ILL transactions – a next step? The Danish
experience and new possibilities
Danish Agency for Libraries and Media, Copenhagen, Denmark
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to show a new route for inter-library lending (ILL) standards.
Design/methodology/approach – The paper describes the Danish ILL solution, and on the basis of this, suggests a proposal for further work.
Findings – Focussing on simplicity gives better service.
Originality/value – The Danish ILL implementation has a high level of automation based on simple transactions.
Keywords Interlending, Standards, Denmark, Libraries, Document delivery, Library automation
Paper type Technical paper
In the last ten years it has become well-known, that the ISO
ILL standards (ISO, 1997a, b, c) in real life are obsolete. For
example Mary Jackson in 2005 wrote an article (Jackson,
2005) about the cessation of development of these standards.
The main problem with the ISO ILL standards is not that
they were made before the world-wide-web, but that the basic
model for these standards is:
a borrower has some reference to a book or an article;
a librarian makes a qualiﬁed guess about which other
library/libraries have a reasonable chance of owning it; and
then the librarian sends a request to this best-guess library.
But that is no longer the real world.
Nowadays the borrower normally searches and ﬁnds – and
asks for it. And if not: a librarian searches and ﬁnds – and
sends a request. Search will normally be through some general
user interface with holdings from several library collections:
regional union catalogues, article vendors’ database, national
union database or maybe world-wide in WorldCat.org.
So the model of ISO ILL – to send the request to a library
that a librarian guesses has the title in its stock – is out of
date. But that is not all. The standards intend to solve all
problems – even problems that would normally not be
handled using a protocol other than an email or phone call
librarian to librarian. The technicalities in the standard are old
but not old-fashioned, just old.
The ISO ILL standards were developed in the framework of
Open Systems Interconnection, which in real life has been
replaced by TCP/IP as the basis for the Internet. The ISO
ILL model has a global level “ILL-transaction state”. This
includes prescribing that the two ILL databases should be
synchronous. This implies that a status request shall result in
restoring the transaction which seems to be lost. This is rather
complicated. More about this issue will follow after a
description of the development in Denmark.
2. ILL technical processes in Denmark
In Denmark we have over the last 12-14 years developed a
continuous system from search to delivery. This article
focuses on the technical aspects of ILL itself: but ﬁrst a few
sentences about the workﬂow.
As a starting point we decided to base, if possible, the
format of the messages on XML to ensure future
interoperability and general usefulness. After some
discussion at a ZIG-meeting (The Library of Congress,
2000) it was decided to use XML as the encoding method for
the (The Library of Congress, 2002) and later an XML
schema for ILL transactions was registered at the Z39.50
Maintenance Agency (The Library of Congress, 2003).
The handling of search, holdings requests and ILL requests
between Danish libraries is described in the danZIG-proﬁle
speciﬁcation (Danish Library Agency, 2007). This proﬁle was
developed and maintained by the danZIG – a working group
appointed by the Danish Agency for Libraries and Media.
The group consists of representatives from the Danish
vendors of integrated library systems, other relevant
companies and some systems librarians.
The speciﬁcation of ILL transactions in the danZIG-proﬁle
was based on which transactions were asked for by Danish
libraries. Together with the Danish ILL user group of that
time we ran some studies of practice and, based on this study,
the relevant transactions and code values were selected.
Nowadays the work ﬂow in general terms is:
a search in the national union catalogue;
a holdings request to libraries with the title in their
an ILL request to the most relevant library.
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
Interlending & Document Supply
39/4 (2011) 186– 189
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited [ISSN 0264-1615]
Received: 25 July 2011
Accepted: 30 July 2011