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The Best-Kept Library Secret

The Best-Kept Library Secret

Once you try this service, you’ll be hooked.
Woman holding up a copy of Mary Berry Cooks the Perfect Step by Step in front of a bookshelf

We’ve all been there: You cannot find what you’re looking for among the 1.5 million items in the WCCLS catalog. Rather than get disappointed or (gasp!) head to Amazon, try submitting a request for an interlibrary loan.

ILL is a free service that helps fill the gaps in our collection, allowing you to check out books and other materials from a library outside of Washington County. Think of it as the library’s library. By tapping into ILL, you can borrow out-of-print books, obscure CDs, hard-to-find DVDs and more. Almost all media formats are available through ILL except console video games and downloadable audiobooks. 

“I try to exhaust every avenue that I possibly can before I say we can’t get something,” says Cassie Franks, Senior Library Assistant, who oversees interlibrary loan and document delivery. “I’m very tenacious.”

8 things you didn’t know about interlibrary loan

  1. We fulfill about 95 percent of patrons’ requests. Common reasons for declining a request include all copies are currently checked out, the owning library is not participating in ILL (sometimes pandemic-related), or the owning library is overseas.
  2. Our biggest lenders are academic libraries in Oregon. Our favorite lenders are those with generous due dates!
  3. Seventy percent of requests are for books. Twenty-five percent of requests are for audio/video (mostly CDs and DVDs). Five percent of requests are for formats such as articles, microfilm or study kits.
  4. Since 2010, WCCLS has purchased about 1,300 items that were inspired by an ILL request. Either we received repeat requests for the same item or we couldn’t borrow it any other way. Some member libraries have since adopted these purchases. The other materials are stored in our circulating Annex collection, a system of shelves that run on motorized tracks, housed in our warehouse in Hillsboro.
  5. Thanks to an ILL-inspired purchase, we are the only U.S. library to have a copy of Mary Berry Cooks the Perfect Step by Step.
  6. We also lend materials through ILL. Our biggest borrowers are public libraries in Oregon and Washington. Books account for 60 percent of what we lend.
  7. At the moment, we have 2,031 active borrowing requests and 1,386 active lending requests.
  8. You do not need a to create a separate account to make a request. Just enter your library card number.

Woman packing library materials to be mailedBut wait, there’s more. Let’s talk about document delivery, ILL’s lesser-known cousin.

Document delivery is great if you’re looking for a portion of a body of work. For instance, maybe you need a journal article, a recipe from a cookbook or all references of a surname for genealogy research. Fulfilled requests typically get sent to your inbox as a PDF (that does not need to be returned).

“Anytime we can request a copy to be delivered by email, it gets filled so much faster,” says Franks.

When submitting a request, be as specific as possible. Sometimes we can’t borrow the book but we can get our hands on a copy of the chapter you need.

“Patrons seem to think it would be more work to photocopy and it would be easier to borrow the book,” says Franks. “But we would much rather photocopy than pay a fee for shipping a whole book.”

Cassie Franks has been bringing her passion for interlibrary loans to WCCLS since 2002. She makes unbelievable Jell-O creations and was a founding member of our WCCLS Olympic curling team.