, and our staff numbers reduced from 16 down to four. Our print library was digitised. We no longer purchased books. Customers have a choice between purchasing items from our bookshop, or requesting a short-term loan which we arrange via the British Library.
After spending 5 years as a Knowledge Manager and Information Specialist, I found myself returning to a role that included inter-lending. My role was to revamp our inter-lending processes, implementing BLDSS and move towards making our inter-lending self-service. I've almost come full-circle.
Like many others, I've been waiting a while for BLDSS to come online. I attended the BLDSS roadshow, back in October 2011 at the British Library, anticipating it would come online in February 2012. It finally launched over a year later. So having someone from BLDSS was my main motivation for attending Interlend, along with needing to catch up on developments in Copyright.
I found I got a lot more out of it that that. Talking to people about their own processes gave me a sense of relief in some ways - we weren't the only one's with outdated processes that needed a kick up the backside to land with a thud in the 21st Century! It gave me the head space to think about what we did, how we did it - and how we could make improvements. So I've left inspired and feeling brave enough to make a few radical changes.
Professor Charles Oppenheim - Developments in Copyright LawDay one kicked off with a key-note speech from the ever-entertaining Professor Charles Oppenheim. Who deserves an award for making something that could be really dry so darn entertaining. He announced it was his last conference speech, as he is now retiring. And although librarians across the land will mourn, I wonder if Cliff Richard will breath a sigh of relief?
Prof Oppenheim gave an overview of the Hargreaves Review and what this would mean for libraries. In a week where we've seen a lot of activity around intellectual property legislation, there were lots of notes for me to make. But the welcome news was that there might finally be an end to forcing library users to fill out paper copies of Copyright Declaration Forms, as the UK government finally catches up with the reality of electronic signatures and accepts an on-line form or email.
Kate Ebdom & Joanne Cox - British Library Document Supply
Kate provided an overview of inter-lending over the past few years, highlighting the need for change at the British Library as lending has declined from 4 million requests at it's peak in 2000 down to just 1 million in 2012. I found this decline in use surprising as I thought more libraries were moving to a 'just in time' philosophy of supplying materials to their readers. But a Jisc report published in May 2013 outlined the impact of changes in reader behaviour: Readers favour items that are available for immediate download. Document Delivery comes low on the list of options for items they do not have access to.
|RLUK||UK Survey of Academics||2012|
For digital libraries like mine, hidden on an intranet, attempting to make the library visible via Google or Wikipedia using innovative techniques (as outlined by Aaron Tay) isn't really an option. But perhaps if we gave our researchers direct access to the British Library, we might be able to have a greater impact? This is what the new British Library Document Supply Service offers.
I've already embraced BLDSS as an online ordering system. We were previously ordering Explore. Even after 8 years, I still can't remember the password for our account. So for me, I found BLDSS easy to access, simple to order from, ammend and track. I'm still waiting for Get It For Me and Find It For Me to come online, (Although, can anyone remember which service is which?) and hoping that the few glitches we've noticed can be ironed out. My next step is to start rolling this out as a way for our researchers to access the materials they need. There's one big flaw in the plan : Copyright Declaration Forms. The need to obtain a signed, paper copy of a form in an environment where we are based online, with no physical access to a library, serving a working population of 12000 people across England is a huge problem, and seriously slows down our turnaround time from request through to delivery.
Kate and Jo's presentation gave me a few things to think about in terms of what I want to see from BLDSS in the future (Ability to manage requests to the British Library independently of any other tracking systems), and a few more improvements to look forward to, including a DRM wrapper for Secure Electronic Delivery that doesn't need to be installed separately.
Carol Giles - University of Exeter: a fully integrated service
With a choice of two sessions after lunch, I chose to attend this one over Helen Bader's session on music inter-lending as it seemed more relevant to my interests. I admit, I was expecting something a little more revolutionary than what was offered. But the session highlighted the complex political and logistical issues that are still faced by University's attempting to implement a seamless library document delivery service for their readers. Certainly, Carol's presentation highlighted the ongoing issues library workers have with being able to have direct access to IT support that understands their needs.
James Shaw - Scan and Deliver: a new service from Bodleian libraries
And now for some Adam and the Ants. In Lego. Well I had this little earworm in my head for the rest of the day, so I thought I'd pass it on... and lets face it. It beats Cliff Richard EVERY TIME.
So James sneaked in something that isn't technically inter-library lending, but there were so many applications to inter-lending that we forgave him. Bodleian Libraries developed the Scan & Deliver service as a solution to the problem of off-site storage being some 40 miles away from the Library in Swindon. The service is an electronic document delivery service that provides copies of book chapters or articles held in the off-site storage facility, an alternative way of accessing the collection and having to wait for the item to be physically delivered to their home library. The service looked like it was seamlessly integrated in to the library catalogue, making it popular with the students. James outlined the results from a focus group about expectations for the service: They wanted it to be free; They wanted whole copies of books to be delivered; They wanted a fast turnaround. So the University had to work hard to manage expectations of the service and to ensure that it complied with legislative provisions around supplying copies.
Currently, the service is only offered to Bodleian Libraries card holders, and specifically only for items held off-site. But it was easy to wonder what impact this model might have if it were extended to supply documents to other libraries? Could this be a viable rival to the British Library Document Supply Service?
Elisabeth Robinson - Collaboration and Cooperation: an OCLC update
Elisabeth kicked off the session two Cliff Richard quotes shoehorned in along with a Torchwood reference. But with a focus on raising awareness of FAB libraries, it was surely a missed opportunity for a Thunderbirds reference? With a quick trot through the history of inter-lending and a look at some seriously retro methods of obtaining catalogue information, Elisabeth outlined her background in public libraries and inter-lending before looking at how OCLC continued to connect libraries and their resources world-wide.
For library users in the UK, how easy was it for them to find their local library? Wales offered Library Wales, Scotland offered their own regional version, as did Ireland. But there was a gap, with no collaborative library portal for England.
Bookmark Your Library aimed to fill that gap. Aimed at people who might not necessarily think of using libraries as their first port of call, it launched in March 2013 with a piece of research that caused controversy among library campaigners as it hit the headlines with a 'Use them or lose them' statement. Continuing with the publicity, Elisabeth landed in The Sun a few days later with another survey on the most common books owned. Through local radio interviews alone, she reached over 4 million people talking about books and libraries. A pretty impressive feat that any library campaigner would be proud of.
WorldCat will be well-known to most library workers involved in Inter-Library Loans. A tool to enable libraries to locate the nearest available location for a sought-after resource, it's a key resource in most ILL practitioners tool-kit, but with a heavy emphasis on US libraries. Set to change shape to become WorldShare with a new interface that recognises that ILL staff like pretty pictures of book covers too.
Day one of the conference ended with a plenary and question-answer sessions aimed at British Library and Charles Oppenheim. I left with a notebook full of things to think about and ways to improve my own service.
Day two will be blogged in a separate post. Phew!