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Reducing Delivery time and Increasing QualityUniversity Libraries

The Challenge: Better quality and faster delivery of interlibrary loan materials

Penn State University Libraries' Interlibrary Loan Department (ILL) supplies loans and photocopies of materials owned by the Libraries to other academic, public, corporate, and specialized libraries. ILL obtains books, articles and other materials not held at the Pattee and Paterno Libraries from the 21 campuses and 4 branch libraries at University Park and sends them to requestors from outside the University.  ILL staff noted variations in campus and branch material-delivery time to ILL as well as the quality of some of the reproduced materials.

The Solution: Structured training, better communication and increased use of technology


A team of staff from ILL and branch and campus libraries formed to study the issues. As team members were geographically dispersed, the team decided to “Fast-Track”1 the process and conducted the bulk of work in three meetings held over the summer. The team charted the workflow process within ILL and branch and campus libraries, analyzed in-house data to determine the delivery times for materials, made onsite visits to branch libraries to assess current processes, and surveyed branch and campus library staff to discern the processes used to provide materials to ILL.

library stacksBased on analysis of the survey results and the workflow processes, the team identified five main issues related to delivery time and material quality. These included:

  • branch and campus libraries did not clearly understand expectations about the quality of reproduced material and the necessity of quick turn-around times;
  • some older scanners and copiers at the branch and campus libraries produced unreadable copies;
  • requests from ILL for materials were not being sent to branch libraries as quickly as possible;
  • inaccurate serial holding numbers in the catalog caused confusion about items being requested; and,
  • no standardized process existed to handle University Park patron requests for journal articles held at other campuses.

To address these issues, the team recommended:

  1. Periodic meetings between ILL staff and branch and campus librarians to discuss concerns and questions about the interlibrary loan process.
  2. Developing a web page to serve as a source for procedures and guidelines for the ILL process.
  3. Orientation for new staff and technical training on ILL processes. Such training might occur through web conference software or regional meetings.
  4. Piloting interlibrary loan request/management software at a campus or branch with eventual implementation across all campuses and branches.
  5. Upgrading computer/scanning equipment.
  6. Allowing ILL staff to update inaccurate serial holdings in the catalog.

Six months after the team’s final meeting, several of these recommendations have been implemented or will soon be implemented.

    • Funding was obtained to replace or upgrade scanners across all branch and campus libraries
    • The Earth and Mineral Sciences Library is piloting the use of interlibrary loan management software
    • ILL staff were being trained on correcting inaccurate serial numbers in the catalog

1See Innovations Insights #3, Fast Track to Process Simplification,


For more information about this initiative, contact Barbara Coopey at

March 2007
Barbara Coopey
Barbara Coopey,
Assistant Head,
Access Services
University Libraries
"Over the years we have experienced a growing need to fulfill interlibrary loan requests ..."more
Joyce Harwell
 Joyce Harwell,
Coordinator, ILL Teams
University Libraries
"Providing quality customer service has always been..."more

   Barbara Coopey

   Joyce Harwell

   Ed Armstrong
   Shane Burris
   Bobbi DeVore
   Anne Hummer
   Kate Lewis
   Lee Ann Nolan
   Jeff Marker
   Carol Riley
   Dan Tingue
   Claudia Villafranca
   Bernie Whitehill

   Marianne Guidos

© 2006. Office of Planning and Institutional Assessment   502 Rider II University Park, PA 16802-4819   (814) 863-8721   fax (814) 863-7031