SWAN Library Services

Speed delivery and free up staff time with real-time availability

SWAN Library Services front desk.
Image courtesy of SWAN Libraries.

SWAN Library Services

"The great thing about real-time availability... It never sleeps. It provides 24/7 monitoring of a library’s ILL supplier queue.”

Helen Pinder
Resource Sharing Consultant, SWAN Library Services

SWAN (System Wide Automated Network) is a multitype consortium with 100 member libraries—primarily public libraries along with academic, special, and school libraries located throughout the Chicago area. SWAN provides an extensive array of services to its library members, ensuring consistency for library users and cost savings for its member libraries.

With a collective library user base of more than one million, SWAN member libraries use both OCLC’s WorldCat Discovery and WorldShare Interlibrary Loan (ILL). Annually, SWAN libraries process more than one million ILL transactions, enhancing access to materials across the area.

Helen Pinder, Consultant, Resource Sharing for the SWAN Library Services, began exploring the real-time availability feature—one of OCLC’s smart fulfillment capabilities. This feature empowers a library’s WorldShare ILL system to review a request and quickly check the status of the requested item. Within seconds, WorldShare ILL can identify the availability of an item. This automation streamlines workflows for ILL staff, enabling them to focus on processing those requests they can fill. It also speeds the lending process by quickly moving the request to the next library in the lender string within seconds—getting items to users even faster.

"Because the system is immediately checking [with the real-time availability feature], the maximum amount of time to wait to get that 'no' and move the request to the next lender is just seconds. And a faster ‘no’ means less time for your patron to have to wait.” 

Real-time availability implementation

Before Helen implemented real-time availability for the SWAN member libraries, ILL staff had to review all requests in their “Can you supply” ILL queue—even those requests for items that were checked out or otherwise not available.

Now when a SWAN library receives a request and the location of the requested item is one of five OPAC (Online Public Access Catalog) statuses—checked out, on order, on hold, in transit, or missing—the ILL request bypasses the library’s “Can you supply” queue. Plus, the request is automatically moved to the next lender.

By embracing the real-time availability feature, SWAN Library Services not only saves staff time but also enhances patron satisfaction by delivering requested materials more quickly. “It has made a real difference,” Helen added.

Thousands of working hours saved

In 2019, SWAN library staff manually responded “in use, on loan” to more than 26,400 ILL requests. In 2023, that number plummeted to 4,900 requests. As a result of the implementation of real-time availability, WorldShare ILL automatically processed the requests and sent them to the next lender approximately 15,400 times.

Assuming a typical ILL request remains in a library’s “Can you supply?” queue for an hour before being forwarded (or potentially days, especially if it’s a weekend request), this feature eliminates an estimated 15,400 hours (or 641 days) from the waiting time for patrons’ requests. Consequently, this feature moves items faster through the network, ensuring patrons receive their requested items even faster.

Around-the-clock ILL support for library staff

While library staff are limited to monitoring ILL requests during regular work hours, the ILL system operates 24/7. It takes mere seconds for the system to conduct an item status lookup, a task that may take ILL staff several minutes. Moreover, requests for unavailable items are swiftly transferred to the next lender by the ILL system, whereas it may take library staff days to complete the same action, particularly during weekends or holidays. “We're very, very excited about this since it’s a pretty clear benefit for our SWAN members,” Helen said.

Services used by SWAN Library Services

WorldShare Interlibrary Loan

WorldCat Discovery

SWAN Library Services at a glance

  • Celebrated 50 years of service in 2024
  • Owns 1.5 million titles and 8.3 million items
  • Has an annual circulation of 13 million items

Related stories

photo: Ritter Library at Baldwin Wallace University, exterior

Update workflows and fill requests faster

Learn how Baldwin Wallace University used WorldShare ILL’s smart fulfillment capabilities to update workflows and fill requests faster.

Students working in the library at SAE Institute, Sydney

Simplify ILL to increase requests

Learn how the SAE Institute dramatically increased ILL requests by simplifying both their users' experience and resource sharing workflows.