October 04, 2012

Lori reports from NWILL

Lori, our Adult Services Technician, recently attended a conference in Portland, the focus of which was ILL or Interlibrary Loan, one of the many services available to you through Neill.  Read on for her report.

Neill Public Library Adult Services Librarian, Sarah Morrison, has recently been blogging about some of the common misconceptions regarding libraries and library staff.  Some people assume that libraries can purchase any book that has ever been printed, or that we can locate any piece of obscure historical information simply by looking online. Neither of these is true. While the reference staff at Neill Public Library makes every effort to find the materials and information our patrons are seeking, occasionally we have to go beyond the internet and beyond our in-house resources to those of other libraries.  Yes, libraries share.

Interlibrary loan is one of the ways that libraries share, and as the Adult Services Technician at Neill Public Library, I am responsible for this service.  Neill Public Library subscribes to a database/utility that allows us to electronically search, choose, and request items from libraries all over the world. While interlibrary loan is a small part of the many services that Neill provides, it is an important one, as it can be the last resort for gaining access to hard-to-find information like a family obituary from across the country, an out-of-print title by a well-known author, or a technical manual that would never fall within the collection development scope of a small public library. 

When Neill Public Library provides a service, like interlibrary loan, the aim is to have knowledgeable staff providing it.  With this in mind, I recently attended the Northwest Interlibrary Loan (NWILL) and Resource Sharing Conference in Portland, OR. Believe it or not, there were approximately 200 people in Portland discussing, planning, and generally picking apart the processes surrounding interlibrary loan. It was great! 

While many of the libraries represented at the conference were large and many of the staff solely dedicated to interlibrary, there were also a few staff, like myself, whose work day is devoted to many different tasks, of which interlibrary loan is one.  The combination of talents and experiences were wide and varied, and the NWILL conference planning committee must be commended for providing a wealth of information worthy of every single attendee, including me.

The conference began with a cultural commentary from keynote speaker, Stephen Abram, Vice President Cengage Learning (Gale) and listed by Library Journal as one of the top 50 people influencing the future of libraries.  Mr. Abram addressed many of the questions that libraries are currently struggling with—what to do about ubiquitous technology, copyright definitions, changing patron needs, and uncertain revenue streams. He answered these questions with stories and statistics emphasizing the unpredictable nature of what is around the corner for libraries. His final and inspiring directive to libraries was to take stock of their patrons in this time of transition—their needs, attitudes, and experiences—and use that information to serve and impact patron lives in meaningful ways. 

With a thought-provoking keynote behind me, I made my way into the regular sessions with enthusiasm and high hopes. My expectations were met as I gained a better understanding of the numerous costs involved in interlibrary loan, the significance of staff orientation and training, and how to realistically assess current interlibrary loan activities. I met people from all over the Northwest who share my enthusiasm for resource sharing, and I returned to my position at NPL with renewed commitment to helping patrons gain access to hard-to-find materials. The next step is for me to put this knowledge into practical use. My immediate goal is to use the “interlibrary loan checklist,” introduced at the conference, to highlight those processes that are working well and to consider areas for improvement within the resource sharing activities at NPL.  My long term goal is to more efficiently use all available avenues to help patrons’ access information.  

So, if you’ve always thought that librarians can find everything at Google or that your local library can purchase any book every printed, rethink that concept. Oftentimes, libraries acquire information and materials for their patrons through sharing, and this sharing can provide resources available nowhere else. The service is interlibrary loan and it is an important part of a healthy public library.
Thanks, Lori, for filling us in and thank you for providing top-notch service!  Since Lori has come on board, she has stream-lined our ILL procedures; now, not only is it easier for staff to help patrons place and receive ILL items, the number of patrons served keeps increasing.  Ask about ILL next time your in the library or drop us a line.

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