This may have been discussed previously, but I don't recall any recent


I'm interested to hear from colleagues on the issue of  ILL requests
that are really outside of your institution's purview and policies.
Please reply to the list for the benefit of all.  


Recently, I had a complaint about a refusal to provide ILL services for
a non-work-related educational request.  I referred the individual back
to her school library; I believe at the time I also explained that the
request would cost the institution upwards of $45 dollars for ILL fees
and copyright clearance.  


The individual did not approach me in any way to question the refusal;
the interchange was so benign in my POV that when the complaint was
brought to my attention, I was very surprised, and at first had
difficulty remembering the exact circumstance.  So far as I recall, I
was polite and took time to explain the reason, something I routinely
do.  I've assisted the person in the past and had what I thought was a
good relationship with her.


At the time, the person seemed to take in the information and appeared
accepting, but left the library and brought the matter to the Director


I should clarify that I almost never refuse a ILL request from a staff
person & will fill it as long as the need is occasional, I have the
time,  and I can obtain the work for "free."  But if a request is going
to impact the institution's bottom line, or I just don't have the time
to handle it (I was short-staffed for several months during the
interchange and handling a CME reaccreditation) that's when I politely
refer to a more appropriate venue.


I'm thinking of a few examples of the types of ILLs I'm referring to,
but I'm sure there are many more:


"I need a few articles for my son's/daughter's science fair project..."

A staff member begins to order dozens of articles because s/he or a
family member has a disease/personal issue.

A staff member is in school, but the education is clearly unrelated to
their work or the mission of the institution, and they want to use ILL.


Clearly, these are issues of good policy writing.  One's policies on ILL
and document delivery services should clearly spell out the types of
requests that are appropriate, and management should buy in to them.  My
policies are clear that an ILL request must be of a work-related nature;
they were put in place because neither budget nor personnel resources
are infinite, and my Director was involved in the approval process.
The policy has stood for 11 years and has never been challenged.


There are several ethical and personal issues as I see them:


*         The use of ILL services for non-work-related purposes drains
dollars and energy from the institution; I feel an ethical duty, and
have a managerial obligation, to act in  responsible manner to avoid
unnecessary expense.

*         The use of ILL services for non-work-related purposes adds a
burden to my ILL colleagues, and I feel an ethical responsibility to
avoid adding to others' workloads for such requests.

*         There is a "feel good" component to this; refusal, no matter
how politely stated,  runs the risk of engendering bad feelings which in
a relatively small environment can impact library marketing.

*         There are shades of grey here; not every request is so
clear-cut, and there are exceptions to every rule.  Rules are made to be

*         I explained to the person at the time that the ILL system I
would be using to place her request (not Docline) was the same one her
school would utilize, probably with quicker turnaround due to system
parameters that prioritize certain library types higher than my own.


If you have any thoughts on these issues, please do share.  I am
considering inviting the person who made the complaint to participate in
potential revision of policy, but I would like to have collegial
feedback to share with my manager as we approach a rewrite.




Donna Beales, MLIS
Lowell General Hospital
Health Science Library
295 Varnum Ave.
Lowell, MA 01854
Email: dbeales AT

Tel. 978-937-6247
Fax 978-937-6855

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