"Borrow Direct" Resource Sharing

This activity is now closed. The information on this page is provided for historical purposes only.

From 1999 to 2001 RLG staff assisted Columbia University, University of Pennsylvania, and Yale University to prepare for and conduct a pilot project enabling each university's readers to initiate online loan requests directly to the other institutions for books not available locally—without staff intervention. A commercial software package was modified for use in the project. The outcome? User satisfaction was high; cost savings were measurable; and staff productivity rose. We gained additional insight into ILL staffing and workflows at member libraries and useful experience with this resource-sharing model.

At the pilot's conclusion in June 2001 Columbia, Penn, and Yale took over RLG's role of management and coordination with the software supplier. They continued their collaborative operations. In 2002 Brown University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, and Princeton University joined in the Borrow Direct service. Faculty, staff, and students at these seven institutions can search their combined library catalogs and directly request expedited delivery of circulating items.

  • "Successful Borrow Direct Model for ILL to Expand in July"
    RLG Focus 50 (June 2001)

    Please note: Archived versions of RLG Focus are available from the OCLC Corporate Library Collection in the OCLC Digital Archive. Choose the preferred index and browse from here.

What we learned

From December 1999 through June 2001, after months of planning, three RLG members—Columbia University, University of Pennsylvania, and Yale University—conducted an extended pilot of their Borrow Direct interlending project. Initially dubbed the CoPY Project ( Columbia, Penn, and Yale), this was the test of a new model for resource sharing meant to shorten turnaround time, reduce delivery costs, and streamline the ILL process.

Without staff intervention, Borrow Direct allows the three institutions' readers to initiate online loan requests for books unavailable from their home institution from one of the others. A modified commercial software package makes this possible. Among its goals, the project was designed to answer the following questions:

  • Is this a cost-effective alternative to traditional ILL?
  • Does it provide a better service for users?
  • Do the three collections complement each other in a way that is beneficial to users?

The project interested RLG as a source of valuable information and a promising model for possible wider application in collaborative resource sharing. Throughout the planning and the pilot, RLG was the administrator for the software, served as liaison between the vendor and the participants, managed contracts and finances, and acted as a wok coordinator.


As an integral part of the pilot, participants monitored performance issues, costs, and staff workflow. User satisfaction was high; cost savings were measurable; and staff productivity rose. Columbia, Penn, and Yale determined to continue the pilot beyond June 2001, taking over the role of management and coordination with the software supplier.

RLG gained additional insight into member library ILL staffing and workflow and useful experience in the efficiencies to be gained from:

  • Empowering patrons to search for and request items electronically.
  • Allowing requests only for items that are owned and eligible.
  • Sending requests directly to the lending institution without mediation by the borrowing library.
  • Linkages to circulation to reduce redundancies in workflow.
  • Automatic e-mail notifications to patrons based on the changing status of requested items.

Borrow Direct library pages

Related project

SHARES Program