Borrow Direct expands westward

Through the Borrow Direct interlibrary loan partnership, over 50 million books are available for free to the students, faculty and staff of member institutions.
Through the Borrow Direct interlibrary loan partnership, over 50 million books are available for free to the students, faculty and staff of member institutions. Photo by Henry Ehrenberg .

Yale students, faculty and staff now have access to millions more books than they did last year.

This summer, Borrow Direct — a quick-delivery interlibrary loan partnership between the eight Ivy League schools and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — expanded to include the University of Chicago. The expansion adds several million volumes to the Borrow Direct service, raising the total number of books available for free to students, faculty and staff at member institutions to over 50 million. Yale students interviewed who have used the service were enthusiastic about the addition of Chicago’s holdings, and University Librarian Susan Gibbons said the program’s signature four-day delivery period has not increased as a result of the program’s westward expansion.

Primarily used by students in need of texts that have already been checked out of the Yale library, Borrow Direct processed 40,208 requests from Yale faculty, students and staff during the 2012–’13 academic year. Compared to the regular interlibrary loan system, which can take up two weeks to deliver a book or document, Borrow Direct has a four-day guaranteed turnaround period, and students interviewed said the service is fast, reliable and cost-saving as a result.

Gibbons said representatives from Chicago expressed interest in joining Borrow Direct last fall at a meeting of the Ivy Plus consortium, which includes the eight Ivy League schools and MIT, Stanford, Chicago, Johns Hopkins and Duke.

“The Borrow Direct partners agreed that it would be beneficial to all to have Chicago in the program, so long as Chicago covered its own costs of joining the program and we would be able to retain the same quick delivery times,” Gibbons said in a Thursday email. “Chicago was ready to join this summer, and so far, average delivery time has not increased as a result.”

Librarians interviewed said the size and breadth of a university’s library collection, as well as a university’s ability to meet a four-day timeline for processing and shipping, are the primary factors that the Borrow Direct partners consider when deciding whether to expand the program to a new school.

Once admitted, Chicago was responsible for making the investments necessary to connect its libraries to the system, said Brad Warren, director of access services for Sterling Memorial Library and Bass Library. According to an Aug. 27 statement from Chicago, Borrow Direct was able to launch at Chicago as a result of a donation from the Rhoades Foundation.

Tom Bruno, associate director for resource sharing and reserves at the Yale University Library, said Borrow Direct is considering expanding the program further but added that the existing partners will have to ensure that any possible expansions do not slow the service.

“I know there are thoughts about expanding the service further, but I think we have to keep in mind that first and foremost this is a way of providing expedited book delivery service,” he said. “With Chicago’s entrance, we’ll be looking at impact on delivery and turnaround times and monitoring it closely.”

Mattie Fitch GRD ’14 said although some students may fear that the expansion of Borrow Direct will make Yale’s books less available to Yale students, he has found that multiple copies of any given book are usually available within the Borrow Direct network.

Hillary Taylor GRD ’16 said she thinks the expansion is a good thing for Yale students, adding that “there seem to be enough books to go around so they needn’t be jealously guarded.”

Still, Octavie Bellavance GRD ’16 said Chicago seemed a strange geographic choice for a library consortium that is based in the Northeast.

“Including MIT, NYU or other universities in the region makes perfect sense, but logistically and environmentally, I’m skeptical of the decision to invite Chicago,” she said.

Students interviewed said they have used Borrow Direct for everything from accessing obscure texts for dissertation research to saving money on seminar books.

Approximately 50 percent of Borrow Direct users at Yale are graduate students, and 25 percent are undergraduates, according to Warren.

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