Interlibrary Loan Blog

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Patron-placed ILL requests

Contributed by Gregg Bouley, Woburn Public Library

Greetings everyone!

Woburn has a small collection for our city size, so we have been making heavy usage of both ComCAT and OCLC. The only problem we encountered was a few years ago where a patron placed several OCLC requests on their own and was upset that there was a lending fee. Staff at the time would put in a notification indicating if a patron was unwilling to pay a lending fee. As the patron did it on their own, they we charged a fee for the item. This happened a few times with the same patron.

MLN’s central site helped change our default to exclude titles with lending fees unless specifically asked for by us. Problem solved.

Thank you for reading this and I hope we all find this blog helpful.

Gregg Bouley
Assistant Reference Librarian
Woburn Public Library


Post contributed by Jeremy Robichaud, Maynard Public Library

This week we had a very interesting mix-up that I thought would be worth sharing. In the mail we received the book Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe from Cornell College in Iowa. I process the majority of our library’s loan requests and I had no memory of anyone asking for this title. I logged into our online list of requests through the Mass Library System and couldn’t find it anywhere. My next step was to check with the fabulous staff at the MLS Interlibrary Loan team and they showed no request for it either.

Confused, but not yet defeated, I looked up the book in the library catalog and was surprised to find that many libraries in our network (Minuteman) own this book! Upon further research, it turns out that Things Fall Apart is a critically acclaimed Nigerian book and according to several sources appears to be a staple book in schools throughout Africa and around the world.

Then while looking at the paperwork that came with the book, I found the numbers “563-637-2330” listed next to where it read “Maynard Public Library” that I didn’t initially pay much attention to because my brain is so hard-wired to associate phone numbers with our typical 978, 617, 508, etc area codes of Massachusetts. I searched on Google and behold, there is ANOTHER Maynard out there!

Maynard, Iowa is a small town with a population just over 500. I felt that I should let the staff at the Maynard COMMUNITY Library know that their book would take a little longer than expected to reach the Hawkeye State, but I was also excited to talk to someone in another Maynard! I spoke with the director, Lezlie Barry, and we both learned a little bit about each of our respective Maynards. They had requested the book through their in-state ILL system and someone at Cornell College (not Cornell University! That could be a whole other mix-up!) presumably did a Google search for “Maynard Library,” found us up at the top of the search results, and just sent it away.

Many towns in Massachusetts have names that are found in many states all around the country and around the world (I’m looking at you Springfield, Concord, Lincoln, and Newton) and I’m sure this sort of thing happens for those libraries a lot more frequently, but this was certainly a first in my five years of doing interlibrary loan here. At any rate, hopefully we will all be a little more alert when sending or returning ILL items and double check exactly where we’re sending things off to.

Side note: Upon further investigation, it appears there is also a Maynard in Arkansas (population 422) and Minnesota (population 353). Maynards of the world unite!

Jeremy Robichaud

Head of Reference Services

Maynard Public Library

Compass No Help to Delivery Drivers in Mass

Post contributed by Anonymous

Massachusetts is facing a geographic crisis of unprecedented proportions.

Southhampton and Southwick are on the West delivery route, but Southborough and Southbridge are Central.

Northampton and Northfield are West, Northborough is Central.

Centerville is on the South route, Middleton is Northeast, Middleborough is Southeast.  Um, did we forget what “middle” means?

Westborough and Westminster are Central … Westford is Northeast … Westwood and Weston are Metro … Westport is South.

Easton and Eastham are both South.  More egregiously, Easthampton is West!

Norfolk, Norton and Norwell are all South, while Medway, Medford and Medfield are Metro rather than Central.  LOWell is North, UPton is Central, and NORTHEASTERN University is on the Boston route, not Northeast!

Oh, and while we’re at it, somebody failed to put Rockland anywhere near Rockport.

Thank goodness for Westfield and Westhampton, on the West route.  Honorable mention to Topsfield in the North.  The rest of Massachusetts is just ridiculous.

[Editor’s note: Thanks, Anonymous! If we could explain it, we would!]

It’s here!

Post contributed by Barbara Oberlin, Librarian, Gale Free Library

Well, I just read Hansie’s invitation to participate and my first post immediately walked in the door!

A woman, all smiles, walked in the library, looked at me, and excitedly said “It’s here!”  “What’s here?” I stupidly asked, not recognizing this dear woman, unlike most of my ILL patrons.  “The books!” she said.  “He called and said they came in!”  Trying not to sound even more ignorant than I am, I smiled and said enthusiastically, “That’s great!”  The patron then went to the Circ desk to pick up whatever it was she had requested.

That little anecdote was a nice reminder for me that the stuff I do everyday, sometimes almost without thinking about it, makes a difference to people.  And also a reminder to keep my verbal tap dancing skills sharp!  😉

Barbara Oberlin
Reference Librarian
Gale Free Library, Holden

[Editor’s note: Thanks, Barbara! It’s great to hear about the patrons, especially for us here at MLS, as we don’t often get to see them!]

How do you handle rude ILL patrons?

Post contributed by Michelle Welcome, of Montague Public libraries:

The first subject that came to my mind is dealing with problem patrons. Specifically, extreme problem patrons. We have a patron who constantly breaks the ILL rules, and has been doing this for a long time. She oversteps boundaries because she thinks she is entitled to do so. Overstepping as in calling across the state, even across the country, to other libraries to try to get what she wants instead of going through the process we have in place. Just this alone has caused us issues which are time-consuming to sort out. There have been multiple times that dealing with one of her issues has taken hours, and sometimes days, to resolve. We have reminded her of the rules many, many times, formally and informally. It does not matter. At best, she “behaves” for a couple of months, then goes right back at it, as though none of it ever happened. When it comes down to returning an ILL item, she almost always returns it very late. An example is one time we contacted her because she had an item for two months past the due date. She refused to return it until she was able to make copies of something in it.

Additionally, she becomes very abusive to staff. As soon as she hears that we are declining her request (whatever it may be) she changes her attitude and is very rude, sometimes downright mean, has hung up on staff many times then attempted to report to the director that it was the staff member who hung up and was rude. (We know for a fact that it was not, nor has it ever, been any of our staff). Another thing that happens frequently is that she always wants to renew ComCat items and becomes so nasty and rude when staff tries to tell her that they can’t be renewed, she throws a fit and then the renewal happens just to get dealing with her over with. There are so many stories about things that have happened with her, and things she has done, but it would take me writing a book to discuss all of them!

I would love to know how other libraries deal with this kind of patron.
Michelle Welcome
Montague Public Libraries

Response from Sandy Balayan, Bushnell-Sage Library in Sheffield

In response to rude patron entry

Part of the problem is that most patrons have no idea of the process and what is involved in getting them materials that are not readily available.  With patience, we can often find the most obscure items for them but it is not always an instant fix.  I know that people will not read even more signs and more handouts so I am not sure how to get the info out, but I know we try to educate all our new registrations about the benefits of such a great library system and how it works.

This morning a patron questioned me about the difficulty a couple members of her book club had getting a hot book.  They were miffed to have to wait in line for the book with the rest of the CWMARS members. I explained how the system works and hopefully she understands that instead of only our 1 or 2 copies, the book club has access to many copies throughout the system.  I also said they shouldn’t always pick the hottest books out there.  If they wait six months, the same book will be languishing on the shelves of many libraries and we can get them in quicker.  Some patrons want instant gratification and get upset if they have to wait.  But, there are even more patrons who thank us daily and appreciate the fact that we can get them the titles they are searching for. I want to personally thank Hansie and her colleagues at the MLS for helping me with so many hard to find items.  Keep up the good work!  Sandy Balayan Bushnell-Sage Library  Sheffield

Response from Joanne Nichting, Circulation Supervisor, East Longmeadow Public Library

Sometimes you will find yourself dealing with a patron that just can’t be satisfied no matter what you do. That sounds to me like the patron that you described. Unfortunately, every library has a least one of these patrons (am I right or am I right?). My suggestion would be for everyone to stick to the policies and try not to let her get you upset. That is what she is looking for. If she doesn’t get that reaction, she might chill out. Also, I’ve tried killing them with kindness. It’s fun to watch them get flustered when they can’t get you angry at them. I sometimes think that librarians could have second careers as psychologists.

Response from Jean Williams, Cary Memorial Library, Lexington

In response to Michelle of Montague– If a patron here in Lexington were to be two months late returning an ILL book, that would be the patron’s last request through us! Also, we don’t tolerate abusiveness to the staff. Patrons who are verbally abusive are given legal no-trepass orders to stay out of the building, by our director and the police. Your problems with this patron sound like something that should be referred to your director,and perhaps your town counsel. If your director does not support you, then you should take this to your union, certainly. Yes, we are public servants, but we do not have to tolerate abuse from anyone.

Additional post by Michelle Welcome

Thank you all for your replies!

Sandy…Unfortunately we’ve done this over and over, explained rules over and over, it literally doesn’t matter to her. She just wants what she wants, when she wants it. Ditto on thanks to Hansie and her colleagues for all of their help!

Joanne…Yes on all counts! In all seriousness though, we’ve recently had a staff meeting where we addressed the issue, and for now we’ve agreed to follow all rules, no exceptions. It probably wont stop her abuse, but maybe it will change somewhat if we’re all consistent.

Jean…We hope we don’t have to go this far, but we’ve discussed it with the Director and if this patron gets very abusive again then she’ll take further steps.

Librarians Use ILL, Too!

Post contributed by Nicholas Molinari, Milford High School Librarian

ILL is a lifesaver for me, expanding our modest high school collection to encompass virtually anything we can conceive of.  My patrons borrow all sorts of materials – from beginning reader books to bound dissertations.  We often like to throw curve balls to the ILL staff, like long titles in German, and they always do a fantastic job of getting the material.

But I have to confess: I use ILL as much as my patrons. Just this year alone I’m borrowing a copy of a book that was shipped from Germany and another rare, $4,000 reference work shipped from a university halfway across the country. What makes the second book so special is that I can re-photograph the plates, which aren’t as nice as on the reprints. I would never have the time (or money) to get this work and many others like it on my own.   ILL in Massachusetts even played an integral part in the publication of my own book:

And, of course, I was sure to thank the Massachusetts Library System Resource Sharing Team in the preface, because I realize what a vital resource it is:


Next semester we’ll begin an advanced library research program here at MHS, in which students work on a single essay for the entire semester. This means we will surely expand our requests even more!

Happy blogging ILL friends!

Nick Molinari
School Librarian, Milford High School

[Editor’s note: Congrats on the book, Nick! “Potamikon : sinews of Acheloios : a comprehensive catalog of the bronze coinage of the man-faced bull, with essays on origin and identity.” Wow! Glad we could help!]