Interlibrary Loan

Balsam member libraries have the option to participate in our Interlibrary lending program.  As of early 2021 about one third of our public libraries participate.

Participating libraries have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (PDF)

Instructions for Using Balsam’s Inter Library Lending

Requesting Materials

  • Library staff and patrons at Balsam ILL libraries are able to request materials directly through the Maine Balsam Libraries Catalog.
    • We encourage all patrons to set up an online account (with username and password) so that they can place holds themselves through the OPAC. Patrons can Log In to their account directly from any web browser (typically from their library’s website).
    • We also encourage patrons to add an email address to their library account. This will ensure they get courtesy notices about when items are due and when their requested holds arrive.
  • For staff, to place holds on items from any Balsam ILL library, the procedure is the same as placing holds on your library’s items:
    • Use the catalog to find an item.  Then place a hold:

If you select “Place Hold”,  the system will find the first available Title, searching first in your library, then in other libraries in the consortium.  This is a “Title Hold”.  Both your patron, in their OPAC, and you in the staff client can place these types of holds.

In the Staff Client, you can also select “Copy Hold”.  In this case the system will place a hold on only the copy with that particular barcode,.  If you select “Volume Hold” the system will select only those copies cataloged under the same “Volume ID” (both of these hold types limit the hold to copies only in your library)

    • Enter the patron’s barcode, or search for them by name. Choose notification type (email or phone) and pickup location (the default is set to your library). Submit.
    • The system decides which item to request. If an item is available at your library that item will be targeted first. If none available at your library, the system makes a random selection for other libraries where the item is available.


Fulfilling Hold Requests 

  • Run the Pull List for Hold Requests every day at opening. Try to do this when you are turning on the computers and checking the book box to make it a habit. This is especially important before your delivery van goes out.

    • Pull these items from the shelf and Capture the Hold. This will set their status to “In Transit” if requested by another library or “On Hold Shelf” if requested by your library’s patron.
      Note:  Be sure you Capture the Hold.  Do not simply “check it in”.
  • For outgoing materials:
    • Print two transit slips. One goes into the item. Keep the other in an “ILL” folder somewhere near the circulation desk. (This folder should contain slips for all of your items that have been lent to other libraries)
    • Ship the item to the requesting library (either through the van delivery service, or other arrangements with that library)


Circulating & Returning Materials

  • When materials from other Balsam ILL libraries arrive, check them in.
    • This will change their status from “In Transit” to “On Hold Shelf” and give you a message about which patron has requested the item. (You do not need to print this message—the info should be the same as on the transit slip.)
    • If a patron’s email is printed on the transit slip, they will receive an automatic notice that their hold is available.
    • If there is no email, notify the patron by phone that their item has come in.
  • When a patron comes to pick up a Balsam ILL item, check it out onto their library account just as we do for items in your own library.
    • Stamp or write the due date on the due date card (or a post it, if no due date card in item).
    • It is a good idea to have a folder near the Holds Shelf (“Balsam ILL Received”). Place the transit slip in that folder.
  • When a patron returns a Balsam ILL item, check it in.
    • This will take the item off of our patron’s account and set it to “In Transit” back to its owning library (or to the library of the next patron with a hold on it).
    • You do not need to print the transit slip for returns.
    • Send the item back to the owning library (and pull the slip from the ILL file)
  • When an item is returned from a requesting library
    • Check it in. This changes the status from “In Transit” to “Available”

Refusing or Re-routing requests

Honor every hold that you can.   If you must,  you can redirect a hold (let the system try to find another source), or you may cancel the hold.
If you cancel the hold,  you must notify the requesting library, together with the name of the patron who requested the hold. 

“Age Based Hold Protection”.

Note:  During the COVID emergency, libraries are permitted to use Age Based Hold Protection
This allows you to reserve holds on new items for your library’s patrons.  You do this in cataloging as you edit an item.

Select 3 or 6 or 1 months.  This runs from the date the item was cataloged.  During that period, only your library’s patrons can place a hold on that item.

Dealing with problems

Items sometimes continue to be routed back and forth between the owning library and another library.

  1.  The  receiving library does not need and item sent by an owning library.  When a hold is filled for a patron in another library,  the owning library by capturing the hold, creates a status of “in-transit”.  When the item shows up at the patron’s library, that library may no longer need that item (for instance their patron may no longer want  the item).   In this case, the circulating library must cancel any open holds and cancel the transit (using the item status screen).  Then return the item to the owning library.   The owning library should then check it in as normally.
  2. The item seems to go back and forth between an owning library and a receiving library.   Another cause of this problem may be that the owning library, seeing the item on its pull list, checked it in (“Circulation/Check-in”) instead of capturing the hold (“Circulation/Capture Hold”).  The Check-in function *usually* works, but occasionaly does not properly count the circulation.  Do not capture holds by simply checking them in.  Always use “Circulation/Capture Holds”
3. Owning library gets a routing slip to another library with no patron shown.  In the owning library, you may occasionally check in an item that came off of the van, and find a transit slip to send the item to another library, with no name for a patron with a hold. Here the hold had likely been cancelled while the item was in transit to the circulating library.  In this case, simply cancel the transit (using item status)

Reporting on Holds and Inter-library Loans

You can run a report on recent holds, for any period.   You can then see any holds placed, including those placed by your patrons, and by patrons of other libraries.  The report indicates when the hold was placed, and provides dates when the hold was fulfilled or cancelled.