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What is ILL and when should I use it?

Interlibrary Loan (ILL) is the process by which a library requests materials from, or supplies materials to, another library. ILL is an adjunct to, not a substitute for, adequate collection development in local libraries. Use ILL to provide your patrons access to materials that are not available in your library or in your shared system. Here's a link to a 30 minute training webinar presented by Maureen Welch, IFLS Reference & ILL Coordinator on Interlibrary Loan in Wisconsin (IFLS Style).

What is a Shared System?

In a Shared System, a group of libraries have gotten together to share an automated system which usually includes modules for cataloging, circulation, and an OPAC - online public access catalog. These libraries share a patron database and a bibliographic database. Patrons are able to search this combined database and place holds for materials owned at any of the libraries on the Shared System. MORE is the shared system in IFLS.

Who is eligible for ILL?

Interlibrary loan service is available to all System residents through participating System libraries. Any library within the System may participate by following established ILL procedures.

How do I send an ILL request?

The majority of IFLS member libraries use the WISCAT ILL software to create and manage ILL requests. The IFLS ILL office accepts requests via WISCAT ILL software, FAX, EMAIL, MAIL, and WorldShare/OCLC ILL software. IFLS will take rush requests over the phone. If you have questions about creating/sending ILL requests, please contact the IFLS ILL office.

I have or am a new staff member, how do I get training in interlibrary loan?

Contact the IFLS ILL office. ILL and WISCAT training can be provided at your library or at the IFLS office.

What is WISCAT?

The WISCAT resource sharing system consists of a physical union catalog, a virtual union catalog, and an interlibrary loan management module. Libraries pay an annual license fee to participate and may use for cataloging as well as ILL. For information on this project, If you would like to learn how to use WISCAT for interlibrary loan, here are links to a 30 minute training webinar on Searching & Creating ILL Requests with WISCAT and a webinar on Managing ILL Requests in WISCAT . These webinars were recorded in March 2017 by Maureen Welch, IFLS Reference & ILL Coordinator.

I can’t verify a request, can I send it via ILL?

You may send unverified requests directly to the IFLS ILL Clearinghouse. Include as much information as possible such as where the patron found the citation, what the subject is, and how new or old might the material be. IFLS uses WISCAT, BadgerLink, and  WorldCat/OCLC as well as online resources to verify requests and find library locations.

Does IFLS handle rush requests?

Please call the IFLS ILL office for rush requests so we can determine if it will be possible to meet your patron's deadline.

CCG and CCL?

Every request for a photocopy must include a copyright compliance code, either CCG or CCL. These codes are used to indicate whether the requesting library is Complying with Copyright Guidelines (CCG) or Complying with Copyright Law (CCL). The Copyright Guidelines usually pertain to items that are less than 5 years old and Copyright Law covers items older than 5 years old. For further information on when to use CCG or CCL, please contact the IFLS ILL office.

Are there materials that my patrons can’t get via ILL?

All types of library materials in any format may be requested through ILL. Specific items may be requested as well as materials on a particular subject or answers to specific questions. While all types of materials may be requested, certain materials may not always be available. Examples of materials that may be difficult to obtain include: High demand items; Reference & Genealogical materials; complete issues of periodicals; computer software; and rare, valuable, or fragile materials.

Reference and genealogical materials usually do not circulate. Please obtain photocopy information so that we can try to fill the information need.

If you have any questions about whether something is available via ILL, please contact the IFLS ILL staff.

If you receive ILL items that were not requested or if you are unsure how to return an item received via ILL?
Contact the IFLS ILL staff.

Subject/Reference Requests

Sometimes your library will receive questions that require specialized tools or reference sources that are not owned locally. You can send or call in these reference requests to the IFLS ILL office. Maureen Welch, the Reference & ILL Coordinator, generally handles the reference requests. We may fill by creating author/title requests or finding online information to answer your patron's question; or refer the request to either our System Resource Library, L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library, or to the state's resource library, RL&LL(Resources for Libraries and Lifelong Learning).

Subject requests are just like reference questions, you need to conduct a reference interview to find out what the patron really wants to know.

What’s an ILL patron interview?

A successful ILL patron interview will answer all the following questions.


Why is the information needed? What does the patron plan to do with the information? DO NOT ASK THESE QUESTIONS DIRECTLY due to privacy but use open ended questions such as What kind of information on this subject are you looking for? Or can you describe the kind of information you would like to find? Different sources and types of information would be sent in response to a request for information on solar houses, depending on whether the patron wants to build one, is writing a term paper on energy conservation, is teaching a class on solar energy, or is just curious.


Is there a date after which the information will no longer be useful to the patron? ASAP is not helpful and will not speed up requests - we try to fill all ILL & reference requests as soon as possible. Try to be realistic about deadlines. Depending on courier routes and mail sent via library rate, filled requests for items that need to be shipped can take from 1-3 weeks to be delivered.


How much information is needed? Would one short article be enough, or does the person need extensive information? In what form will it be the most useful? Is reading level a factor? Technical or non-technical?


How knowledgeable is the patron on the subject? Is the person an expert or a beginner? What information does the patron already have?


Where did the patron hear about this? What is the source? What prompted the question?


What does the patron really want to know.

During the patron ILL interview process, you will also be answering the patron’s questions on how long will it take, how will I know when it gets here and how long can I use it.

When the subject materials are received, always ask the patron if the information need has been filled. Did the patron get what they needed? If not, refine the subject request, be more specific and resend the request.

Questions the patron is likely to ask include: 

  • You don’t own this material, how can I get a hold of it? 
  • How long will it take? 
  • How much will it cost me? 
  • How will I know when it gets here? 
  • How long may I have it? 
  • What must I do?

Questions staff members need to ask include: 

  • Is this patron eligible to use ILL? 
  • Have the holdings in the library and/or Shared System been checked? 
  • Is this an author/title or subject request? 
  • When is the material needed? 
  • Is the information on the request form complete and readable?

Providing quality ILL service

Answer the following questions to measure your library’s ILL service quality:

  1. Is it easy and convenient for patrons to request titles?
  2. Do staff actively promote use of the service if patrons need materials/information not located in the library?
  3. Is any given request easily located during processing?
  4. Are requests filled quickly?
  5. Are regularly requested items used to consider collection development needs?