Four interlibrary loan trends to watch in 2016

Christa Starck

Top ILL titles for 2015

At least once a year, we query the WorldShare ILL database and see how the trends in interlibrary loan are developing. We count titles a little differently than other lists. Rather than splitting into fiction/nonfiction we look at loan requests vs. copy requests (loans of an entire book vs. a request to copy a single article or part of a larger work). The list of top copy requests is, as you might expect, heavily weighted toward the medical, psychological and scientific realms. It’s the loan requests that are more interesting.

The top 10 ILL’d titles for 2015

(Shown in order, 1-10. Click to see the book in WorldCat)

Life changing magicAll the lightGirl on the trainBetween the world and meGhost boy

The MartianStorm clouds rollling inCivil review manualBoys in the boatRosie project

Trends…and questions

Since 2010, we’ve seen some themes and trends in the top loan requests (see the “Top 10” lists below)…some of which lead to a few questions we’d like to ask you:

  1. More young adult titles. Are more adults requesting YA titles in your library? Or are young people discovering ILL?
  2. Fewer textbooks. Three in 2010, but only one in 2015. Is your library becoming more reluctant to request/lend textbooks? There are often conversations on listervs about textbooks…to loan or not to loan. Where do you fall?
  3. Lots of movie/TV tie-ins. Out of the 60 titles we have listed, 29 have been made (or are being made) into TV shows or movies. We hear a lot about the “second screen” experience for viewers. Does the book for a show fill a similar need?
  4. Overlap with book clubs. There is a great deal of overlap between our ILL lists and the top Goodreads book clubs. Twenty-five of the top items requested through ILL show up there. Does your library borrow books as well as buy when you’re involved with book clubs?

Which of these, if any, ring true for your library? Are you seeing other ILL trends you can share? Let us know at or on Twitter, #OCLCnext. Which leads to our last, biggest question.

Why do libraries ILL best sellers?

Many of the books featured in our list are not just popular…but are best sellers or have been highly publicized, such as:

I’ve heard a couple theories about why libraries might request popular books through ILL rather than purchase additional copies:

  • It’s a different budget. Acquisition dollars may be gone, ILL money is still available.
  • It’s a different department. Someone might have authority to do ILL but not make purchases.
  • Reluctance to buy for short-term needs. If it’s a run on one title, purchasing a copy or two for something that may be a flash-in-the-pan might seem wasteful to those of us trained to be economical in all things.

This data proves an important point. While librarians have often thought of ILL as being primarily for unique and rare items, it’s clearly not. Which surprises many non-ILL librarians I talk to. There’s an assumption that ILL is mostly used for hard-to-find or unique materials. And while that certainly is the case, we can now see how important resource sharing is for popular works, too.

 Top ILL titles for previous years


  1. Dead Doctors Don’t Lie
  2. Capital in the Twenty-First Century
  3. Hardwired
  4. The Fault in Our Stars
  5. The Conscious Parent: Transforming Ourselves, Empowering Our Children
  6. Orphan Train: A Novel
  7. The Goldfinch
  8. Trim Healthy Mama
  9. Gone Girl: A Novel
  10. Allegiant


  1. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead
  2. Gut and Psychology Syndrome
  3. Inferno: A Novel
  4. Game of Thrones, the Complete Second Season (DVD)
  5. House of Darkness House of Light: The True Story. Volume One
  6. Natural Solutions to Things that Bug You
  7. Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth
  8. Gone Girl: A Novel
  9. The Fault in Our Stars
  10. The Cuckoo’s Calling


  1. Fifty Shades of Grey
  2. The Hunger Games
  3. Catching Fire
  4. Gone Girl: A Novel
  5. Mockingjay
  6. Cloud Atlas: A Novel
  7. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking
  8. The Harbinger
  9. Tales of a Rascal: What I Did for Love
  10. Gut and Psychology Syndrome


  1. Heaven is for Real
  2. The Help
  3. A Game of Thrones
  4. The Hunger Games
  5. Bossypants
  6. Catching Fire
  7. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother
  8. Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses
  9. The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks
  10. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, And Redemption


  1. Mockingjay
  2. Freedom
  3. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
  4. The Help
  5. Computer Networking: A Top-down Approach
  6. George Washington’s Sacred Fire
  7. Introduction to Algorithms
  8. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest
  9. Room: A Novel
  10. APA Handbook of Industrial and Organizational Psychology