Thoughts on the RRSI STAR Checklist #2

The second post in our series of “Thoughts on the RRSI STAR Checklist” comes from ALA RUSA STARS Rethinking Resource Sharing Policies Committee member, Ronnie Broadfoot, on questions 96-100.

Q96:  ILL staff are careful when scanning to check for quality.
Q97:  Interlibrary loan department ships materials packaged to protect contents (either themselves or through a mailroom) and to the appropriate address.
Q98:  Library attempts to promptly contact and consult lending or borrowing library when any problems arise.
Q99:  Library supports ILL department by providing sufficient staff and appropriate equipment and supplies.
Q100:  Library pursues inventive methods to get items returned (i.e. fine moratoria, etc.)

STAR Checklist questions 96-100 involve an extension of the mutual trust between a library and its users to other libraries and their users. Trust is a key component in libraries; users trust the staff to do their best in providing access to materials and to provide the best possible service and the library trusts its users to treat library materials (and, one hopes, library staff) with the utmost respect. This trust is the basis for a community formed by a library and its users. Resource sharing expands that community to include other such communities through the lending and borrowing of materials between them, extending that trust. As specified in Q96 and Q97, it is the responsibility of a library that is lending material or reproducing material to share via interlibrary loan to make sure that the material arrives in the best condition possible. Obviously, a library wants to protect its physical materials from damage when transporting them, but this also means that reproductions are complete and as clear and readable as possible and that the images included are of the quality requested, or at least as close to that quality as possible. With regards to physical materials, this also applies to the return of materials; the borrowing library is responsible for the condition of the material from the time it is received and needs to make sure it is properly protected from damage when it is returned.

Q98 deals with another component of the trust between libraries engaged in resources sharing. There has to be open and honest communication about materials that are requested, starting with their accurate representation in discovery systems and including informing the other library if any problems or limitations involving reproduction or lending are present. To be specific, if an item appears to be available for lending or reproduction according to the owning library’s catalog or according to the service platform in use by a consortium, but is found to either be unavailable, incorrectly designated as lendable or reproducible, or not in good enough condition for lending or reproduction, the owning library will inform the requesting library as promptly as possible. The systems currently in use to support ILL provide a quick and easy way to send that message, but arriving at the conclusion that a request cannot be filled needs to be handled with expediency. In many cases, the system will automatically move the request to another potential lender, but it is vital that the library of the patron who made the request to keep that patron informed of problems that have arisen and keep that patron apprised of their options. The borrowing library is equally responsible to the lending library to report damage incurred during shipment or during the time the item was loaned to one of their users, or any problems with reproductions received, whether involving the quality of the reproductions or issues with their transmission.

More than just bearing responsibility for maintaining the condition or materials borrowed through interlibrary loan, the borrowing library is also responsible for making sure materials are returned when they are due to be returned. To that end, Q100 deals with the borrowing library’s efforts to make sure their users return items on time. Because the relationship between different library communities are involved, resources sharing staff need to engage with users with overdue interlibrary loan items in a more direct and personal way than their colleagues in access services may deal with users with overdue materials owned by their own library. Explicitly, the trust that binds different libraries together and makes resource sharing work is endangered when loans become delinquent and the maintenance of that trust should not be left to machine-generated messages and automatic fines because, in these cases in particular, the emphasis is even more on just getting the material back to its owner. Resources sharing staff need to be able to treat these cases individually and with some allowance for flexibility to make that work.

Q96-98 and Q100 entail the trust and mutual responsibilities that bind libraries together in the conduct of resource sharing, from adherence to standards of quality and care to the attention and flexibility needed. What is required, then, is for the libraries engaged in resource sharing to have enough staff and resources to fulfill the promise of resource sharing. Q99 addresses this need, one that is essential to accomplish the goals outlined in the whole STAR Checklist. Library administrators and institution administrators need to understand the role of each library as part of a greater community of libraries and institutions and what is needed to fulfill that role.