First agreed by IFLA 1983

Revised 2000

This model national code for interlibrary loan and document supply was first established in 1983 by the IFLA Office for International Lending (OIL). It has been fully updated and revised by OIL and the IFLA Section on Document Delivery and Interlending in 2000. It is recommended as a model for all countries that do not at present have a national code for interlibrary loan, or that wish to revise existing codes.

A model national code clearly cannot take account of all variations in practice between countries. Provision has therefore been made for individual countries to include information specific to their country (see sections in square brackets).

If the model code cannot be adapted to any particular country’s needs, the following checklist may be used as a guide to the topics that a code should cover:

  • definition of interlending
  • a statement of any broad principles
  • any other national regulations, manuals, etc that should be known
  • verification of requests
  • location of required materials and/or channels to be used
  • standard formats
  • sending the request
  • treatment of requests received
  • supplying the item
  • loan periods, return of material, renewals
  • responsibility for loss or damage
  • charges and payment procedures
  • statistics


The object of this code is to improve efficiency by providing standard procedures for interlibrary loan and document supply. It does not preclude other agreements between local or subject-related groups of libraries, nor does it apply to international lending, which is governed by the document International Lending and Document Delivery: Principles and Guidelines for Procedure.


Interlending is the process whereby one library obtains from another specified library material requested by its users and not available from its own stock. The requested material may be sent as a temporary loan or a substitute copy may be supplied instead.


Interlending should be recognised as a vital element in making library materials available to users. Libraries are expected to acquire materials most likely to be needed by their users but should also expect to borrow material from other libraries to meet legitimate demands by users for material that is not in stock or temporarily inaccessible to the user. All libraries should publicise their interlending services to their users. In the interest of mutual support and the widest possible availability of published documents (which is in the public interest), libraries should be as liberal as possible in their interlending policies and should seek to develop and support a fast and efficient national system.

Requesting libraries should be aware of existing regulations and agreements on interlending. [State here any specific codes, manuals, etc that should be known.] Supplying libraries should make available on request a statement of their interlending policy and charges.

Requesting libraries should be aware of their own collection development policy, as in certain circumstances permanent acquisition of the item may be more appropriate than obtaining the item through ILL.

It is legitimate to request any kind of library material, but rare, fragile, or bulky items, or items that cannot be photocopied and are in high local demand, are less likely to be readily supplied. The supplying library has the ultimate right to decide whether to supply any requested item.


Requests made by users should be scrutinised and despatched by the requesting library as quickly as possible: within one working day for straightforward requests and up to three working days for requests with poor bibliographic details. Where the details given by the user are incomplete or inaccurate, the requesting library should make a reasonable effort to verify the information in whatever bibliographic tools it possesses; if unsuccessful, it should state the sources tried.

Details of the requested item should be adequate for its identification by the supplying library. The exact bibliographic details required may vary from one supplying library to another, but guidelines on what elements to include can be found on the IFLA International Request Form, in the IFLA Guidelines for sending ILL requests by email, and in the IFLA Fax Guidelines. A source of reference should be quoted wherever possible.

Decisions on where to send requests should depend principally on the likelihood of first-time success; reapplication or circulation of requests among libraries is a principal cause of delay and high costs. If possible, a small number of regular channels should be utilised consistently. Large numbers of requests should be sent only to those libraries that are willing to accept them. Location tools, union catalogues and accessible library catalogues should be used as and where appropriate. [State any specific location services that should be used.]

Standard request forms or other standard formats should be used. [State any standard forms or formats that should be used.] Where a loan, photocopy, microfilm, etc is specifically required, this should be stated in the request.

Where copyright restrictions may apply, a declaration should be made by the requesting library that it has conformed to them.

Requests should be despatched by fast transmission methods, for example by electronic transmission, fax or the fastest regular mail service. [State any particular transmission method(s) that should be used.]


Libraries receiving requests should deal with them as expeditiously as possible. When a request cannot be satisfied or if there is likely to be a serious delay in supplying, then either the requesting library should be notified immediately or, if there is a rota of locations, the request should be passed to the next location.

The supplying library should ensure that items supplied on loan are clearly marked with the name and address of the owning library, the date by which the loan is to be returned and any special conditions that apply to it. Loan periods should be adequate to allow for transmission in both directions as well as use by the borrower. [State any standard loan period.] Items supplied should be packaged carefully and addressed clearly, and despatched by fast postal or other delivery services.

Receipt and return

The borrowing library should take due care of material received on loan and respect any special conditions. Loans should be returned in time to arrive at the supplying library by the due date. Requests for renewals should be made well before the due date; where no response is received, the renewal may be assumed to have been granted.

Notification of receipt of an item on loan or of its return to the supplying library is not necessary, unless specifically requested.

The borrowing library is responsible for any loss or damage of material loaned to it, from the time of its despatch by the supplying library to its return there. However, supplying libraries should take the precaution of insuring any particularly valuable items before despatching them.


When the number of requests is low or the number of items supplied between libraries is roughly in balance (that is, where accounting costs would be higher than the charges levied), then inter-library payment should be waived. However, large net lenders may justifiably charge for providing interlending services. Payment procedures should be simple and efficient, for example by using flat-rate charges or by batch invoicing. Supplying libraries should make information on their payment procedures and current charges readily available to requesting libraries.

Charges made by supplying libraries should not normally be passed on by requesting libraries to individual users, although a small standard charge may be made so as to deter frivolous requests.


Where a national body requires the submission of interlending statistics, libraries should record statistics for this purpose. Statistics elements of electronic ILL management systems should be used wherever possible, and libraries should aim to ensure consistency in type and frequency of statistics collection.

Some ILL Codes


  • IFLA Fax Guidelines, IFLA Office for International Lending, 1995
  • IFLA Guidelines for Email Requests, IFLA Office for International Lending, 2000
  • Interlending and Document Delivery: Principles and Guidelines for Procedure, 2000