Universal Availability of Publications Core Programme

IFLA guidelines for sending ILL requests by email


A survey was carried out in May 1999 to ascertain current practice, and to find out what guidelines exist already. The systems in use by the major document supply services, large ILL transmission systems, and the International Organisation for Standards (ISO) Interlibrary Loan Protocol (ISO 10160/10161) were also taken into account.

The research concluded that email is increasingly used as a standard format for sending ILL requests. Often this means that some sort of structured messaging system is used (the Canadian AVISO system, for example, or the British Library Document Supply Centre's ARTemail system) or that messages are sent using a system which conforms to the ISO ILL Protocol Standard (ISO 10160 and ISO 10161), where requests have to be structured according to the rules laid down by the standard itself.

However, ordinary freeform email messages where all the elements of the request are given in the body of the email message are also widely sent and it is for this type of email ILL requests that these guidelines have been developed.

These international guidelines should be used in conjunction with any national guidelines already in existence, and in practice should take account of any agreed procedures already in place between co-operating libraries.

Comments and feedback on the use of these guidelines is always welcome.
Please contact: Sara Gould sara.gould [at] bl.uk at the UAP Office.

The Guidelines

1. Email requests are widely accepted by ILL departments, but there is no obligation by libraries to do so. If in doubt, libraries are advised to contact the supplying library to confirm that email requests will be accepted.

2. Libraries should be aware that there may be a time delay between sending an ILL request by email and its receipt by the supplying library. Supplying libraries cannot be held responsible for any delays caused by such interruption to the delivery of email messages.

3. These guidelines do not supersede national or regional guidelines. These international guidelines apply when sending ILL requests between countries, or may be adopted by countries for national or regional use.

4. These international guidelines should be used when transmitting freeform email messages. If requests are transmitted through a proprietary structured messaging system, or through a system which conforms to the ISO ILL Protocol Standard (ISO 10160 and ISO 10161), then requests must be structured according to the system rules, which may differ from these guidelines.

5. The following elements should be included in ILL requests sent by email.

    5.1 Subject line
    The subject line of the message should read ILL Request and should be followed by the request number assigned by the requesting library if applicable.

    5.2 Body of message
    The message should contain the following elements, and each element should begin on a new line.

    5.2.1 Date
    Although the date is supplied by the email system and appears in the header information of all email messages, this can be lost when messages are forwarded or replied to, or when 'chaser' messages are sent, so the date of the request should be repeated in the body of the message.

    5.2.2 Name of supplying library
    The message should begin with some identification of the library or ILL department to which the message is being addressed. As a minimum this should be the name of the library, the email address of the ILL department, or a recognised library code.

    5.2.3 Need by date
    Date by which item is needed, particularly if the request is urgent.

    5.2.4 Type of search
    Type of request accepted or unacceptable such as loan, photocopy or microfiche.

    5.2.5 Bibliographic description
    A full description of the item required.
    For books: author, title, edition, publisher, place of publication, date of publication, ISBN, series title and number.
    For serials: serial title, volume, part, date of issue, pagination, author and title of article, ISSN.

    5.2.6 Call number or verification source
    If the item is known to be held by the supplying library, and the call number or shelfmark is known, this must be provided. If the location of the item is not known, a verification source should be given.

    5.2.7 Cost information
    This might include

    • a maximum acceptable cost, expressed in the local currency of the requesting or supplying library
    • a request to be advised of the cost before delivery
    • preferred method of payment eg IFLA Vouchers, invoice

    5.2.8 Preferred method of delivery
    The preferred method of delivery, for example, ARIEL transmission.

    5.2.9 Copyright compliance
    For photocopy requests, a copyright declaration, which will vary in different countries.

    5.2.10 Client identification
    Information describing the client or end-user for whom the item is being requested. This might be the client's name, or an identification number.

    5.2.11 Full address of requesting library
    Full address and contact information, including the email address of the requesting library, as this can sometimes be lost from the email header information. Include also full postal address, phone and fax number including country code.

    5.2.12 Delivery address
    The postal or electronic address to which the item should be delivered if this is different from the address of the requesting library. Include an ARIEL IP address or email if delivery is required by this method.

    5.2.13 Billing address
    The address to which the invoice or bill should be sent if different from the delivery address.


Example A: Loan

ILL request HG90432

Email message:

To: Interlibrary Loans, Anytown University of Technology
Date: 4 April 1999

According to your catalogue, you hold

"Quotodianum fennicum: daily life in medieval Finland; edited by Christian Krotzl and Jaakko Masonen. 1989 (Medium Aevum quotidianum, 19) Shelfmark xyz345.23

Please would you be willing to lend - maxcost 4 IFLA ILL Vouchers.

Please send the item direct to

Interlibrary Loans
Sometown City University
Sometown, UK
Billing address: as below.
Thank you
Sara Gould
ILL Department
Bridgetown University
Bridgetown, UK
Fax: ++44 1937 546254
E-mail: sara.gould@bridg.ac.uk

Example B: Photocopy

Subject: ILL request XD 12345

Email message:

To: Interlibrary Loans, Anytown University of Technology
Date: 4 April 1999
Are you able to supply the following journal article for one of our users?
Need before: 1 August 1999
Journal: Psychiatric care, Vol 5, no 2, April 1998, p.72-75
Author: Garner, R
Title: Telematics: the potential of computer mediated communication in professional practice
Your accession number: 19980624264
This would be CCG for copyright compliance
Patron: Gould, Sara
Please send article to:
Interlibrary Loans
Sometown City University
Sometown, UK
Or fax to: ++44 9876 543234


ISO ILL Protocol Standard, ISO 10160 and 10161. 1997

For information about the ISO ILL Protocol Standard, consult the website of the Interlibrary Loan Application Standards Maintenance Agency at http://www.nlc-bnc.ca/iso/ill/index.htm

American Library Association (ALA) Interlibrary Loan Committee, Reference and Adult Services Division. "Guidelines and procedures for telefacsimile and electronic delivery of interlibrary loan requests and materials". http://www.ala.org/rusa/tele.html

Colussi, Gianni. "How to write an email for ILL-DD: a librarian's guide to requesting ILL or obtaining photocopies simply but effectively [by email]". Http://www.aib.it/aib/lis/illem.htm. In Italian.

South Africa Interlending Scheme. Guidelines for sending ILL requests by email. Contact Celeste Botha, the State Library of South Africa.


Latest Revision: February 16, 2000 Copyright ©
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