Massachusetts Library System

Locate and request exactly what you need from near or far

Image of reference desk at Cary Memorial Library

"It's the precision you get with FirstSearch. It's the way things are displayed in a useful manner. It's that kind of thing that just makes it one of my favorite tools."

Sue Kaler
Former Interlibrary Loan Manager, Massachusetts Library System

The Massachusetts Library System (MLS) is a state-supported collaborative that fosters relationships with 1,600 diverse libraries all over Massachusetts. One of the services MLS offers to these libraries is interlibrary loan (ILL), but it could prove difficult sometimes to locate the exact item needed. “FirstSearch®, amongst all of the various OCLC tools, is the best way to find exactly what you're looking for,” said Sue Kaler, former ILL Manager for the MLS and its predecessor organizations. “Many of our libraries have their own log-in to FirstSearch,” Sue explained, which makes it very easy for them to request items through MLS. “There's a little ILL icon on the top of their page. They click on that and hit submit,” she said. ILL requests submitted through FirstSearch contain accurate information from the WorldCat database, saving time for staff at lending libraries.

Jean Williams, Reference Librarian at Cary Memorial Library in Lexington, Massachusetts, said that in her library, “a lot of our interlibrary loan requests start out as reference questions. We keep FirstSearch bookmarked on our reference desk.” At Cary Memorial Library, staff in several areas rely on FirstSearch. “One is our cataloger, because it's essential to her work to be able to match the best catalog record with the most information,” said Jean. The acquisitions librarian also uses FirstSearch to help process donations for the library’s new foreign language collections. Lexington has a large Chinese population, so the Chinese languages librarian is always looking for new resources in Chinese for these families. “She likes the ISBN access on FirstSearch, and she just finds it the quickest and fastest way to get in,” Jean said.

“I really appreciate the level of detail that FirstSearch has and the multiple access points that are available for the records.”

Sue and Jean have been using FirstSearch for many years, and it has helped them find many rare resources. Jean recalled one request for a unique item. During the short-wave radio era, “when people caught each other's broadcast, they had their own custom stamp, and they could send it to the ham radio operator. These radio stamps have been collected in albums, and there was a library that actually had one and was willing to share it,” Jean said.

Without FirstSearch, Sue said, “You would have to do more work to tease out the item that's the useful one for interlibrary loan purposes. It'd be possible, but there'd just be a lot of backing and forthing.” She continued, “We don't want a back and forth. We want to be efficient.” In such a large interlibrary loan system, the efficiency that FirstSearch makes possible is key. “I think FirstSearch is one of OCLC’s best products,” she said, “and I'm so glad it's still with us.”

Services used by the Massachusetts Library System


WorldShare Interlibrary Loan

Map showing location of Massachusetts Library System

Library at a glance

  • Provides services to about 1,600 Massachusetts libraries of all types and sizes
  • Delivers access to full-text online databases that include magazine, journal, newspaper, and reference titles for library users of all ages
  • Offers continuing education classes and workshops for library staff at individual libraries or training locations throughout the Commonwealth
  • Ships 14 – 15 million items annually among 600 libraries of all types across Massachusetts

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