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ILL (Interlibrary Loan) FAQs

What is ILL and when should I use it?

Interlibrary Loan (ILL) is the process by which a library requests materials from, or supplies materials to, another library. ILL is an adjunct to, not a substitute for, adequate collection development in local libraries. Use ILL to provide your patrons access to materials that are not available in your library or in your shared system.

Here’s a WISCAT Basic Training webinar with Maureen Welch, former IFLS Reference & ILL Coordinator on Interlibrary Loan in Wisconsin (IFLS Style).

What is a Shared System?

In a Shared System, a group of libraries has gotten together to share an automated system which usually includes modules for cataloging, circulation, and an OPAC – online public access catalog. These libraries share a patron database and a bibliographic database. Patrons are able to search this combined database and place holds for materials owned at any of the libraries on the Shared System. MORE is the shared system in IFLS.

Who is eligible for ILL?

Interlibrary loan service is available to all System residents through participating System libraries. Any library within the System may participate by following established ILL procedures.

How do I send an ILL request?

The majority of IFLS member libraries use the WISCAT ILL software to create and manage ILL requests. The IFLS ILL office accepts requests via WISCAT ILL software, FAX, EMAIL, MAIL, and WorldShare/OCLC ILL software. IFLS will take rush requests over the phone. If you have questions about creating/sending ILL requests, please contact the IFLS ILL office.

I have or am a new staff member, how do I get training in interlibrary loan?

ILL and WISCAT training is provided by the IFLS library system. Click the HelpDesk ticket to request training.

What is WISCAT?

The WISCAT resource sharing system consists of a physical union catalog, a virtual union catalog, and an interlibrary loan management module. Libraries pay an annual license fee to participate and may use for cataloging as well as ILL. For information on this project, https://dpi.wi.gov/libraries/wiscat-ill. If you would like to learn how to use WISCAT for interlibrary loan, here are links to a 30-minute training webinar on Searching & Creating ILL Requests with WISCAT and a webinar on Managing ILL Requests in WISCAT . These webinars were recorded in March 2017 by Maureen Welch, former IFLS Reference & ILL Coordinator.

I can’t verify a request, can I send it via ILL?

You may send unverified requests directly to the IFLS ILL Clearinghouse. Include as much information as possible such as where the patron found the citation, what the subject is, and how new or old might the material be. IFLS uses WISCAT, BadgerLink, and  WorldCat/OCLC as well as online resources to verify requests and find library locations.

Does IFLS handle rush requests?

Please call the IFLS ILL office for rush requests so we can determine if it will be possible to meet your patron’s deadline.

CCG and CCL?

Every request for a photocopy must include a copyright compliance code, either CCG or CCL. These codes are used to indicate whether the requesting library is Complying with Copyright Guidelines (CCG) or Complying with Copyright Law (CCL). The Copyright Guidelines usually pertain to items that are less than 5 years old and Copyright Law covers items older than 5 years old. For further information on when to use CCG or CCL, please contact the IFLS ILL office.

Are there materials that my patrons can’t get via ILL?

All types of library materials in any format may be requested through ILL. Specific items may be requested as well as materials on a particular subject or answers to specific questions. While all types of materials may be requested, certain materials may not always be available. Examples of materials that may be difficult to obtain include: High demand items; Reference & Genealogical materials; complete issues of periodicals; computer software; and rare, valuable, or fragile materials.

Reference and genealogical materials usually do not circulate. Please obtain photocopy information so that we can try to fill the information need.

If you have any questions about whether something is available via ILL, please submit a HelpDesk ticket for the IFLS ILL staff.

If you receive ILL items that were not requested or if you are unsure how to return an item received via ILL?
Contact the IFLS ILL staff.

Book Club Requests 

Titles being requested for book clubs generally should not have been published in the last 12 months.  Also, copies should not be listed with “new” status in online catalogs. Once you’ve determined the title is not too new, request local copies first (MORE libraries should be placing item level holds on individual copies through Sierra.)

If additional copies are still needed, you can check the statewide list of book club titles to see if a library in the state has put together a kit containing multiple copies.  If found, follow the instructions as to how to request from the library that owns. 

If no kit is found, please use the blank request form in WISCAT.  Fill in author and title in the appropriate fields and after the title, it is helpful to stateBOOK CLUB REQUEST,” or “MULTIPLE COPIES NEEDED.”  List in the Borrower’s Notes how many copies of what formats are needed; for example, “need 3 regular print, 2 large print and one cd format.  If you are unsure if the book has been published in large print or available on audio, it is helpful to say if you would like additional regular print copies.  Please also state due date that you would need or state the date that the group meets so that the due date can be adjusted. Leave the number 1 in copies needed field (that is used by the Multicopy request function of WISCAT). 

Fill in your patron info or whatever name you wish to use and submit the request.  The IFLS code of GHIA will be automatically filled in the lender list and the request will default to the IFLS ILL clearinghouse. 

Once the IFLS office receives your blank request, requests will be then made on your behalf in WISCAT or OCLC or whatever means necessary to obtain extra copies needed.  Each request will have a separate WISCAT number so when they arrive you can mark each of them received. 

If for whatever reason enough copies cannot be found that can be sent by courier, IFLS will contact you and ask if you would like any requests referred out-of-state. 

Subject/Reference Requests

Sometimes your library will receive questions that require specialized tools or reference sources that are not owned locally. You can send these reference requests to the IFLS ILL office. Cecelia Cole, IFLS Resource Sharing and Collection Consultant, generally handles the reference requests. We may fill by creating author/title requests or finding online information to answer your patron’s question; or refer the request to either our System Resource Library, L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library, or to the state’s resource library, RL&LL (Resources for Libraries and Lifelong Learning).

Subject requests are just like reference questions, you need to conduct a reference interview to find out what the patron really wants to know.

A successful ILL patron interview will answer all the following questions


Why is the information needed? What does the patron plan to do with the information? DO NOT ASK THESE QUESTIONS DIRECTLY due to privacy but use open ended questions such as What kind of information on this subject are you looking for? Or can you describe the kind of information you would like to find? Different sources and types of information would be sent in response to a request for information on solar houses, depending on whether the patron wants to build one, is writing a term paper on energy conservation, is teaching a class on solar energy, or is just curious.


Is there a date after which the information will no longer be useful to the patron? ASAP is not helpful and will not speed up requests – we try to fill all ILL & reference requests as soon as possible. Try to be realistic about deadlines. Depending on courier routes and mail sent via library rate, filled requests for items that need to be shipped can take from 1-3 weeks to be delivered.

Type and amount of information?

How much information is needed? Would one short article be enough, or does the person need extensive information? In what form will it be the most useful? Is reading level a factor? Technical or non-technical?


How knowledgeable is the patron on the subject? Is the person an expert or a beginner? What information does the patron already have?


Where did the patron hear about this? What is the source? What prompted the question?

The basic question?

What does the patron really want to know.

During the patron ILL interview process, you will also be answering the patron’s questions on how long will it take, how will I know when it gets here and how long can I use it.

Questions the patron is likely to ask include:

  • You don’t own this material, how can I get a hold of it?
  • How long will it take?
  • How much will it cost me?
  • How will I know when it gets here?
  • How long may I have it?
  • What must I do?

Questions staff members need to ask include:

  • Is this patron eligible to use ILL?
  • Have the holdings in the library and/or Shared System been checked?
  • Is this an author/title or subject request?
  • When is the material needed?
  • Is the information on the request form complete and readable?


When the subject materials are received, always ask the patron if the information need has been filled. Did the patron get what they needed? If not, refine the subject request, be more specific and resend the request.