We show you how to borrow books from faraway repositories with interlibrary loan.
Cheap, fast and easy? Not qualities usually associated with genealogy. But a service known as interlibrary loan (sometimes abbreviated ILL) does indeed help you access scarce, out-of-print or obscure research materials -- those not available in a library near you -- in a simple, cost-effective way. Here's your guide to expanding your research repertoire with interlibrary loan.
Recognizing that no library can provide every title its users might request, librarians have created reciprocal agreements between institutions in order to locate and borrow copies of items their patrons need. This service, called interlibrary loan, operates on an institution-to-institution basis: You must visit your local public library, archives or genealogical society library to request material through interlibrary loan.
You may be able to borrow materials from another library branch in your community, state libraries across the country, and even international repositories, as long as they participate in interlibrary loan (some don't, because of lack of staff resources or funding, or because their collections are too rare). Note that the Family History Library (FHL) doesn't participate in interlibrary loan, but you can borrow FHL microform materials through local Family History Centers. The closer to home the lending library, the faster your request will be filled, but you can potentially borrow an item from anywhere in the world.
Depending on availability, you can borrow books, microfilmed records, newspapers, magazine and journal issues or photocopies of single articles, and government documents via interlibrary loan. Some libraries even lend audio and video recordings, maps and sheet music. Institutions will seldom lend original manuscripts, but they may be able to make photocopies for you or e-mail PDF files.