access| home| news| sitemap| search| FAQ| help| complaints| feedback|

International Requesting

International Case Studies

International Inter Library Loans can be a cost effective way to increase request fill rates, and the Conarls Working Group is looking for institutions willing to share their experiences with others who might not already participate in international ILL. The following studies have been supplied by Tracey Jackson from Hertfordshire public libraries and Mark Kluzek from Kings College London:

If you are interested in sharing best practice or providing a case study which might help others, please contact Gillian Wilson by email:

International Requests

There are several methods to obtain loans or photocopies from libraries outside the UK.

Loans are commonly only made available for reference use on library premises and the loan periods can be very variable, sometimes being based on the date of receipt rather than despatch.

Photocopies may be cheaper if they can be supplied electronically.

It is often advisable to place a limit on the costs you are willing to pay, specifying a maximum amount on the request.

Making Requests to an Overseas Library

1. BLDSC Worldwide Searches

This service has existed for a very long time. If a UK search has failed to produce the item required, BLDSC will try abroad on a library's behalf. For details of the processes and charges involved, see the Customer handbook and current price list, or contact Customer Services (Tel: 01937 546060, Fax: 01937 546333)

2. Direct

Locations can be discovered by finding

  • an association with the publisher (e.g. University of Mexico publication)
  • information in printed sources (e.g. National Union Catalogue of Pre-1956 imprints)
  • details in databases such as OCLC's WorldCat, Canada's AMICUS union catalogue, France's SUDOC and the Danish union catalogue
  • details from an internet search, including information on authors and their contact details

In some cases your regional centre may also be able to assist with advice.

Tip: When requesting pamphlet-type material and the item is out of copyright, the holding library may prefer to supply a photocopy rather than lend. If this is the case, it can save time to specify at the outset that a copy would be acceptable.

2.1 Advantages of direct applications
  • Availability can usually be checked on a holding library's website - after all, there's no point in requesting the loan of an item in a special collection, for example, or an article from a journal when the required issue isn't held.
  • Direct applications can be cheaper (or even free) and quicker.
  • The process is essentially controlled by the requesting library
2.2 Disadvantages of direct applications
  • Direct applications can take more staff time.
  • Some overseas libraries only accept requests on certain conditions - e.g. that one must use an application form on its website (not always easy to find), or that one must register with it first and may not respond at all to requests received otherwise.
2.3 Payment for direct international requests.

There are several ways of making payment, which may sometimes be required in advance of supply. Common methods are:

IFLA vouchers
These widely accepted, reusable plastic cards are in denominations of €8 and €4. Full details of the scheme and a list of participants are on the IFLA website but some libraries that are not on the participants' list will also accept the vouchers. It is advisable to state on a request that you would like to pay by IFLA vouchers as well as stating how much you are willing to pay.

Commonly, vouchers are sent back with the returned loan or sent so they 'cross' with despatch of the required item. However, pre-payment is also quite usual. Should an invoice be received with an item, payment with IFLA vouchers is usually acceptable.

Credit card
This kind of payment is becoming more widely used. The card can belong to the requesting library or the individual reader. Secure payment websites aren't necessarily available. Indicate on the request if you wish to pay by this method.

Occasionally a supplying library will only invoice. Such invoices may be payable with IFLA vouchers or a credit card but, if not, a cheque or bank draft may be needed. If paying in Sterling, bank charges may be additional.

OCLC ILL Fee Management (IFM)
Requesting material through OCLC requires the payment of a yearly subscription.  It is however an effective way to obtain material internationally but in particular the United States For full details of ILL requesting via this method, see OCLC's website.

The SHARES scheme is a cooperative of libraries who share resources at a reduced rate.  To join SHARES it is necessary for the library to have an OCLC subscription. Several UK academic libraries use this scheme. For further details see the SHARES page on the OCLC website.

Supplying Material to an Overseas Library

1. Requests received through the British Library
All requests have instructions for the supplying library attached. Items are normally sent direct to the requesting library with costs being recovered from BL, to which any queries should be addressed.

2. Requests received direct from the overseas library
If you choose to supply the requested item, any costs must be recovered directly from the requesting library. Recommended payment methods are given in section 2.3 above. Please consider whether you need to give a longer than usual loan period and any impact that may have on recall procedures.

3. Requests received via another UK library
If a library is unable to supply an item, the request may be passed on to another that might be able to help. This can apply to either of the above two categories of requests. If passing on a request received directly from an overseas library, it is desirable to advise it of the action you have taken.

Tip: Try to type any communication with the requester, especially if English is not his/her native language. Similarly, keep language simple and straightforward.

Last Modified: 29 Jul 2013