Greening Interlibrary Loan Practices

by: Dennis Massie

In September 2009, OCLC Research commissioned a study of current Interlibrary Loan (ILL) practices by California Environmental Associates, a firm of environmental impact consultants. The study was completed in January 2010, with findings reviewed and amended in March 2010. The largest environmental impacts directly associated with ILL operations are packaging, shipping, and paper use. The single most important finding of the study is that an ILL unit can cut its greenhouse gas emissions in half simply by re-using packaging materials. Perhaps the most surprising fact to emerge from the study is that padded mailers are much friendlier to the environment than cardboard boxes, based on the impact of their respective manufacturing processes. The biggest opportunity to improve the environmental profile of the ILL system is for libraries to adopt the best practices in packaging and shipping displayed by surveyed institutions. The recommended practices are not always possible (or even appropriate for all situations). However, if most libraries routinely follow the recommendations, the impact across the global resource sharing community will be enormously positive for the environment.

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Suggested Citation:

Massie, Dennis. 2010. Greening Interlibrary Loan Practices. Report produced by OCLC Research. Published online at: (.pdf: 833KB/64 pp.).