Inter-lending from the back of beyond

Hi, my name’s Judith Walton and I look after the day to day running of the library’s Inter-Library Loans team (previously known as the Document Delivery Service – we changed our name this summer just to keep everyone on their toes). One of the smaller ‘behind-the-scenes’ teams that you might not have come across, Inter-Library Loans is here to get hold of things not held our own library – books, articles, theses etc. It’s a lovely place to work, with a really positive feel to it. In daily contact with librarians all-round the UK (and the world), we’re always problem solving, tracking down hard to get items, which suits my inquisitive nature, and there’s always something new to learn. There’s a real sense of achievement when you track down something truly obscure and it’s lovely to see the smile on the researcher’s face when it finally arrives!

We’re just coming to the end of the summer, a time where we look back over the last year and prepare for the new year to come. And what a strange year this last one’s been! I’ve worked in the library for 26 years and haven’t experienced anything like it. Inter-Library Loans has been run almost entirely from home this last year, from kitchens and spare rooms across County Durham, with all the pleasures and distractions that entails, like the hour I spent trying to chase a warbler out of my sewing room whilst I should have been working, or watching baby sparrows and dunnocks during my coffee breaks.

Warbler sitting on books

With colleagues in other UK libraries similarly trapped at home, we’ve been concentrating on supplying electronic articles and chapters. During COVID we discovered a wonderful new service called RapidILL where international libraries were clubbing together on a voluntary basis to help supply articles from libraries that were open, to those who were closed when their countries were in COVID lockdown. You might have had articles delivered this way – it’s so quick and easy.

In the coming year, we’re going to try to keep the best of the new services that were developed during the last year: we’ve joined RapidILL as full members to keep access to fast international supply, and we’ll be keeping inter-library loan requests and renewals free of charge. Building on this, we’ll be extending our services as the UK libraries slowly re-open once more. There’s lots of preparation to be done, but we’re looking forward to being back in the Bill Bryson Library and handling books again. Starting in September, we’ll be borrowing books from British Library and other university libraries once more, and at that point I’ll feel like we’re finally living up to the team name by putting the “loans” back into Inter-Library Loans.

On that positive note, I think that it’s time to take a break with a cup of coffee and see what the spuggies are up to now.

Sparrow tug-of-war over a feather!

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