Information Delivery Services struggles with interlibrary loan loads, disrupting multiple research-oriented courses

Due to the significant number of loan requests from other libraries, Information Delivery Services has had difficulties acquiring some materials people ask for. Students and faculty who have not received desired books have had subsequent problems working on their research.  (Theo Liu/Assoc. Photo Editor)

Various students and faculty have reported issues with Geneseo’s Information Delivery Services. IDS has occasionally been overburdened by the number of requests students make during heavy work periods. 

Milne Library is part of a network with thousands of libraries around the world through IDS, according to Interlibrary Loan Clerk Bill Baker. 

“A lot of patrons are under the impression that we can have it for them here today or tomorrow,” Baker said.  “And we can’t because of the shipping involved [from different libraries].”

The first step of IDS involves the library clerks verifying that the library doesn’t possess whatever a student needs. If Milne doesn’t own it, the queries are then sent to other libraries in the network. 

IDS can be flooded with requests at times when students have more research obligations, according to Baker.

“When students have papers, we get barraged with requests,” Baker said. “We can usually stay ahead of them, but everybody and their brother hits you all at once.”

Some classes have struggled to receive materials they need for research, including one of visiting assistant professor of history Amanda Lewis’s classes.

“We ended up with a bottleneck at the end, whether it was an overload on the staff over there, that’s what happened,” Lewis said. “It took a long time or they didn’t get the books or the articles that they needed … My students have told me that they’ve gotten wrong books, or multiple copies of the same book, which sounds really odd, things like that.”

Unlike her students, Lewis stated she has not had as many difficulties when using IDS for her personal research. 

“I didn’t have any mistakes in terms of getting the wrong book,” Lewis said. “I have been rejected for a few requests; sometimes they’re a little obscure but sometimes not so obscure.”

History major junior Jeanmarie Ryan also experienced issues in one of her history classes last semester.

“We had a big [research] project so we were ordering books starting midway through the semester, and nobody in the class was getting the right books.” 

Though she was able to complete her project, Ryan encountered multiple problems along the way. 

“I ordered two different books by the same person and I got two copies of the same book,” she said. “One of the books I really needed just never came, and I think the first time I tried to get it, not only did it not come, but they just kind of deleted the request.”

Lewis believes that her classes’ problems partly stem from the library’s lack of holdings in her field. As a specialist in modern African history, Lewis’s classes often require students to use IDS to receive books the library doesn’t already stock. 

Ryan said IDS should have communicated more with her when they realized they couldn’t find the book she needed. 

“A couple times I’ve got emails, ‘If we can’t get this edition of the book, does this work? If we can’t get this, does this work?’” she said. “If instead of just getting me a random book, [if] I’d gotten an email that said, ‘We can’t get this one,’ that would’ve been helpful.”

Lewis explained that her biggest concern is the students’ experiences, given that research makes up a major component of the history program. 

“I want my students to get what they need and that’s my priority,” Lewis said. “Students should be able to get what they need to do the research and their projects and to have a positive experience at the library.”