ATG Article of the Week: Whither ILL? Wither ILL: The Changing Nature of Resource Sharing for E-Books

Michael Levine-Clark, Collections Librarian at the University of Denver has written an editorial for Collaborative Librarianship entitled *Whither ILL? Wither ILL: The Changing Nature of Resource Sharing for E-Books*.  He insists that  libraries are justifiable proud of interlibrary loan as a delivery system for print books but it is “not the right system at all for delivering e-books.”   Instead he says that “a short-term lease – a cost somewhere below the costs involved in traditional ILL – we could greatly improve efficiency and get the book to the user almost immediately.”  He also notes that “the major e-book vendors (EBL, ebrary, MyiLibrary, and NetLibrary) already offer these services or are considering them seriously.”

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2 thoughts on “ATG Article of the Week: Whither ILL? Wither ILL: The Changing Nature of Resource Sharing for E-Books

  1. I wish this article was more specific about the costs involved. While I suspect Mr. Levine-Clark is correct, it would be helpful to see the actual comparison between the costs of ILL and the rates for short-term leasing. The time when librarians can be reticent to talk frankly and openly about money seems long past.

  2. Michael Levine-Clark August 29, 2011 at 11:49 am -

    Thank you for selecting my editorial as the ATG Article of the Week. I’m honored by the selection and pleased by the attention this brief article has been getting.

    In response to Kevin Smith’s comments above, I debated using actual costs, but couldn’t find current national estimates of average ILL costs (I do know that Lars Leon and Nancy Kress have gathered data from a large group of libraries and hope to publish soon). I did not want to use local numbers that might be different from the national norm and might therefore dilute my argument.

    That said, if we are to explore the possibility of replacing ILL with short-term loans (something that I think is worthwhile from a service perspective as much as from a cost perspective), we will need a solid understanding of ILL costs, how they break down into labor, fees, supplies, and other component costs, and how they compare to the cost of a STL.

    FWIW, the costs that I was able to find for traditional ILL of returnable printed materials ranged from about $17.50 (but in 2002) to $30.00 or so. These were all for individual libraries, and often were presented without any discussion of methodology (as a bullet in a ppt, for instance). Our average cost for a short-term loan through EBL in FY 2011 was $9.21 for a one-day lease – probably shorter than we would want to do for ILL replacement.