OCLC Interlibrary Loan Cost Calculator

OCLC Research, in collaboration with staff from OCLC Research Library Partnership institutions, has created an internet-based tool that will allow library administrators and practitioners to better understand the costs of sharing collections. This work is part of a suite of OCLC Research activities aimed at the Collective Collection.

The internet-based Interlibrary Loan Cost Calculator allows library administrators and practitioners to:

  • Learn average ILL lending and borrowing costs across the ILL system
  • Learn their own interlending unit costs
  • Track changes over time multiple years
  • Compare their own costs with averages of anonymized peer institutions
  • Simulate the cost impact of automating a particular process
  • Estimate their own costs for data categories they were unable to report

View the ILL Cost Calculator Tool

Getting Started with the Interlibrary Loan Cost Calculator

View this webinar It’s Here! The OCLC Interlibrary Loan Cost Calculator, to learn more about this free internet-based tool that has the potential to act as a virtual real-time ILL cost study.

To begin using the OCLC Interlibrary Loan Cost Calculator:

  • Download the Quick Start Guide
  • Follow the checklist of “things to know and do” in preparation for using the calculator, outlined in the Quick Start Guide
  • Register your institution via the OCLC Interlibrary Loan Cost Calculator internet interface
  • Download the Gather Data spreadsheet
  • Gather your library’s ILL cost data
  • Learn your own unit costs from the Gather Data spreadsheet reports
  • Submit your library’s cost data to OCLC to unlock a suite of reports querying the ILL cost data of anonymized peer institutions

Have a question or need more help?

Join the Discussion

The OCLC ILL Cost Calculator discussions are taking place primarily on the OCLC-ILL-C-CALC-USER-L listserv, which is open to current and prospective users of the ILL Cost Calculator. (You are not required to be an OCLC member to join the list.)

Join the Discussion

Not comfortable sharing your question with a large group? Contact project lead Dennis Massie.


Libraries worldwide face serious funding challenges, and many library departments are being tasked with maintaining or even exceeding established service levels with less support. At the same time, user expectations are rising. In an age when information is abundantly available online, libraries must continuously demonstrate relevance both to users and to funders. Libraries can do this by showing that essential services are being provided to users, efficiently, at a reasonable cost.

Interlibrary loan (ILL) is notoriously labor-intensive, making it one of the more expensive services typically offered by libraries. In the past 20 years, ILL has become a core service, since no library can afford to buy everything its patrons might need. Much time, money, and effort has been expended to streamline and automate ILL processes, and to divert routine requests into less expensive means of fulfillment, such as consortial borrowing and purchase on demand.

If they are to evaluate ILL services properly, administrators and funders need access to current, detailed information on costs, as well as to current benchmarks against which to measure a particular library’s data. Such benchmarks that exist are woefully out of date; the last comprehensive ILL cost study was conducted in 2002 by Mary Jackson of the Association of Research Libraries. A 2011 study by academic librarians Lars Leon and Nancy Kress yielded interesting data but was drawn from an extremely small number of survey responses. Meanwhile, new technologies and methods of sharing collections have been introduced that surely have a significant impact on unit costs.


Access to fresh cost data and to updated benchmarks would allow library administrators to more accurately evaluate their own interlending unit costs and assist them in making strategic decisions about how to make ILL operations more cost effective.

The OCLC Interlibrary Loan Cost Calculator tool provides both a mechanism for libraries to gather and process their own data, and benchmarks against which to measure their own unit's performance.

Interlibrary Loan Cost Calculator Working Group

  • Megan Gaffney, University of Delaware
  • Justin Hill, Temple University
  • Margarita Moreno, National Library of Australia
  • Dennis Massie, OCLC Research
  • Ralph Levan, OCLC Research (retired)

Beta testers, 2015-2020:

  • Margarita Moreno, National Library of Australia
  • Megan Gaffney, University of Delaware
  • Justin Hill, Temple University
  • Lars Leon, University of Kansas
  • Brian Miller, The Ohio State University
  • David Larsen, University of Chicago
  • Jenny Lee, University of California, Los Angeles
  • Ronald Figueroa, Syracuse University
  • Matthew Sheehy, Brandeis University
  • Don Pawl, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs


Dennis Massie

Working Group Members

Megan Gaffney, University of Delaware

Justin Hill, Temple University

Margarita Moreno, National Library of Australia