Interlibrary loan

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Many countries maintain an interlibrary loan program to lend books and other materials between libraries, so that they may be obtained by patrons of other libraries within that country. Some libraries also offer international lending services. Not all countries have a governing agency for this purpose, and interlibrary loans are typically managed by participating local libraries according to principles set forth by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions. Not all libraries participate in these programs, although they have become nearly universal in the United States and other countries.

Some libraries - particularly academic libraries - charge a fee for interlibrary loan services, but this service is often available without charge from public libraries. Also, most interlibrary loan services do not limit materials by source, meaning that books from academic libraries are available through public libraries and vice versa. (This also means that if a public library offers free interlibrary loans, then interlibrary loans from an academic library can be offered free as well.)

Interlibrary loans may be requested at a local participating public or academic library. Materials are shipped from library to library, not to private residences, so interlibrary loans must be requested through the library that will receive the material. The minimum information necessary to request an interlibrary loan is the same information typically given in a bibliography citation: Author, Title, Publisher, and Edition/Volume. Libraries using online order systems also frequently request the ISBN or ISSN of the item ordered, which allows a more accurate search.

Thus, if you need access to a copy of something expensive, esoteric or out of print (e.g., an engineering handbook, conference procedings or the Merck Manual's 1st Edition) that is not available locally, you can still obtain a copy through the reference desk at your local public library without resorting to a road trip or