A milestone submission: Interlibrary Loan receives 1,000,000th request

Student checking out books at Firestone circulation desk

The Resource Sharing unit at Princeton University Library, which oversees Interlibrary Loan, Article Express, and Borrow Direct, recently received its millionth Interlibrary Loan and Article Express request. Photo by Shelley Szwast, Princeton University Library


A million and counting! The Resource Sharing unit at Princeton University Library (PUL) recently received its millionth ILLiad (Interlibrary Loan and Article Express) request. From books to musical scores and digitized articles or chapters, interlibrary loan provides academic materials not currently available in PUL to students, faculty, and staff, while Article Express provides electronic delivery of locally held items. The millionth request, a submission for Agnes Callard’s “Aspiration: The Agency of Becoming,” includes all requests made via ILLiad, the ILL request system, lending, borrowing, and document delivery combined.

“As a service, what it does is that when patrons need something that is not readily available in our library, whether we do not have it or the item is checked out to another person, we will get it for them,” said Peter Bae, Assistant University Librarian for Scholarly Collections Services. “We borrow it from other libraries [domestically and internationally].”

The Resource Sharing unit at PUL, a staff of eight full-time employees, receives thousands of requests a year from all the systems they manage: ILL, Borrow Direct, and Article Express. In particular, Borrow Direct, a partnership between 13 Ivy Plus academic institutions, receives around 50,000 requests annually, borrowing and lending combined, and the service’s fill rate is an impressive 95 percent.

Students working in Resource Sharing

Student employees help field the thousands of requests received annually. Photo by Liza Scherff-Nesarikar, Princeton University Library

“The volume of requests is what speaks to the service,” said Liza Scherff-Nesarikar, Reserves and Resource Sharing Manager. “We see how many items are needed by people, so it’s clearly an essential service.”

Each service serves its own purpose: Via BorrowDirect, patrons can borrow mostly printed materials from the 13 consortium libraries while PUL lends same type of materials to the 13 consortium libraries; via Article Express, patrons can request an electronic copy of articles, book chapters, or any print resource; and via ILL, patrons can request virtually any academic material from any location in any language and in turn, domestic and international libraries can request items from PUL.

“Just as we borrow all over the world, we lend all over the world as well,” said Scherff-Nesarikar.  

Requests for Resource Sharing services can be made directly through the PUL catalog or through each service’s individual request systems. While guest borrowers cannot use the services, they can request items held at PUL through their local public libraries.

Resource Sharing “plays a vital role” for students and researchers, Bae and Scherff-Nesarikar added, and the unit’s staff are often acknowledged on Princeton students’ dissertations and theses. In a recent PUL student spotlight for instance, Assistant Professor of Finance at the University of Oregon and Ph.D. graduate from the Princeton Department of Economics, Ioannis Branikas said that without Interlibrary Loan, his research project would not have been possible

ILLiad has been in place since 2002, and the million requests were made over the course of 17 years.

For more information about Resource Sharing, please visit their page. See a time lapse of a day in Borrow Direct.

Written by Stephanie Ramírez, Library Communications Specialist and Staff Writer

Media contact: Barbara Valenza, Director of Library Communications