Exploring interlibrary loan usage patterns and
liaison activities: the experience at a US
The City University of New York, New York, NY, USA
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore actual interlibrary loan (ILL) usage patterns as a way to improve ILL services and assist in library
Design/methodology/approach – The study assesses ILL services at a mid-size comprehensive college library in order to see who is utilizing the
current service. Usage patterns are constructed and explored based on data collected over a three-year period. The requested materials’ publication
date and Library of Congress subject heading, as well as the requestor’s academic status (faculty, graduate student, undergraduate student) and
department are addressed.
Findings – Usage patterns can accurately illustrate trends in the borrowing behavior of patrons in order to gain a better understanding of their needs.
The majority of users were faculty members from a limited number of academic departments. Usage patterns can be very helpful in constructing and
focusing liaison work. A thorough study of ILL usage patterns is a viable undertaking worthwhile for any institution looking to improve and expand its
ILL and liaison services.
Practical implications – This paper recommends that The College of Staten Island Library utilize ILL statistics to improve and redesign Liaison
activities to under-represented departments. Assessing ILL usage patterns can enable a quick and accurate overview of actual use for improving ILL and
Originality/value – Previous research has linked Interlibrary Loan services to collection development. The current study links the assessment of actual
ILL usage patterns with liaison activities beyond collection development.
Keywords Interlending, Monographs, Academic libraries
Paper type Research paper
Exploring how patrons use an academic library’s collection
and services can be a useful endeavor when attempting to
improve and expand existing services. Analyses of interlibrary
loan (ILL) statistics are currently employed to support various
functions of the library, especially collection development.
Research often suggests that ILL requests can help to
determine which areas of the collection are in need of
improvement. However, few researchers take the next step
and explore who is utilizing the ILL service; the group whose
voice is represented by ILL requests.
This article explores the prospect of analyzing ILL statistics
to determine the disciplines and academic status of users
making requests and the nature of requested monographic
materials. ILL has been linked to collection development but
the further potential of actual usage patterns is not as
frequently considered. These patterns can be instrumental in
discovering who is utilizing the ILL service and determining if
the monographs being borrowed reﬂect a potential need for
the collection or rather a reﬂection of a focused user group.
Analysis of usage patterns can also highlight academic
departments that are under-represented and would beneﬁt
from further outreach and liaison efforts.
The College of Staten Island (CSI) is one of 11 senior
colleges in the City University of New York (CUNY). The
college serves over 12,000 students (approximately 90.4
percent undergraduates) with a full-time enrollment (FTE) of
approximately 8,900. In addition, the library serves over 850
faculty and staff employed by the college. The library’s total
collection consists of approximately 232,000 books, 900 print
journal subscriptions, over 100 electronic databases with
more than 15,000 full-text journals, 5,000 videos and DVDs,
and more than 4,000 sound recordings. CSI offers degree
programs ranging from Associate to Doctoral, and has 18
academic departments. The Interlibrary Loan (ILL) ofﬁce of
the CSI Library provides materials not available in the
library’s holdings, or the holdings of the CUNY library
system, for faculty, staff and students of the college. Materials
that are available from other CUNY libraries are handled
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
Interlending & Document Supply
36/4 (2008) 218– 224
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited [ISSN 0264-1615]
Received: 30 April 2008
Accepted: 12 July 2008