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Librarians typically view interlibrary loan (ILL) as a means of providing access to items not owned by the local institution. However, they are less likely to explore ILL’s potential in providing timely access to items locally owned, but temporarily unavailable, particularly in the case of monographs in circulation. In a two­part study, the authors test the as­ sumption that, on average, locally owned books that a patron finds un­ available (due to checkout) can be obtained more quickly via recall than via ILL. Phase 1 of this study establishes an average turnaround time for circulation recalls in a large academic library for comparison with well­ established turnaround times for ILL borrowing transactions. In Phase 2, a more rigorous paired study of recalls and ILL compares the ability of each system to handle identical requests in real time. Results demon­ strate that, under some circumstances, ILL provides a reasonable alter­ native to the internal recall process. The findings also underscore the need for more holistic, interservice models for improving not just ac­ cess, but also the timeliness of access, to monograph collections.


Originally published in College & Research Libraries, 64, no. 4 (July 2003): 283–299, by the Association of College and Research Libraries.

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David J. Gregory and Wayne A. Pedersen