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Inter-Library Loan

The borrowing of books not contained in your public library is through a system called Inter-Library Loan (ILL). At this point, unfortunately, not all libraries participate in the ILL, so be sure to check with your reference librarian first.

In the U.S., libraries participate in the OCLC (On Line Computer Library Center) which uses the Online Union Catalog (OLUC)--a huge (and I mean huge) database that lists which libraries have which books. Member libraries (the OCLC charges a fee for participation) can use the OLUC to locate books requested by patrons, then arrange to borrow the book from the lending library.

Inter-Library Loan brings remote books and materials to you. Some libraries will allow patrons to use the Union Catalog themselves to conduct searches, others will limit use to library staff. Regardless, it is helpful if you can locate a book you want, and be able to tell the librarian at least one library which has the book!

Note: if you live near a large city or county library, you may be able to view a series of volumes titled National Union Catalog (NUC). The NUC was the precursor to the OLUC, and is no longer being printed. However, they do catalog books for various (U.S. only) libraries with holdings into the last century.

If the OLUC is available to librarians, why do you need to go to the time and bother of tracking down books yourself? The OLUC charges libraries for access by the minute. Some libraries will conduct a search for you, but may pass along the charge. Others will absorb the charge themselves; money which could be better spent purchasing books! And some libraries will not conduct a search for you using OLUC due to prohibitive costs.

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