Blog post author Dan Ryan is a Library Supervisor in the Inter-Library Loan department at Parkway Central Library and a participant in Cohort 3 of the Skills for Community-Centered Libraries trainings.
A library’s Inter-Library Loan (ILL) service helps to "fill in the gaps" in a collection by loaning items that belong to different library systems to its patrons. This service is usually free of charge, and patrons may pick up their items at a neighborhood library location of their choice. Loan periods, renewals, and any restrictions are the purview of the library that owns the item.
The American Library Association (ALA) affirms that Inter-Library Loan is a "core public service." We departmental staff though, nestled behind protective chicken wire at the end of a hallway, have less contact with the public we serve than do most public service employees.
My Free Library co-workers and I learned a lot in our Skills for Community-Centered Libraries training cohort, and we taught each other a lot too. What we underlined most prominently was "Understand your patron. Work with them." It was Cameron Voss, Project Coordinator in the Neighborhood Library Services Division (I’ve been here long enough that I still call it "Extension Services"), who suggested creating a web-based survey for patrons, housed on Inter-Library Loan’s webpage.
When the results came in I was very pleased, as pleased as our patrons are with ILL.
Twenty-nine people answered the survey. 76% of respondents said that our services are "necessary" for them, and 93% are "more-or-less happy" to "completely satisfied" with the ILL experience, which they use mainly to borrow nonfiction books. One person stated, "Every time I get a book from somewhere far away, it feels like magic." The biggest suggestion for improvement was increase "your loan limit."
We’re happy to have found out, thanks to this training, that we’re serving the public so well!
This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services [Grant #RE-95-17-0089-17].