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Interlibrary Loan: Copyright and ALA Interlibrary Loan Code

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Clyde Robinson
Library 135
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NOTICE: Warning Concerning Copyright Restrictions

The copyright law of the United States (Title 17. United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material.

Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other reproduction. One of these specified conditions is that the photocopy/reproduction is not to be "used for any purposes other than private study, scholarship, or research." If a user makes a request for, or later uses, a photocopy or reproduction for purposes in excess of fair use, that user may be liable for copyright infringement.

This institution reserves the right to refuse to accept a copying order if, in its judgment, fulfillment of the order would involve violation of copyright law.

ALA Interlibrary Loan Code

ALA InterLibrary Loan Code

(Reference and Adult Services Division (RASD))
Date Posted July 15, 1994
Date Created: February 8, 1994
Date Revised: February 8, 1994
Update Frequency: Every 5-7 years
Source: RASD

For Further Information Contact: Cathleen Bourdon, 800-545-2433, ext. 4395, e-mail:

National Interlibrary Loan Code for the United States 1993.

Prepared by the ALA RASD MOPSS Interlibrary Loan Committee
(Approved by the RASD Board of Directors February 8, 1994. Code will be published in the RQ, Vol. 33, No. 4, Summer, 1994)


The Reference and Adult Services Division, acting for the American Library Association in its adoption of this code, recognizes that the exchange of material between libraries in the United States is an important element in the provision of library service and believes it to be in the public interest to encourage such an exchange.

Interlibrary loan is essential to the vitality of libraries of all types and sizes and is a means by which a wider range of materials can be made available to users. In the interests of providing quality service, libraries have an obligation to obtain materials to meet the informational needs of users when local resources do not meet those needs. Interlibrary Loan has been described as an adjunct to, not a substitute for, collection development in individual libraries. Changes in the last decade have brought increasing availability of materials in alternative formats, an abundance of verification and location information, and a shift in the very nature of interlibrary cooperation. Interlibrary borrowing is an integral element of collection development for all libraries, not an ancillary option.

The effectiveness of a national resource sharing system depends upon the responsible distribution of borrowing and lending. Libraries of all types and sizes should be willing to share their resources liberally so that a relatively few libraries are not overburdened. Libraries must be willing to lend if they wish to borrow.

This code is designed to regulate lending and borrowing relations between libraries. It is not the intent of this code to prescribe the nature of interlibrary cooperation within formally established networks and consortia, or to regulate the purchase of materials from document suppliers. However, this Code may be used as a model for development of state, regional, or local interlibrary loan codes.

This code provides general guidelines for the requesting and supplying of materials between libraries. Specific guidelines and procedures are found in such sources as those listed in the bibliography.

1.0   Definition

1.1   Interlibrary loan is the process by which a library requests materials from, or supplies materials to, another library.

2.0   Purpose

2.1   The purpose of interlibrary loan as defined by this code is to obtain, upon request of a library user, materials not available in the user's local library.

3.0   Scope

3.1   Interlibrary loan is a mutual relationship and libraries should be willing to supply materials as freely as they request materials.

3.2   Any materials, regardless of format, may be requested from another library. The supplying library determines whether the material can be provided.

4.0   Responsibilities of the Requesting Library

4.1   The requesting library should establish and maintain an interlibrary loan policy for its borrowers and make it available.

4.2   The requesting library should process requests in a timely fashion.

4.3   The requesting library should identify libraries that own and might provide the requested materials. The requesting library should check the policies of potential suppliers for special instructions, restrictions, and information on charges prior to sending a request. The requesting library is responsible for all authorized charges imposed by the supplying library.

4.4   Requests for materials for which locations cannot be identified, should be sent to libraries that might provide the requested materials and be accompanied by the statement "cannot locate". The original source of the reference should be cited or a copy of the citation provided.

4.5   The requesting library should avoid sending the burden of its requests to a few libraries. Major resource libraries should be used as a last resort.

4.6   The requesting library should transmit all interlibrary loan requests in standard bibliographic format in accordance with the protocols of the electronic network or transmission system used. In the absence of an electronically generated form, the American Library Association Interlibrary Loan request form should be used.

4.7   The requesting library must ensure compliance with the U.S. copyright law and its accompanying guidelines. Copyright compliance must be determined for each copy request before it is transmitted, and a copyright compliance statement must be included on each copy request. Copyright files should be maintained as directed in the CONTU Guidelines. (See bibliography for full citations to these documents).

4.8   The requesting library is responsible for borrowed materials from the time they leave the supplying library until they have been returned and received by the supplying library. If damage or loss occurs, the requesting library is responsible for compensation or replacement, in accordance with the preference of the supplying library.

4.9   The requesting library is responsible for honoring due dates and enforcing all use restrictions specified by the supplying library.

4.10   The requesting library should request a renewal before the item is due. If the supplying library does not respond, the requesting library may assume that the renewal has been granted for the same length of time as the original loan.

4.11   The requesting library should return materials by the due date and respond immediately if the item has been recalled by the supplying library.

4.12   The requesting library should package materials to prevent damage in shipping, and comply with special instructions stated by the supplying library.

4.13   The requesting library is responsible for following the provisions of this code. Continued disregard for any provision may be reason for suspension of borrowing privileges by a supplying library.

5.0   Responsibilities of the Supplying Library

5.1   The supplying library should establish and maintain an interlibrary loan policy, make it available in paper and/or electronic format, and provide it upon request.

5.2   The supplying library should process requests within the timeline established by the electronic network. Requests not transmitted electronically should be handled in a similar time frame.

5.3   The supplying library should include a copy of the original request, or information sufficient to identify the request, with each item.

5.4   The supplying library should state any conditions and/or restrictions on use of the materials lent and specify any special return packaging or shipping requirements.

5.5   The supplying library should state the due date or duration of the loan on the request form or on the material.

5.6   The supplying library should package the items to prevent damage in shipping.

5.7   The supplying library should notify the requesting library promptly when unable to fill a request, and if possible, state the reason the request cannot be filled.

5.8   The supplying library should respond promptly to requests for renewals. If the supplying library does not respond, the borrowing library may assume that the renewal has been granted for the same length as the original loan period.

5.9   The supplying library may recall materials at any time.

5.10   The supplying library may suspend service to any requesting library which fails to comply with the provisions of this code.


Interlibrary loan personnel should be familiar with and use current editions of relevant documents and aids including:

  • Boucher, Virginia, Interlibrary Loan Practices Handbook. Chicago, ALA, 1984. (2nd ed. in prep.)
  • "Confidentiality of Library Records," Sec 52.4 "ALA Policy Manual," ALA Handbook of Organization, 1992-93, pp. 145-45.
  • Copyrights, Pub.L No.94-533, 90 Stat.2541 (codified as amended in scattered sections of 17 U.S.C.)
  • "Guidelines and Procedures for Telefacsimile and Electronic Delivery of Interlibrary Loan Requests." ALA, Reference and Adult Services Division, 1993. Available from ALA Headquarters Library.
  • "Guidelines for Packaging and Shipping Microforms." ALA, Association for Library Collections and Technical Services, 1989. 1p. Available from ALA Headquarters Library.
  • "Guidelines for Preservation Photocopying of Replacement Pages." ALA, Association for Library Collections and Technical Services, 1989. 3p. Available from ALA Headquarters Library.
  • "Guidelines for the Loan of Rare and Unique Materials." ALA Association of College and Research Libraries, Rare Books and Manuscripts Section, A Hoc Committee on the Interlibrary Loan of Rare and Unique Materials. College and Research Libraries News, vol. 54, no. 5, May, 1993. pp. 267-269.
  • Intellectual Freedom Manual. Compiled by ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom, 4th ed. Chicago, ALA, 1992.
  • "Interlibrary Loan Training and Continuing Education Model Statement of Objectives." ALA RASD Interlibrary Loan Committee. 1990.
  • "International Lending: Principles and Guidelines for Procedure (1987)", International Lending and Document Supply. vol. 16. January 1988. pp. 28-32.
  • "Library Bill of Rights". Chicago, ALA, 1980.
  • Morris, Leslie and Sandra Chass Morris, Interlibrary Loan Policies Directory 4th ed. N.Y. Neal-Schuman, 1991.
  • National Commission on New Technological Uses of Copyrighted Work "Guidelines for the Proviso of Subsection 108(g)(2)" (Called "CONTU Guidelines") in H.R. Conf. Rep. No. 1773, 94th Cong. 2d Sess. (1976).
  • National Information Standards Organization. Interlibrary Loan Data Elements. Z39.63-1989. New Brunswick, N.J. Transaction Publishers, 1990.
  • "National Interlibrary Loan Code for the United States" 1993. Chicago, ALA, 1993

In addition the following are necessary:

  • Procedure manuals for online interlibrary loan systems.
  • Lending policies of all libraries to which requests are sent.
  • All consortium, state, or regional codes that apply.
  • The standard bibliographic tools and services necessary for verification and location of requested materials.

Information provider:
Unit: American Library Association
Posted: 15 Jul 1994