05 October 2021 Blogs, Academic, Librarian, Faculty

How Improved ILL Services Benefit Students, Faculty and Library Staff

Bethany Sewell, Access Services and Reference Librarian, on the ways implementing RapidILL at The College of New Jersey saves time and money

The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) was founded in 1855 as the New Jersey State Normal School and maintains the seventh highest four-year graduation rate among all U.S. public colleges and universities. Throughout the number degrees offered at the college’s seven schools (Arts and Communication; Business; Education; Engineering; Humanities and Social Sciences; Nursing, Health, and Exercise Science; and Science), liberal arts studies are at emphasized. TCNJ’s longstanding commitment to faculty-student collaboration was recognized in 2015 by the Council on Undergraduate Research, which named the college the recipient of its inaugural “Campus-wide Award for Undergraduate Research Accomplishment.”

The R. Barbara Gitenstein Library provides the campus population with high-quality information resources, expertise, and a learning environment that enhance the search for knowledge and understanding. “The Library serves as an intellectual, cultural and social center for the College, empowering TCNJ community members to become self-directed, lifelong learners and responsible citizens, according to Bethany Sewell, Access Services and Reference Librarian at the Library.

However, a 2012 survey of 110 TCNJ faculty members exposed one area that could be improved for library users: interlibrary loan services.

Room for improvement: Interlibrary loan services

When asked, “What do you do when TCNJ Library does not have an item that you need?,” 54% of survey participants said they obtain teaching and research materials from sources other than the library. Furthermore, the survey revealed that only a dismal 11% of the campus population placed loan requests in 2012.

One of the major factors that deterred library users from taking advantage of interlibrary loan services was the turnaround time for request fulfillment. Of the faculty surveyed, 33% were somewhat to less than satisfied with the turnaround time of interlibrary loan requests. Although 67% were satisfied to very satisfied with the turnaround, “the Library believed that a decreased turnaround time would benefit all users by cutting down wait time for materials needed for teaching and research and would increase use of the critical services offered by the library,” Sewell said.

To resolve these challenges and increase interlibrary loan requests, the Gitenstein Library implemented RapidILL from Ex Libris in the summer of 2014. RapidILL is a dynamic and community-oriented interlibrary loan and resource sharing system designed for quick and efficient transactions. With a focus on saving staff time, RapidILL provides tools for automating workflows and leveraging library collections for peer-to-peer sharing and document delivery.

Streamlining ILL workflow results in savings – and more requests

“Since implementation in summer 2014, the efficiencies resulting from this service have exceeded our most optimistic expectations,” Sewell noted.

“Since the majority of the materials requested for interlibrary loan are for articles, RapidILL benefited the users of Gitenstein Library,” according to Sewell. “The RapidILL system requires its participants to deliver materials within 24 hours; however, the system average for a sample month (January 2013) was 14.17 hours.

Instead of taking days to fill a request, the average turnaround time for articles available via RapidILL (75% of requested articles), is 9.7 hours. Many times, requests are filled within less than one hour. Turnaround time for articles in 2012 was 5.2 days. In 2016, with RapidILL, that time was reduced to 8.2 hours. “In reality,” Sewell revealed, “articles filled through RapidILL often turnaround even faster, sometimes in less than an hour of the request being made.

Sewell said the Library anticipated an increase in requests as turnaround time decreased. However, the results were even better than they anticipated. After joining the RapidILL community, ILL-requests more than doubled over a two-year period, she noted. Furthermore, from 2013 to 2016, filled requests increased by an astounding 300 percent! Through an enhanced resource sharing service, the Library was able to meet and surpass user expectations.

RapidILL also helped library staff easily manage the new volume of requests, Sewell continued. “Automating ILL staff tasks such as selecting lenders and verifying holdings and locations led to significant savings in time and money,” she explained.

By streamlining the ILL processing workflow, everybody wins. Students and scholars can work more efficiently and effectively, resulting in more successful learning and research outcomes. Faculty can easily access materials for more engaging teaching – in the classroom or online. And the Library saves time while increasing usage of its collections.

Learn more about RapidILL.