Streamlining inter-lending and document supply (ILDS) update

Published on 09 July 2021, by Jenny Toller

Inter-library loan and document supply, Streamlining, Resource Discovery

An update on streamlining inter-library loan and document supply

Following on from my blog post in November 2020 here’s an update. 

In January, Health Education England engaged an external consultant, Ken Chad, to review options for streamlining ILDS in the NHS. Inter-library resource sharing in the NHS is inherently complex and we were keen to understand whether recent developments - the introduction of the new national discovery service, the planned move to regional library management systems (LMS) and emerging market solutions for peer-to-peer sharing - present opportunities to address the complexity. 

Ken reviewed our workflows, systems and networks and talked to potential commercial partners including the suppliers of RapidILL and Tipasa.  His final report includes three recommendations to HEE: 

  1. To create a ‘national holdings database’ of journal holdings - effectively a single ‘union list’ - using link resolver data 

  1. To enable interoperability between regional library management systems (LMS) and the national holdings database 

  1. To continue to work to address outstanding policy, technical and financial issues 

A single national holdings database should make it much quicker to source potential suppliers of journal article than current arrangements allow.  If the database uses resolver data, library teams would no longer need to upload and maintain journal holdings in LMS or on separate resource-sharing platforms to make them visible to other libraries. The holdings database would ideally include some form of ‘load balancing’ to ensure that requests are spread across libraries as fairly as possible. 

Ken's second recommendation recognises that management of ILDS requests typically takes place within LMS, alongside management of user records and circulation functions (though we know some NHS libraries maintain separate ILDS systems). Interoperability would streamline library workflows. Interoperability requirements are being included in the specifications for regional library management systems as they are procured. 

Ken’s final recommendation points to the cost/benefit data and modelling needed to make a business case for investment in national ILDS streamlining. We are very aware that the growth in open access publishing will change the ILDS landscape, potentially weakening the case for a solution designed to optimise sharing of resources the NHS has paid or is paying to access. What do you think? 

Jenny Toller, chair of the group which oversees the INC scheme 

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