Borrow Direct celebrates 20th anniversary

Banner image for the Borrow Direct service.

Borrow Direct (BD), a patron-initiated lending service that allows loans of physical items between Princeton University Library (PUL) and twelve partner libraries, is celebrating its 20th anniversary.

Princeton joined Borrow Direct in 2002 following its inception in 1999. At that time the service consisted of seven member libraries: Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, and Yale. In the years since then, it has grown to thirteen member libraries. The service allows registered patrons to have books shipped from any of the partner libraries – Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, MIT, the University of Chicago, the University of Pennsylvania, Stanford, and Yale – for pick up at Firestone Library. Under usual circumstances, Borrow Direct circulates approximately 50,000 items each year.

Following the success of the service, the libraries launched Borrow Direct Plus, which expands patron access to short-term, on-site items that are housed in any of the partner libraries.

That means students, faculty, and researchers who find themselves working at other member libraries can make use of a number of catalog items that otherwise cannot leave the owning library.

“Borrow Direct receives many compliments from patrons, and the rapid delivery time is especially appreciated,” said Manager of Reserves and Resource Sharing Liza Scherff-Nesarikar. As a patron-initiated service, Library users and staff are notified at each step of the item request process. “Notifications are sent to patrons when they submit their requests, and again when items are updated to ‘shipped’ at the lending library. Once items arrive and are available to pick up, the circulation system sends notifications to requestors.” This helps to ensure that item reservation requests are carried out as efficiently as possible.

Head of Firestone Circulation Joan Martine noted that the speed of the service is one of its defining traits. “Over the years as I encouraged patrons to try BD, I fondly referred to it as ‘a very quick form of [Interlibrary Loan].’ Four business days or less!”

Other Borrow Direct improvements over the years include updating the service platform to allow for more seamless digital browsing. “In 2010, BD moved from Ursa to Relais,” Scherff-Nesarikar explained. “The new system was then able to integrate with local circulation systems and allowed patrons to view checked out Borrow Direct items and active holds in their Voyager library account.” The service also saw lending periods double from eight to 16 weeks as an outgrowth of patron demand. 

“BD completely changed and vastly improved the accessibility of material for our patrons,” Martine said. “It allowed patrons to request and receive material quickly and without inconveniencing another Princeton patron with a recall. I think BD was the best service we ever introduced!”

For more information about Borrow Direct, visit the service website

Published May 19, 2021

Written by: Brandon Johnson, Communications Specialist

Media Contact: Barbara Valenza, Director of Library Communications