Spotlight: ILL Recovers From the COVID-19 Pandemic Slowly But Safely
This map shows the libraries VDOT borrowed from FY2016 as a representative sample of OCLC lending libraries worldwide.
When the pandemic began, 400,000 physical items were on loan among 5,674 libraries in OCLC’s WorldShare ILL network. In an average year about 265 of those items are either borrowed by the VDOT Library or loaned out from our collections through one of our most important services Interlibrary Loans & Document Delivery.
On March 17, 2020 all VDOT Library staff vacated their physical spaces indefinitely and we changed our OCLC status to “non-lender.” By the summer of 2020 the most urgent need of OCLC-libraries was to safely return items patrons had borrowed, and receive items other libraries had borrowed from them. To support this need, OCLC created a crowdsourcing Web site that mapped physical ILL Return and Lending Status with two data points for each library: 1. Is my library accepting physical ILL returns? 2. Is my library lending physical items via ILL?
Like most OCLC libraries we extended ILL due dates “indefinitely” and halted fines. We only had one item on loan to another library, but we had borrowed 11 items from other libraries. We needed to return items to libraries opening back up.
On November 9, 2020 ILL/circulation librarian Barb Neyman went back to the library in person one day a week. That process was safe and uneventful, but in 8 months a lot of shipping/receiving had stacked up. Barb caught up on that work and by December 22, 2020 we updated our status in OCLC to indicate we could once again “accept returns.” Of the 11 items we borrowed from other libraries, 7 have been returned by our patrons, but 4 were still due. Repeated attempts to get those items from our patrons failed, so we needed a new plan. As of May 2021, 93% of the 2,646 libraries listed in the crowdsourced site were “accepting returns” and 67% were listed as “lending” once again, while about 7% (162 libraries) are listed as “not lending” and “not accepting returns.”
The good news is the VDOT Research Library is now both borrowing and lending again. In addition to Barb being at the library one day a week, Gil Kenner will also work from the library one day a week by quarter's end. That should give us adequate staffing to fully resume OCLC lending, however, we can change our status at any time in order to “deflect” ILL requests if we are not staffed adequately to fulfill them.