ILL Librarian: What They Do

ILL Librarian: What They Do

In 2007, I started a work-study program at Spring Arbor University White Library. I was so excited to be working in a large library finally. The staff and faculty taught me much about being a librarian. During much of that time, I assisted the head of ILL services. The talented and compassionate librarian I worked with there, Kami, was kind enough to provide the following quote about her role in leading ILL services:

“One of the best parts of my job is working in Interlibrary Loan. I love that libraries so generously share materials with one another, and I think it’s wonderful that students and faculty can get research material from libraries throughout the U.S. and the world. And it’s fun to send our materials to libraries like the CDC library in Atlanta or the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, to name a couple of recent borrowing partners.”

Like many others in similar roles, she finds her jobs challenging and fulfilling. Providing information and opening pathways to it that were not known prior is the central theme of librarianship. The ILL job itself is designed to ensure the librarian in the role meets the needed criteria to properly fulfill the role’s obligations.

A review of a few job descriptions shows us what is generally expected of ILL librarians:

  • Delaware State University:

    • 1. Performs Interlibrary Loan (ILL) duties and uses electronic ILL management systems, including Tipasa.

    • 2. Coordinates with library staff for the retrieval and/or scanning of books, journal articles, and other materials (e.g. microfilm) from various library locations.

    • 3. Forwards articles to patrons and borrowing libraries via ILL management systems or via email. Maintains positive relationships with fellow ILL lending institutions.

    • 4. Provides information literacy instruction, information services, and assists users with online databases, research website navigation, and library catalogs.

    • 5. Identifies and interprets patrons’ needs; provides reference services remotely and in person at the Reference and Circulation desks.

    • 6. Provides quick responses to questions via the library’s live chat, email, and telephone inquiries.

    • 7. Serves as library liaison to Delaware State University’s Education program, and to other departments and programs as assigned.

    • 8. Selects and recommends materials to support instruction and research in assigned liaison areas to the Executive Director.

    • 9. Develops materials for and teaches library information literacy instruction.

    • 10. Develops subject guides and online tutorials in a variety of formats.

    • 11. Teaches workshops on library databases and other online research tools.

  • Southwestern University

    • Responsible for ILL borrowing and lending operations, including coordination with acquisition policy and procedures.

    • Work with Information Technology staff to keep services current with technological improvements.

    • Responsible for helping develop procedures related to loan vs. purchase and implementing technology to streamline that process for patrons.

    • Manage University funding for ILL.

    • Receive and process interlibrary loan requests from the faculty, students, and staff.

    • Train and oversee student work staff for ILL borrowing and lending operations.

    • Investigate, upgrade, and implement new software products that streamline and improve ILL operations.

    • Research and recommend equipment upgrades pertaining to ILL computer workstations, scanners, and fax machines.

    • Maintain and prepare statistical information as required.

    • Maintain knowledge of current bibliographic verification tools, hardware, and various software systems.

    • Work with faculty, staff, students, and other libraries in all areas relating to ILL.

    • Other duties as assigned.

The roles have slight differences, but whoever takes on the role must have ample experience in a similar position. According to, the salary for each role ranges between $37-47.5k per year. As we all know, that’s not even a living wage, but we’ll tackle the issue of librarian wages in another post. For these roles, the librarian will have to wear multiple hats simultaneously. It won’t be easy, and they will have to work weekends. ILL doesn’t sleep, much like a busy city. As you can see from the descriptions, the ILL librarian is responsible for everything from liaison work to overseeing the disbursement of various materials. It’s a demanding and rewarding job designed for someone who will take it by the reigns and lead it properly.

Varied and extensive skill sets are needed for success in these kinds of roles. Luckily, there are online courses and several books which can help.

  • Southeastern NY Library Resources Council has an entire page dedicated to the professional development of ILL librarians.

  • OCLC also has options for learning about ILL

  • RUSA also has some PDF guidelines about rules and laws pertaining to ILL

  • Books:

    • There are numerous books out there about ILL. A Bing shopping search provided three pages of results when using the search terms: books, “interlibrary loan,” non-fiction

An essential role is sometimes overlooked or unknown by patrons. The librarians who take on the responsibility of this job are library heroes. Bringing the world of non-search engines available information to their patrons faster than ever before. Are you an ILL librarian? What do you find easiest or most challenging about the job?