Thursday, August 6, 2009

Interlibrary Loan in 5,000 easy steps

One of my less satisfying jobs here at DeskSlave Central is filling out Interlibrary Loan requests and, along with several colleagues, receiving them, dressing them up in their attractive DeskSlave bookband, getting them to patrons, getting them back, sending them home, etc.

I also need to explain the process to people, so they don't get their hopes up about the book they requested this morning. You see, it's only owned by one library, and it's in Nepal, so it probably won't get here by morning. I also don't want to encourage ILLs , frankly. It's sort of like Internet computers to me. At one point in about 1997, the nice folks at the library got themselves a nice little computer that connected to the Internet, probably via a 56kbps modem. This was so that people could get out on to the brand new Information SuperHighway and conduct important research. Eventually, people figured out that we didn't check to make sure that they were doing research on anything, and now, 10 years on, we are the ISP of last resort and people feel entitled to fast, free Interweb access. ILLs were for research at one point, and doing one required a certain amount of convincing. But now, anybody can do one for any reason and tons of staff time gets eaten up requesting I Dream of Jeannie box sets (I'm not kidding; it was requested by the same guy who requested Gilligan's Island and the Love Boat.)

Today, the process went one step further when a patron got a bit churlish when I told her that she had no choice about where the item she wanted came from. To my everlasting credit, my response to her question, "What if I want the copy from Town X?" was not, "Then move there. Need a map?"

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