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Getting Results with Inter Library Loan (ILL)

The most underutilized tool of the Genealogist is correctly using Inter Library Loan (ILL). Many articles on how to do Genealogy give it a mention, but never actually HOW to do it. Many have tried and gave up because they did not get many books.& They did not discover the “Magic of Copy Request”.

I will explain the process using how to do it at The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County (OH), PLCHC. Most of the larger Libraries would be similar. Some smaller Libraries make you come to a Branch and fill out a Form by hand, but the concept is identical, just more time consuming.

The greatest bulk of Genealogy of very old records (once one gets beyond on-line databases) is in 2 types of books.

  • 1st is small printing runs of 1 - 25 copies that are mostly in Libraries of localities the books were written about.
  • 2nd are the more recently written books prevented by Copyright from being on public databases.

Almost all of these books are accessible by ILL. They are mostly not available for Loan, just like the PLCHC Reference Books, two exceptions are the NGS Collection at the PL of St Louis and the Mid Continent Public Library of Independence MO.

Copy Request

However, the vast majority of Libraries will copy a limited number of pages from these books for FREE. There is a system you must use to be successful and it involves iterative requests. Knowing how to phrase the Requests is critical. PLCHC charges a Fee of $5.00 to cover the S&H when the actual books are loaned. Cincinnati has one of the best Genealogy Libraries around, but they have only a tiny fraction of Genealogy books in print.
How to do it? Get your PLCHC Library card account # and PIN. At your convenient internet, go to http://www.cincinnatilibrary.org/ , and follow Tabs: Research and Homework, Research Databases, Books and Literary Criticism, World Cat and Enter your Library Card # and Pin. You are taken to a “First Search” page.

As an example, I enter keywords for “Campbell County Virginia marriage” and hit Search. The Tabs at the upper middle show you there are 54 hits, (30 books, 21 archival, 2 visual and 1 article). I normally do not just limit the views to books although I don’t normally try to get the others. One of the hits “Marriages of Campbell County Virginia 1782-1810” has a “Public Library of Cincinnati/Hamilton Co” highlighted in Green. This means the book is available Downtown PLCHC and thus is NOT available via ILL to local patrons. See it at PLCHC.

Further I find “Campbell County, Virginia Marriage Bonds, 1781-1854” which covers the wider date range I want and is not in Cincinnati.  Double click on that record and see info on the book. Double click on “Borrow this item from another library”. Fill out the required items plus your e-mail (to send you an e-mail if they find out the item can’t be borrowed). Select your most convenient Branch under both the “Dept & the Pick-up location” boxes in case the actual book gets sent.  Under Max Cost list $5.00 (Cinti actual Book Borrow cost) to prevent a very small group of Libraries who use copies to make money for little stuff of little value.

The following is very IMPORTANT! In the Comments type: “COPY REQUEST! It is unlikely this rare book is available for loan. Please copy the Title Page, the Index Pages for (Surnames you want). If listed in the Index, please copy actual text pages for (a few specific people). Thanks!”

Then highlight the info (between the quotes in my example) in the Comments box and Copy to your Computer Clipboard. Then hit the Submit button.

Open your word processor and type ILL-date. Paste the comments from the Clipboard into the new ILL-date document. After you hit the Submit button, the computer responds with “Request Successful” and relists the title and book info. Copy the Title and Author to the Clipboard. Go to your ILL-date document, insert cursor above the Comments and Paste the Title/Author. You now have saved the Book, Author and your Request together in one place.

To look for your next ILL book, do a series of Browser “Back” buttons to get back to the list of books. Scan down until you find something else you want. Do another “Borrow this item from another library”. This time when you get to the “Copy Request” Page for Cinti Library, it is still all filled out. Just modify any words in the comments appropriate for the new book, and repeat the entire process above. About 3-8 weeks later your Copies show up in your mailbox!

Several CRITICAL comments:
Make sure no individual ILL request looks like you are asking for more than 25 pages for one copy request. That is the arbitrary limit that most Libraries will allow for an ILL copy request.
Iterative part.  After your copy arrives, take the Surname Index Pages, your Genealogy Data and decide what other pages you want from the Surname Index.  Sign back onto World Cat, go back to the book and “Borrow item from another library” and say something like:
“COPY REQUEST! I know from a previous Inquiry that this rare book is not available for actual Loan. I would appreciate copies of pages ….. (limiting to 25)”.

Doing a new location for the first time, I would Search “xyz County (State) Genealogy” and will usually get 150 hits and make requests for copies from 10-15 books at one time on Marriages, Tombstone Transcriptions, Wills, Deeds, etc all at once.

If you happen to get the actual book (mostly from the St Louis and Mid-Continent Libraries) your original request is not included.  It is far too easy to forget what you asked for and especially what you did not.  That is why it was important to do the ILL-date document so you have saved what you asked for.
Organize a series of Notebooks and an indexing system to put these in.

There are a very few libraries that do not participate in the process but usually they are still listed in World Cat. You can see the libraries from the tab “Libraries that own this item”. Most are State Historical Society Libraries and others trying to sell their services. If you see only 1-3 libraries listed at “Libraries worldwide that own this item”, click the tab to see who they are. You will learn over time if the request will likely go unfilled because they are a State Historical Society, Library of Congress,or similar Library. Weclayton 00:45, 31 August 2011 (UTC)

  • This page was last modified on 3 June 2013, at 17:04.
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