Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Visit to Boston Spa

I had the opportunity to attend the FIL@BL event last week which took place at Boston Spa. I’ve been before, although not for a few years, and as well as listening to some interesting talks, I do enjoy taking the tour. It’s a good opportunity to see things from ‘the other side’ – what happens to our requests once we’ve sent them off on their digital journey via ARTEmail (or API if you have a new fangled fancy system!) Having visited before, I am well aware of the size of the building however, walking around I always feel it’s much bigger than I remember. I don’t know how people manage to find their way around without a map and a compass! It’s also good to be able to put faces to the names of the people you speak to on the phone when you call Customer Service, however I think everyone’s favourite stopping point is the newer area with the ‘robots’ that whizz along the aisles collecting boxes from shelves that seem to go on forever!

This time we had a talk on Copyright which was more focused on providing accessible copies and it’s fair to say I learned a few things there. Another interesting presentation was about unmediated requesting which definitely made me think about ways that we could improve our service, not only for students but also with regard to saving staff processing time. Ebook lending was another area that everyone is interested in so it was good to have some insight from a company who actually deal with this kind of thing. And as always, a bit of BL history never goes amiss! I was quite glad I asked my Line Manager to come along as she is just learning about ILL and although some of what was talked about didn’t make a lot of sense to her she was intrigued by other aspects of the talks. I have a feeling we’ll be having some interesting meetings in the next few weeks….!

As well as touring the building and listening to presentations, these visits often end up being good therapy sessions. By that I mean, if you have to travel the day before and stay overnight, you probably have the opportunity to meet up with colleagues for dinner and that’s where a lot of the valuable talking is done. Just having the opportunity to find out what’s going on with people doing the same job in different places, sharing experiences, getting insights or helpful hints, even just being able to moan to someone who understands is almost worth the trip in itself! If you haven’t been to any events, FIL@BL is probably a good one to start with. Not only does it give you a good idea of how BL works but you have the opportunity to meet likeminded people who are probably having the same day to day experiences and encountering the same problems!

Hopefully see you all at the next FIL Conference – I’ll probably need another ‘therapy’ session by then!

Joanne Docherty
FIL Committee

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

ILL: branching out in the digital age

Many interlibrary loans departments are seeing their remit change at the moment, and we at the University of Essex have been no exception. Most recently, we have been involved in a new digitisation project, linked to our reading list system Talis Aspire. This should provide an interesting addition to the work of the department, beyond our traditional ILL activities. 


Previously, the ILL department would request copyright fee paid paper copies of articles and chapters not held in the library at the request of our subject librarians. However, library services and students’ expectations have moved on. With our reading lists and so many of the library’s resources online, we needed to catch up. In our new system, digitisation requests can be made by librarians or lecturers themselves via their reading lists, and will then be handled by ILL, either scanned from our own collection or purchased from the British Library via EHESS or elsewhere. Further to this, we will be digitising our previous paper copy collection and digitising extracts from physical items in our collection to add to reading lists. Helping to set up the system and making sure it works as effectively as possible will take some time and effort, but will be well worth it, particularly for our students, who will be able to access these digitisations quickly, easily and remotely- a great improvement from our current service. 


The work of interlending and document delivery departments has changes a lot in recent years, particularly as technologies have developed, and it looks like this won’t be stopping any time soon. One outcome of this is that ILL is being increasingly entwined with activities such as digitisation, and this goes to show how this area of library and information work is evolving to keep up with the digital world in which we are operating, all to the benefit of our users.

I’m really looking forward, along with my colleagues at Essex, to getting our teeth into this project, and seeing how it changes our work in ILL.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Musical musings

Is that music I hear?... bos
Recently there was a question to the, always helpful, LIS-ILL email list about how people handle requests for music sets via their inter-library loans service so to distract me from Welcome Week busyness and refurbishment banging / drilling I thought I would blog about our approach to Music interlending here at University of Reading.

We usually receive requests for this kind of material from the person who coordinates the University chorus and orchestra, but any Library member is eligible to request a music set. Requests are normally for:

  • Vocal sets: multiple copies of the same SATB music score for the choir. SATB scores (Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Base) have a musical stave for each singer’s part, plus a stave showing the accompaniment.
  • Orchestral sets: has one or more copies of the part for each instrument in the orchestra, plus a sore for the conductor. 

The first step is for us to establish their requirements. Different to other types of request we need specific information as to the arrangement of the music they want, how many copies they need (if they are requesting a vocal score set) and also how long they will need it for.

Like playing music, we find that music interlending is all about timing! We build in a 1-2 week lead time, to allow us time to count and collate all the parts, and a 4-6 week post-concert period to allow the coordinator to retrieve all the parts. In the past we’ve found that concerts being at the end of term can mean that performers go home for Christmas or Easter taking their parts with them and we often don’t get them returned until the first week of the new term so having a bit of extra leeway is handy.

The next step is to find locations and request your loan - we use ENCORE! The British Union Catalogue of Performance Music Sets to find libraries we can apply to. ENCORE! Usually tells you how many copies of a vocal set a library owns, but it won’t give you real time availability - for this you need to contact the library direct. Once we’ve found a library who can supply, we send an official request with our British Library account details and request number. In our experience Libraries usually charge 1 British Library loan charge per 20 vocal sets, or 2 loan charges per orchestral set.

Not all music / performing arts libraries do interlending - some operate a hire service and charge per score (and so are usually more expensive.) From my understanding, these libraries usually deal directly with the orchestra or choir who want the music and on occasion we have directed our groups to go direct when we haven’t been able to source their music from elsewhere. Iglesias
No matter how much time you allow, it’s almost inevitable that some parts will be lost forever - in these situations we normally look online to purchase replacement scores (, and have all been useful sources,) and return these with the rest of the set (with a grovelling apology obviously.) On occasion, lending libraries may require you to pay an additional binding / processing fee for these copies - as with the cost of the replacement copies we recoup this from our requestor.

And that’s about it! I learned about music interlending by doing it - I’m sure lots of other people do it different ways - but if you haven’t experienced it before I hope you have found these tips useful.

Natalie Guest
FIL committee member

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Tips & Tricks for Interloaners

I’ve blogged about open access and interlibrary loans before and just thought that I would follow up on that with some more tips about approaching incorporating web search checks into your daily routine.
One source of articles for requesters which could prove useful is Research Gate. By creating an account and requesting the full texts our users could be connected with the authors of the articles they are interested in, and in turn build networks across the world. I created an account for my own purposes and have received articles in less than a day from academics across the globe.
Research Gate can be hugely beneficial in finding articles easily and freely in the initial searching and checking of a request, but through training we can teach our users to make better use of the amazing resource available to all: the World Wide Web. I check Research Gate for all articles requested and if they are already on the site I simply send a link to our requester.
For me in my work place our students have very specialised technical skills, but when it comes to information retrieval, searching the web or using MS Word, or even some of the more basic Adobe tricks, our users don’t know. We recently had a student who didn’t know how to enable full text search and copying in the PDF article we had received. At this point I remembered that the full Adobe Acrobat suite has a text recognition tool built-in to turn simple scans into fully searchable documents. This proves to be highly useful in my interlibrary loan work, and also in my day-to-day customer services role.
Another simple trick that I’ve found really useful is setting my browser to automatically open all of my ILL tabs for me as soon as it starts up. Maybe everyone else has been doing this for a long time, but it’s only just occurred to me. Up until now I’ve been opening them all from my bookmarks.
Instructions for setting this up follow.
Internet Explorer
Control Panel > Internet Options and then just create a list of the tabs that you want to open when you start the browser.

Click on the horizontal lines in the top right corner and then Settings > On startup and then you can set your pages

A final tip that I would like to share is the setting up of Google’s Custom Search Engine. You may find it useful to create customised search engines for all of your team to share and use. I created one to search through all of the freely available sites that are useful for articles and books, such as, researchgate, and readcube, but you could create one to limit your search to anything you found useful.

Hope you have found this useful and please add any of your own tips in the comments on this page.

Friday, 5 August 2016


Copyright is a very hot topic right now for inter-library loans.  The FIL committee has been asked many times to have speakers talk about the subject at our events.  Since the changes came through in 2014, I think we are more aware of wanting to do our legal best.  
Facet’s July newsletter had some good resources that can be used on a daily bases to help answer questions.  They have recently published a new edition of the book by Jane Secker and Chris Morrison called Copyright and E-learning .  Chris has spoken at a FIL function before and has a wealth of knowledge.  CILIP has a blog post by the authors that gives you an over view of what they talk about in the book. If you are a podcast listener, they are interviewed by James Clay on his “e-learning Stuff Podcast” episode 91. The podcast is primarily about higher education, but as we all know copyright isn’t just for academics. 

Facet also sells other copyright books, though the ones that I think would be the most useful for inter-library loans haven’t been rewritten since the new changes.  They do have a new edition of Graham P Cornish’s book Copyright: Interpreting the law for libraries, archives and information services.  I find this very useful when I have any questions.
There was a lively debate at the conference in June and as the editor of the FIL Journal I would love it if someone wanted to report on what they learn at the conference!  Email me!

Enjoy the rest of the summer, autumn is around the corner!

Friday, 22 July 2016

Summer is a coming in...

Summer is a coming in…..

Well I don’t know about the rest of the country but, here in the South East of England, this week has been positively sweltering!

It’s time to dust off the bar-b-Que, put out the sun shades and curl up on a sun lounger with a good book and a glass of something cold.

I can remember when I was in primary school that we used to take our work outside on lovely sunny days, find a lovely shady spot under a tree, and we always did really cool activities like painting, drawing, activity quizzes or just listening to a good story.

Good things don’t have to be complicated to be good! In a former life when I was training to be a primary school teacher, I was observing in a local school with a teacher who received an award for excellence in teaching. He had a motto for his pupils – ‘Keep it simple, Do it well’. This sentiment is very easily transferable to all areas of life.

So…where does all this rambling fit with Interlibrary loans?

Well – as a consequence of one of the presentations from Interlend 2015 we decided to simplify our processes and procedures to try and produce a better, more effective, more efficient service. After Interlend 2016 we here at Essex University ILL are again going to implement some of the ideas and initiatives that we heard about to continue that move for improvement.

Summer is a great time here for these kinds of activities as the pace of life does get a little slower and there is more time for reflection and development.

If you would like some inspiration, motivation or just a distraction from the summer heat check out this year’s presentations from Interlend on the FIL website

Keep cool everyone and have a great summer!

Sandra (current Chair of FIL)