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ILL In An Electronic Age, Part 1

Before we begin any discussions on the future of interlibrary loan in an
electronic environment, I thought it might be useful to take a look at
past technological impacts on ILL, to impart a little perspective. 

I would imagine that the proliferation of photocopiers in libraries had a
very profound effect on the "lending" of journal articles (if the
provision of copies of articles that needn't be returned can be called
"lending"). Prior to that, I'd imagine that the ILL process was very
cumbersome when it came to journal articles, as the only way something
could be loaned was to ship an entire issue, or even six months to a
year's worth of issues in cases where the article in question was old
enough for the issues to have been bound together for storage. ILL
policies for journal articles must have been fairly restrictive prior to
widespread use of photocopiers. 

The mass acceptance of fax machines in libraries also had an impact on the
ILL of journal articles, in that the reduced turnaround time for delivery
made the service more attractive. 

The development of electronic document delivery services such as UnCover
also has had a major impact on ILL, removing even more obstacles by making
possible patron- initiated delivery of journal articles (initially by fax,
but now more and more delivered electronically to the desktop). 

I guess my point is that the concept of ILL in an electronic environment
is maybe not such a radical paradigm shift, but rather the natural result
of a process that has been evolving over the past 25 years or so. I'd
suggest that perhaps the widespread use of photocopiers for ILL of journal
articles was a much greater paradigm shift at the time than the concept of
electronic ILL might be now. 

At any rate, publishers have survived these developments in the past, and
libraries have continued to provide these services to other libraries.
There doesn't seem to be any compelling reason why this can't continue to
be the case, although the way these services are provided may change with

Bernie Sloan

Bernie Sloan
Senior Library Information Systems Consultant
University of Illinois Office for Planning & Budgeting
338 Henry Administration Building
506 S. Wright Street
Urbana, IL  61801
Phone:  217-333-4895
Fax:       217-333-6355
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