A Consortial Approach to Interlibrary Loan

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					                                                                                                              G O O D                   I D E A S

A Consortial Approach to
Interlibrary Loan
Ontario universities rebuilt their interlibrary loan
framework and service
By Carol Stephenson and Anne Fullerton

     nterlibrary loan (ILL) services have   and staff resources. For example, staff              staff time is required to contact the end
     traditionally borrowed materials or    must verify that the end user checked                user by phone or e-mail to pick up the
     obtained photocopies from libraries    the local library catalogue before sub-              items when delivered. At any stage,
or commercial document suppliers on         mitting the ILL request, that the user’s             staff can get caught in multiple rounds
behalf of their communities. Despite the    request is complete, and that the user               of communication with either the end
growing number of full-text e-journal       has requesting privileges. Staff must                user or the supplier. The entire process
packages, increasing full-text content      then search the appropriate catalogues               is very labor- and time-intensive.
on the Web, and the ongoing expansion       effectively, which requires both knowl-
of print collections, many students and     edge and searching skills. After iden-               A New ILL System for OCUL
faculty in a university environment still   tifying multiple potential suppliers of                 OCUL has a long history of coopera-
need materials not available from their     the requested material, staff send the               tive resource sharing and collective pur-
local university library. Unfortunately,    request, using paper copies as a backup              chasing projects in support of diverse
the ILL service in place at many univer-    against loss of data from the aging                  research needs. Consortia purchases
sities, including those in Ontario, Cana-   system. Staff at different libraries use             have focused on electronic resources,
da, have not kept up with the increased     multiple requesting systems to contact               including participation in the Cana-
demand for materials and the expecta-       suppliers and track each request. More               dian National Site Licensing Project,
tions of rapid delivery. Many have not
taken advantage of systems with digital                                                  Table 1
                                                              OCUL Member Universities
Examining the ILL Process
   The Ontario Council of University
                                                Small Institutions            Medium Institutions                 Large Institutions
Libraries (OCUL) is a library consor-
                                                (<10,000 full-time            (10–20,000 full-time                (>20,000 full-time
tium of 20 universities (see Table 1)
                                                    students)                 students)                               students)
that rely heavily on each other’s col-
lections to meet the demand for mate-          Lakehead University            Brock University                   University of Ottawa
rials not held locally. Member libraries
                                               Nipissing University           Carleton University                University of Toronto
exchange more than half a million
books and copies of articles annually.         Ontario College of             University of Guelph               University of Waterloo
In addition, OCUL libraries borrow from        Art and Design
                                                                              McMaster University                University of Western
other libraries and document suppliers
                                               University of Ontario                                             Ontario
worldwide to obtain materials not held                                        Queens University
at OCUL libraries.                             Institute of Technology                                           York University
   Figure 1 outlines the basic flow of an                                     Ryerson University
                                               Royal Military College
ILL request submitted by a student or           of Canada                     Wilfrid Laurier University
faculty member at an OCUL institu-
tion. At each stage of the process to          Trent University               University of Windsor
meet the request (shown on the left),
potential problems can arise (shown           Source: OCUL Facts: Population Statistics, July 2004; <>.
on the right), taking additional time

                                                                                                          Number 4 2004   • E D U C A U S E Q U A R T E R LY   75
                                                          Figure 1                                            Basic forms and reports are gener-
                                                                                                               ated electronically.
                                      Basic ILL Borrowing Process                                            End users receive automatic notifica-
                                                                                                               tion when the requested materials
                                                                          Potential Issues                     are ready to be picked up and can
                 End user identifies                                                                           check on the status of their requests
                                                          Did the end user check local holdings?
                 info need                                                                                     themselves.
                                                                                                               In 2000, after evaluating the desired
                                                                                                            functionality against existing products,
                  End user places                                                                           OCUL purchased the Fretwell-Down-
                                                          Incomplete requests received
                                                                                                            ing ZPortal software for end-user ILL
                                                                                                            requests and VDX software for staff
                                                                                                            management of the ILL process. The
                  Staff verifies                          Citation errors caught?
                  request                                                                                   Fretwell-Downing software most closely
                                                                                                            met the wish list of system function-
                                                                                                            ality. Seamless integration of ILL and
                  Staff identifies                        Factor in cost, turnaround time;                  circulation systems to provide patron
                  suppliers                               multiple systems to find suppliers                authentication and materials check-in
                                                                                                            and check-out were also on the wish
                                                                                                            list. This functionality was not available
                   Message to                             Multiple systems used to communicate
                                                          with suppliers                                    from any vendor because the ANSI/
                                                                                                            NISO Z39.83 Circulation Interchange
                                                                                                            Protocol supporting this interoperabil-
                 Material received                        Multiple communications to and from               ity was still in development.
                 or request cancelled                     end user on multiple scenarios                       The implementation of ZPortal and
                                                                                                            VDX within OCUL is named RACER for
                      Financial and statistical tracking of                                                 “Rapid Access to Collections by Elec-
                      gathered request data, copyright tracking;                                            tronic Requesting.” From the RACER
                      request archiving
                                                                                                            Web site (http://racer.scholarsportal
                                                                                                            .info/), end users search library cata-
                                                                                                            logues through a common search
                                                                                                            interface to create ILL requests or fill
     a massive electronic journal-licensing                      functionality desired matches the steps    in a blank ILL request form. Staff log
     initiative involving 64 institutions                        of the ILL process, as follows:            in to RACER via the Web to process
     across Canada.                                               Only authorized end users can sub-       their library’s borrowing and lending
        In January 2000, OCUL received a                           mit requests.                            requests. Although the system consists
     five-year government grant from the                          End users are automatically blocked      of a centrally configured and main-
     Ontario Innovation Trust to develop                           from submitting incomplete re-           tained Oracle database, each library’s
     an infrastructure that would enable                           quests and notified which fields to      implementation can be set up uniquely
     researchers to access and use infor-                          complete for a valid request.            to meet the local workflow.
     mation resources. The purchase and                           Requests are automatically checked
     implementation of a new ILL system                            against the local library catalogue.     What We Have Learned
     for all OCUL institutions was one of the                     End users are notified automatically        The first eight institutions went
     programs under this project.                                  if the material is available locally.    live with RACER in June 2003. Before
        OCUL ILL managers evaluated their                         Requests are automatically searched      the end of 2004, all 20 OCUL institu-
     existing systems and came up with a                           against catalogues to produce a list     tions will be using RACER. The lessons
     wish list of functionality for a new sys-                     of potential suppliers.                  learned during the implementation are
     tem, to include a Web-accessible inter-                      Messages between requesting librar-      applicable to other consortia system
     face for end users to search catalogues,                      ies and potential suppliers are sent     implementations, not just ILL.
     submit ILL requests, and track the sta-                       and received through one system.
     tus of their requests. For staff, the key                    If the first supplier cannot fill the    Plan to Revise Timelines Often
     components of a new ILL system were                           request, it is automatically routed to     Initial implementation timelines
     simplified verification and management                        subsequent suppliers.                    were far too optimistic, it turned out.
     of requests, integrated communication                        An online, reliable system manages       The project team determined that one
     with other resource-sharing partners,                         the ILL process with minimal staff       year would be sufficient to configure the
     and system reliability. The specific                          effort.                                  Oracle database and Web interfaces, cre-

76   E D U C A U S E Q U A R T E R LY •   Number 4 2004
ate forms and reports, train staff and        staff training, the French language end-         libraries to meet and share experiences.
end users, test the system, and even-         user interface, and end-user interface           As a result of extensive communica-
tually roll out the implementation to         customization. The membership of the             tion and staff participation, staff feel a
OCUL institutions.                            configuration issues and reports groups          strong commitment to and ownership
   In reality, it took one year just to set   varied depending on the specific issue           of RACER.
up and test the system before the first       under discussion, but representation
libraries went live. Project staff then       always included a mix of systems librar-         One Staff Training Package
needed to phase in implementations            ians and ILL managers. Decisions on              Won’t Fit Everyone
every four months because of the              server purchases, end-user authentica-              Taking into account different learn-
difficulty of switching systems in the        tion, database record and reports struc-         ing styles, the two OCUL user support/
middle of an academic term. In addi-          ture, and default settings were made by          training librarians gave a two-day
tion, the project team is still struggling    members of these key groups.                     workshop that combined PowerPoint
to complete reports development and              The training group consisted of three         overviews with hands-on exercises.
implementation for the universities that      ILL managers and the two user support/           Each library sent up to four staff to
need a combined French and English            training librarians. Development of              these “train the trainer” sessions, many
end-user Web interface.                       the staff training syllabus and training         of which were held at the University of
                                              documentation was included in their              Toronto, a central, easy-to-reach loca-
Standards Don’t Guarantee                     mandate.                                         tion for most libraries and also the site
Interoperability                                 The French language group had rep-            of an OCUL office. The training work-
   Adherence to current standards does        resentation from each institution with a         ing group helped participants during
not mean stress-free interoperability         bilingual campus. This group provided            the hands-on exercises on the RACER
between systems. The standards that           Fretwell-Downing with translation rec-           test system. Participants were expected
drive the ZPortal and VDX system are          ommendations.                                    to practice receiving and processing ILL
the ANSI/NISO Z39.50 protocol for inte-          The end-user interface customization          orders on the test system at their own
grated catalogue searching and informa-       group consisted of seven public librar-          libraries and to train their colleagues to
tion retrieval and ISO 10160/10161 and        ians who reviewed the layout of the              use RACER.
the Canadian generic script messaging         public Web pages and recommended                    For about half of the libraries, this
format for exchange of request informa-       changes before each system upgrade as            training was not sufficient. By moni-
tion. Through testing, the project team       well as developing end-user instructional        toring the test system, the project
learned that each library system vendor       materials. In total, more than 30 library        team identified which libraries were
interpreted the standards differently in      staff, with representation from every            not experimenting with the system.
its particular system. Time-consuming         OCUL institution, participated in the            These same libraries shared a common
testing and additional programming            working groups.                                  characteristic: many long-term ILL staff
were needed to ensure successful search-                                                       who were both entrenched in their local
ing of the different catalogues and effi-     Communication Is More                            manual procedures and unfamiliar with
cient messaging with the vendors and          than E-Mail Updates                              Web interfaces. They needed on-site
libraries involved in the ILL process.           Frontline staff up to library directors       training at their own workstations to
                                              agree that the frequent and varied forums        go over specific workflow tasks in their
Be Ready to Add Staff                         for communication have been one of the           actual setting. The goal was to have all
   Project staffing requirements were         project’s successes. The project team set        staff comfortable using the test system
also too optimistic. The initial project      up many methods of communication                 before the library promoted the new
implementation team consisted of a            to gather direct, frequent input from            system to end users. As a result, OCUL
project manager, a user support/training      frontline staff during configuration and         staff trained many more of the member
librarian, and a systems administrator.       to provide them with assistance in using         universities’ ILL staff than originally
After the first year, we added another        RACER on a daily basis. Project listservs        planned.
user support/training librarian to assist     were set up for managers and system con-
with the heavy workload of providing          tacts at each library, for staff training, and   New Partnerships Emerge
day-to-day support for implemented            for subgroup work. A detailed support              An indirect benefit of implementing
sites while continuing to train staff at      Web site was established to manage and           the RACER system has been the devel-
new sites. An additional systems librar-      provide ready access to all the surveys,         opment of new partnerships. As the
ian was brought on to work on reports         reports, and training materials (http://         project team informed other consortia
and interface customizations.                 of OCUL’s system changes or tested
   In addition, several working groups        vdx/support/index.html).                         system-to-system interoperability, other
made up of staff from OCUL libraries             Within the first year of production,          discussions took place. For example, ILL
were established to focus on specific         we held two all-day staff workshops,             agreements were made between OCUL
database configuration issues: reports,       inviting frontline staff from OCUL               and other Canadian and Australian

                                                                                                      Number 4 2004   • E D U C A U S E Q U A R T E R LY   77
     consortia for preferential access to                 They thought their job was to search               new influx of high-speed Internet and
     each others’ collections for speedy and              the right catalogue and identify which             programs like RACER that the world is
     discounted ILL service.                              library could supply their item. The               at our fingertips.” An interlibrary loan/
       RACER project staff are also sharing               reason for searching catalogues using              document delivery/collections librarian
     ideas and best practices about ZPortal               RACER is to identify any (one) correct             at Lakehead University said, “One of the
     and VDX implementation with the                      record so that the correct information             aspects of RACER that has exceeded my
     Ontario Public Libraries consortia and               is automatically transferred to the ILL            expectations is the speed with which
     the Quebec university consortia. Both                form. Some users have always thought               our materials are getting to us. I have
     are implementing their own VDX and                   identifying the supplier was necessary             overheard patrons coming into the ILL
     ZPortal systems.                                     regardless of the ILL system, and the first        office marveling at the ‘lightning’ speed
                                                          version of RACER reinforced this percep-           of the service.”
     Usability Testing Is Important                       tion because the user had to choose the               These comments underline two of the
        Library staff work daily with confused            libraries to search to begin a request. In         most obvious expectations for RACER:
     and frustrated users tripped up by poor              the most recent upgrade, all the OCUL              the sharing of library resources among
     search interfaces. Usability testing                 libraries are preselected for searching.           Ontario’s universities and fast, efficient
     ensures that users will have a positive              Usability testing will reveal whether this         ILL service whether the end user is at a
     experience with the interface.                       resolves the misperception.                        small or large university. Local systems
        The End User Instruction Working                     In response to the language and ter-            departments are delighted with the
     Group (EUIWG), for example, based their              minology questions, EUIWG reduced                  centralized server, which they do not
     customization of out-of-the-box RACER                on-screen help to a minimum because                need to support and maintain locally.
     on their knowledge of user behavior with             users did not read or even scan it. They           Smaller universities benefit from features
     online databases and problems encoun-                also recommended that Fretwell-Down-               they could not have developed and sup-
     tered with any Web interface. Usability              ing change the hard-coded buttons and              ported themselves. Larger universities
     testing helped clarify the differences               labels.                                            have automated many labor-intensive
     between the staff’s assumptions of how                                                                  ILL processes that were unsustainable
     end users would use the system and how               Was RACER Worth It?                                in a large-volume operation.
     end users actually used it.                            The following quote comes from the                  We will begin a formal assessment
        As it turned out, our users’ mental               Trent University student newspaper,                of RACER in February 2005 in part to
     models for ordering an item through                  The Arthur: “I am still in awe of this             comply with the terms of our funding.
     ILL did not match the RACER approach.                program… One might say that with the               Components we intend to measure
                                                                                                             include turnaround time from request
                                                                                                             to receipt of material, system stability,
          Statement of Ownership, Management, and Circulation                                                and success/failure of the automated
        Required by 39 USC 3685 for EDUCAUSE               Paid/Requested Outside-County                     processes compared to previous manual
        Quarterly, Publication No. 1528-5324. Date            Mail Subscriptions Stated on                   processing. Analysis of the results will tell
        of filing: September 8, 2004. Frequency of            Form 3541 =                  7,118 (7,148)     us how successful the implementation
        issue: Quarterly. Number of issues published       Paid In-County Subscriptions
        annually: 4. Annual subscription price: $24           Stated on Form 3541 =                  0 (0)
                                                                                                             has been. Through usability testing and
        libraries, $52 domestic, $72 foreign. Com-         Sales Through Dealers and Carriers,               focus groups we will identify gaps in the
        plete mailing address of headquarters and             Street Vendors, Counter Sales, and             interface design and measure end-user
        the general business address of the publisher         Other Non-USPS Paid Distribution = 0 (0)       satisfaction with RACER. We also want to
        and editor: EDUCAUSE, 4772 Walnut Street,          Other Classes Mailed Through the
        Suite 206, Boulder, CO 80301-2538. Known              USPS =                            776 (803)
                                                                                                             learn what difference RACER and OCUL
        bondholders, mortgagees, and other security        Free Distribution Outside the Mail = 773 (731)    collection sharing have made to research
        holders owning or holding 1 percent or more        Total Free Distribution =            921 (887)    and learning at Ontario universities.
        of total amount of bonds, mortgages, or            Outside-County as Stated on                       Informally, we know RACER has been
        other securities: None. Changes during the            Form 3541 =                       148 (156)
        past 12 months in the purpose, function,           In-County as Stated on Form 3541 =        0 (0)
                                                                                                             worth the time and effort. We’ll publicize
        and nonprofit status of EDUCAUSE and its           Other Classes Mailed Through                      the formal results next year, but we don’t
        exempt status for tax purposes: None.                 the USPS =                             0 (0)   expect any surprises. e
        In the following, the first number represents      Total Distribution =             8,815 (8,838)
        the average number of copies of each issue         Copies Not Distributed =             200 (200)
        during the preceding 12 months, and the            Total =                          9,015 (9,038)
                                                                                                             Carol Stephenson (cjstephe@library.uwater
        number in parentheses represents the actual        Percent Paid and/or Requested            is the Optometry and Applied Health
        number of copies of the single issue pub-             Circulation =                   90% (90%)      Sciences Librarian and the former OCUL
        lished nearest the filing date.                                                                      VDX Project Manager, and Anne Fullerton
        Total Number of Copies                             I certify that the statements made by me
            (net press run) =           9,015 (9,038)      above are correct and complete.
                                                                                                             ( is the Biology
        Total Paid and/or Requested                        Signed, Nancy Hays, Director of Publishing,       and Chemical Engineering Librarian at the
            Circulation =               7,894 (7,951)      EDUCAUSE                                          University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario,

78   E D U C A U S E Q U A R T E R LY •   Number 4 2004

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