Colorado State’s Morgan Library Named Nation’s Most Efficient Interlibrary Loan Borrowing Operation

The Association of Research Libraries has named the interlibrary loan program at Colorado State University’s Morgan Library the most efficient interlibrary loan borrowing operation in the country.

The designation, the result of a two-year study of 72 North American research, college and government libraries, was announced in a recent ARL publication. The honor comes as Colorado State is preparing to expand RAPID, its locally-developed article delivery system for interlibrary loan, to college and university libraries across the country.

The study provides independent confirmation of the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the system developed at Colorado State, said Assistant Dean of Libraries Julie Wessling.

"This study could not have come at a better time for us in marketing RAPID because this clearly shows that RAPID is a very valuable system for supplying journal articles between libraries," Wessling said.

Library staff created RAPID, a unique system that reduces the costs and time involved in sharing journal articles through interlibrary loan, after the 1997 flood destroyed many of the library’s journals and books.

"Journal articles tend to be the most frequently requested research materials in an academic environment," Wessling said, adding journal articles have traditionally been difficult to acquire through interlibrary loan because of the time and cost involved.

RAPID is a completely automated system that reduces both the time and costs involved in transmitting journal articles.

Participating libraries’ holdings are listed in a database that is programmed to automatically match a user’s request with issue-specific journal holdings in participating libraries. The system automatically handles all tracking and updating routines. Staff at the lending institution simply pull the journal off the shelf and scan in the article, frequently processing these in less than a day. An e-mail is automatically generated to the borrower, who can access the article directly on the Web.

"The staff impact is minimal. That’s the reason it’s so inexpensive," Wessling said.

RAPID involves 20 libraries from institutions such as Columbia University, University of Michigan, Cornell University and University of Colorado-Boulder. Morgan Library staff will begin openly marketing the program to other universities that have shown interest. Other libraries will be able to participate in RAPID for a fee.

"It’s going to position us to continue to be able to provide the campus community with the library material they need," Wessling said. "It will help us provide fast, convenient access to materials we are not able to purchase."