An Interlibrary Loan System on the World-Wide-Web

An interlibrary loan system on the World-Wide-Web
Foo, S., & Lim, E.P. (1998). Journal of Interlibrary Loan, Document Delivery & Information
Supply, 8(3), 75-86.
An Interlibrary Loan System on the World-Wide-Web
Schubert Foo = & Ee Peng Lim•
School of Applied Science
Nanyang Technological University, Nanyang Avenue, Singapore 639798
Abstract
Inter-Library Loan (ILL) service is one of the services provided by libraries that
offers users a way to access library resources beyond their affiliated libraries.
Additionally, it allows participating libraries to share and maximize their resources.
This work examines the ILL process used by libraries in Singapore and proposes
that the existing paper-based manual system be replaced by a Web-based ILL
system. Such a Web-based system has been successfully designed and implemented
at the Nanyang Technological University. The paper presents on overview of the
system requirements and architecture, implementation details and demonstrates the
feasibility and advantages of the new system.
INTRODUCTION
The Interlibrary Loan (ILL) service provides an avenue for users of the library to
borrow books, periodicals or other library resources from other participating libraries
when these cannot be found in their own library. The provision of such a service
potentially widens the range of library materials offered by the library and optimizes
resource usage among participating libraries.
However, existing ILL systems are largely manual systems that require substantial user
intervention in the ILL process. Apart from a few ILL systems in universities, such as
the University of Stirling (Stirling, 1997) and University of Arkansas (Arkansas, 1995)
that support World -Wide-Web based ILL systems, the remainder are likely to be
manual systems or commercial ILL modules such as Softlink's Library Automation
Software (Softlink, 1997).
Nonetheless, the number of manual ones far exceeds
= Schubert Foo (PhD, MBA, BSc, CEng, MIMechE, MBCS) Email: assfoo@ntu.edu.sg
• Ee Peng Lim (PhD, BSc, MACM) Email: aseplim@ntu.edu.sg
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computerized ones due to a number of reasons. There is the need for each participating
library to use the same system or software in order to carry out the ILL process. The
difference in library policies among participating libraries makes it difficult to realize a
generic system that would be acceptable to all. Different systems, even if they exist,
suffer from interoperability problems due to the absence of standards. Thus, two
different ILL systems will not be able to exchange information or data. As the number
of ILL requests are traditionally low compared to normal borrowing, little resources
have been placed to administer the ILL service.
CURRENT ILL PROCESS
In developing the present Web-based ILL system, Nanyang Technological University's
(NTU) Library (Nanyang, 1997) has been used as a basis for study and derivation of
system requirements. NTU Library is one of a number of nationwide participating
libraries of the Library Association of Singapore (LAS) ILL service. Participating
libraries have ILL reciprocity and adopt a similar process for processing outgoing and
incoming ILL requests. There are basically no charges for ILL transactions of books or
periodicals although some libraries charge a flat-rate for photocopies of periodicals.
Figure 1 shows the process for an outgoing ILL request. When an ILL request is
received, the librarian has to verify the validity and contents of the request by checking
the requester's particulars, 'correctness' of request from a union catalogue such as the
Singapore Integrated Library Automated Service (SILAS); ensure non-availability of
request in the library's own holding; decide on the lending library, complete and submit
the LAS-ILL loan form; and coordinate the collection of material when approved and
made available by the lending library. As indicated by NTU librarians in an interview,
the process up to this point takes an average of 6 man-hours. The collection, tracking
and controlling of the loaned material, collecting overdue fines, returning the loaned
material, and confirming the successful end of the ILL process incurs further man-hours.
The majority of the time is being spent on searching, documentation and updating of
loans’ statuses that requires minimal decision making.
Figure 2 shows the process for an incoming ILL request. When an incoming request is
received, the librarian has to verify the loaned material against its catalogue (e.g. OPAC)
and holding information. If the material is available for loan, then it is first physically
retrieved from the shelf and put on charge and placed aside to await collection.
Arrangements are made to inform and arrange for collection by the borrowing library.
The process of tracking loan item collection and their return are similar to normal items
from the library except that is it carried out with a borrowing library instead of a normal
library user. The process ends with the confirmation with the borrowing library of the
safe and sound return of the loaned item.
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Start
Receive ILL request and
fill in LAS ILL form
Search Union Catalogue
N
Material
found?
Y
Inform requester reason
for rejecting ILL request
Check material availability
End
N
Material
available?
Y
Send ILL form to lending library
N
ILL
approved?
Y
Arrange & collect material
Inform requester to collect material
N
Send reminder to user
N
Material
collected?
Date due?
Y
Update loan information on material
Material
returned?
Y
Y
Overdue
fine?
N
N
Update loan information on material
Y
N
Date due?
Collect fine
Return material & fine to
lending library
Y
Send reminder to user
End
Figure 1. Outgoing ILL Process
3
Start
Receive ILL request
Search OPAC for material
N
On
Holding?
Y
Y
Inform material unavailable
& check intention
On Charge/
Reserved
Y
Want to
wait?
Reserve material
on OPAC
N
N
Locate material in library
Y
Inform requester reason
for rejecting ILL request
N
Material
found?
Put on charge for collection
End
Inform requester to collect material
Send reminder to user
N
Material
collected?
Y
Update loan information on material
Material
returned?
N
Y
Damaged/
Overdue?
N
Update loan information on material
Y
Return material to shelf
N
Date due?
Collect fine
Y
N
Send reminder to requester
End
Figure 2. Incoming ILL Process
Needless to say, the manual system is both time-consuming and inefficient. Duplication
of effort is required to complete the LAS ILL loan form since the user fills in a separate
form when requesting for an ILL. Access to SILAS is confined to certain access points
in the library. Miscommunication with the lending library may delay the approval
process. Time is spent in contacting users when urgent requests are not fulfilled, filing
ILL forms, carrying out manual periodic checking of overdue items and collating ILL
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statistics. The manual system is manageable if the requests are few but is likely to lead
to proportionate increase of administrative problems and overloads when ILL demand
increases.
The availability of on-line library systems, OPAC and information technology know-how
provides further impetus to deliver a computerized ILL system to replace and enhance
the highly labour-intensive and time-consuming manual system.
SYSTEM ARCHITECTURE & DESIGN
ILL Web-Page
Java Applets
Java Classes
Databases
mSQL Database Server
Communication Process
OutILLDB
InILLDB
Client
Server
Internet
Library 1
OutILLDB
Client
InILLDB
Server
Library ... n
Figure 3. ILL System Architecture
The Web-based ILL system adopts a client-server architecture as shown in Figure 3.
It allows the system to be integrated with the library's existing functions on the Web to
enable widespread access by anyone on the Internet. This implies that both users and
librarians are no longer confined to using special access points to submit or process ILL
requests.
The client can be a personal computer, Macintosh or workstation with a suitable Web
browser such as Netscape Navigator 2.x/Gold (Netscape, 1997) or Microsoft Internet
Explorer 3.0 (Microsoft, 1997), or higher equivalent versions of them. Residing on the
Web server is a database server that supports two separate databases for maintaining
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incoming and outgoing ILL requests respectively. The use of separate databases
distinguishes the two different roles of borrowing and lending clearly, and provides a
neat solution that improves speed, efficiency and maintainability. These stand-alone
databases are used solely to support the ILL functionality and at such, are not the same
library databases used for catalog or holding information. This architecture is replicated
at each participating library. A communication process exists to allow direct
communication and updating of each other library's databases. Users interact with the
system using the normal Web access techniques of browsing and filling in forms.
A number of system requirements are fulfilled in the ILL system design:
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
The ILL system is integrated with the library’s Web page to provide the added ILL
functionality.
An authentication process is maintained to provide legitimate access by registered
library users, librarians and participating libraries.
ILL requests are electronically completed by users and verified by the system prior
to being stored in the database by processing by librarians.
New requests are automatically presented for approval. Approved requests are
automatically forwarded to the lending libraries by updating their databases directly.
Rejected requests can be accompanied by reasons provided by the library.
Incoming ILL requests from other libraries are automatically presented for approval.
Likewise, the outcomes of these requests are automatically forwarded to the
borrowing libraries by updating their databases directly.
Progress tracking exists to enable users to be kept up-to-date of the current status
of the ILL requests.
Transaction updating exists to allow both libraries to keep track and monitor the
loan status after collection from the lending library.
Overdue items are automatically flagged and made known to the librarians by the
system.
Completed ILL transactions are kept in the databases for a period of time (e.g. two
years) prior to being archived. Statistical information of the data on the active
databases can be generated for viewing and analysis.
The system maintains participating libraries' information allowing libraries to join or
leave the ILL system.
SYSTEM IMPLEMENTATION
A Web-based ILL system has been developed in the School of Applied Science, NTU.
It employs the architecture of Figure 3 and satisfies the associated system requirements.
The client is implemented as a set of Java applets (Walsh, 1996) that are downloaded
and invoked when the Web page is browsed. The client-server concept of the
architecture is only apparent when these applets are downloaded to the client since there
is no prior installation of applets at the client machine.
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Java has been selected as the development platform due to its superior features, being
platform-independent, and its emerging role as being the de-facto language for Webbased applications.
A publicly available relational database management system
(RDBMS), Mini-SQL (Hughes, 1995) that supports standard subset of ANSI SQL, is
used as the database engine. This is sufficient in most instances, as the number of ILL
transactions is still relatively small. Data associated with incoming and outgoing ILL
requests are stored in the separate InLLDB and OutLLDB database respectively.
The client uses a set of object classes to communicate with the host and remote library
databases. The object classes are built using Java and Java-mSQL Application
Programming Interfaces (APIs)(Collins, 1996). Each class consists functionality to
support connection establishments, database queries, retrieval and presentation of
results, and disconnection to remote hosts.
If necessary, the existing Mini-SQL
database can be "unplugged" (removed) and replaced by a production based RDBMS
to support higher ILL demands. This poses no problem as it requires only minor
changes to existing codes due to the use of standard SQL APIs.
Figure 4. ILL Home Page for Registered Users
The ILL home page (not shown) comprises three options for new user registration,
searching the library OPAC and request for ILL respectively. Registered users selecting
the request ILL option will be shown the Web page of Figure 4. Separate options exist
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for ILL of books and periodicals. This is to take into account the different information
requirements for a book and periodical (such as periodical title/editor, article title/author,
volume number, part number, range of page numbers, and so on). Users can also use
the system to check on the status of their ILL request. The status corresponds to one of
the eight states shown in Table 1. If an ILL application is rejected, a message predetermined by the librarian is displayed to the user to inform the latter of the reason for
rejection. This table also defines the library that is responsible at the various action
stages and the databases that are updated in the process.
Table 1. Status in ILL Process
Status
A
ILL Process Stage
New ILL request
Action By
Registered user (BL)
Database Update
OutILLDB (BL)
B
ILL approved by
Borrowing library
ILL approved by
Lending library
Material collected,
update collect date and
due date
Material collected by
registered user
Material returned by
registered user
Material returned to
Lending library
ILL request rejected
Librarian (BL)
Librarian (BL)
Librarian (LL)
OutILLDB (BL)
InILLDB (LL)
OutILLDB (BL)
InILLDB(LL)
OutILLDB (BL)
InILLDB (LL)
Librarian (BL)
OutILLDB (BL)
Librarian (BL)
OutILLDB (BL)
Librarian (BL)
Librarian (LL)
Librarian (BL)
OR
Librarian (LL)
OutILLDB (BL)
InILLDB (LL)
OutILLDB (BL)
OR
both OutILLDB (BL)
& InILLDB (LL)
C
D
E
F
G
X
BL: Borrowing library
Librarian (LL)
LL: Lending library
The librarian's ILL Web page is shown in Figure 5. It mirrors the users' Web page by
providing the functionality to handle new membership requests, process and update
outgoing ILL transactions.
New ILL requests are automatically displayed for
processing by the librarian. Upon approval of the request, the librarian will identify and
select a lending library to send the request. This is shown in Figure 6. Additionally, the
librarian will define a number parameters such the type and subject area of request that
are eventually used to generate different statistics of the ILL system such as frequency of
approved and rejected requests, types of users using ILL service, and breakdown of
subject areas of ILL service. The request is subsequently sent by the system by
automatically updating the lending library's incoming database directly.
8
Figure 5. Librarian's Web Page
Figure 6. Interface to Send Approved User ILL Request
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Thus, the second half of the librarian's ILL Web page of Figure 5 is used to process
incoming requests as the library plays the reverse role as a lending library to process and
update incoming ILL transactions from borrowing libraries. Finally, an administrative
option exists to allow the system to admit new or delete existing participating libraries
from the ILL system, and a statistical option allows the librarian to view incoming and
outgoing various ILL statistics that are captured by the system.
CONCLUSION
A Web-based ILL system has been proposed, designed and implemented. The system
has demonstrated the advantages associated of having a computerized system to replace
the existing paper-based manual-intensive ILL system. The system is small, secure,
robust, easily installed and maintained. It eliminates form-filling completely and minimizes
human errors as information is electronically captured, updated and transmitted among
participating libraries. The system simplifies status tracking and allows users to obtain
the information directly and easily. Use and administration of the system is carried out
through the Web and therefore made accessible Internet-wide and not just confined to
limited access points in the library. Data in the system is handled efficiently and
effectively with options for backup archival and statistics generation.
REFERENCES
Arkansas University. 1995.
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Hughes, D.J. 1995. "Mini SQL: A Lightweight Database Engine Version 1.0.6",
<URL:http://Bond.edu.au/People/bambi.html>
Nanyang Technological University, 1997. "Nanyang Technological University Library",
<URL: http://www.ntu.edu.sg/library/lib.htm>
Walsh, A.E. 1996. "Foundations of Java programming for the World Wide Web", IDG
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