BC Public Library Inter-Library Loan Code

Libraries in British Columbia co-operate with one another to share library resources. Each year, British Columbia’s public library users borrow over 100,000 books from libraries outside of their communities.

The Interlibrary Loan Program of Libraries and Literacy supports province-wide public library interlibrary loan by co-funding the software (OutLook Online) with BC ELN for post secondary libraries, providing guidance for public libraries on ILL policies, and supporting and connecting the network of  ILL staff. Updates in 2013 to the code were only to branch and Ministry names.


The Inter-library Loan Code for British Columbia Public Libraries exists to:

    • provide a policy statement on interlibrary loan service;
    • establish administrative guidelines and performance expectations for borrowing and lending libraries.
Interlibrary loan is defined as a transaction in which library material, or a copy of library material, is made available from one library to another upon request.



  1. Interlibrary loan is a basic library service available to all library users.
  2. Libraries are expected to make users aware of the availability of materials from other libraries, and publish a statement of its borrowing policies.
  3. Library boards’ policy on borrowing should specify the number of items that may be requested at one time.


  1. To be full participants in an interlibrary loan network, a library must make its collection available to other institutions.
  2. The decision to lend material is always at the discretion of the lending library.
  3. Libraries’ policy statements on interlibrary lending should stipulate the following:
    • materials which are not available for loan;
    • loan period for interlibrary loans;
    • renewal period and policy;
    • whether or not items currently in use may be reserved for interlibrary loan requests;
    • charges for lost or damaged items;
    • situations where special shipping arrangements or insurance may be required.

Responsibilities of Borrowing Libraries

  1. Before placing an interlibrary loan request, the borrowing library considers other means of meeting the user’s need. The library may purchase the requested item, suggest the use of substitute material already held, or refer the user to another agency.
  2. Some materials are not available for interlibrary loan (see Types of Materials Not Available Through Interlibrary Loan).
  3. Borrowing libraries must exhaust their own resources before resorting to interlibrary loan.
  4. Libraries must verify the bibliographic details of interlibrary loan requests. Each request should include the following bibliographic information:
    1. author;
    2. title;
    3. publisher;
    4. date of publication and edition;
    5. ISBN (International Standard Book Number) or ISSN (International Standard Serial Number);
    6. call number, if found in OutLook OnLine.
  5. Requests for items available in OutLook OnLine must be submitted using OutLook OnLine’s interlibrary loan module.
  6. Requests for items from libraries using interlibrary loan management software other than OutLook OnLine must conform to current standards and adhere to applicable ISO (International Standards Office) compliance as established by the network.
  7. Requests must state the maximum amount the library or patron is willing to pay to obtain the item.
  8. The borrowing library is responsible for packaging the material appropriately to ensure its return in good condition.
  9. If damage or loss occurs, the borrowing library must meet all costs of repair or replacement.
  10. The borrowing library must comply with the conditions established by the lending library:
    • Borrowed materials must be returned on time directly to the lending library. Renewals should be kept to a minimum.
    • Material on loan is subject to recall by the lending library at any time.
    • Copying by the borrowing library is permitted, unless specifically forbidden by the lending library, provided that it is in accordance with the Copyright Act and no damage to the original material will result.
    • When pre-authorized, the lending library may send items by courier, or require insurance on the items being loaned. The borrowing library will accept these charges and return items in the same manner.
  11. The borrowing library must ensure that staff are familiar with interlibrary loan policies and procedures.

Responsibilities of Lending Libraries

  1. The lending library is required to provide its bibliographic records to OutLook OnLine on annual basis and, more frequently if possible.
  2. The lending library is responsible for registering with Canada Post as an authorized “Library Mail” user.
  3. The lending library responds to requests within 3 (three) working days of receipt.
  4. When making a loan, the lending library:
    • clearly states applicable conditions of loan, including pre-authorization from the borrowing library for any special shipping/insurance charges associated with loan of the item(s);
    • encloses a copy of the request with the shipped item(s);
    • encloses a pre-printed mailing label with the shipped item(s), indicating that return postage has been prepaid (see Library Mail above);
    • packages the item(s) securely.
  5. The lending library must ensure that staff are familiar with interlibrary loan policies and procedures.
  6. The lending library provides statistics to Libraries and Literacy in the format required.

Responsibilities of Libraries and Literacy:

  1. Defrays the OutLook Online licensing costs of software and data processing costs for public libraries.
  2. Defrays the maintenance of the union database, OutLook OnLine including the cost of individual public library licenses.
  3. When an item is not found in the OutLook OnLine catalogue, the Library and Literacy branch searches for other locations.
  4. Provides training in interlibrary loan network systems and procedures for the staff of public libraries.
  5. Collects statistical data on interlibrary lending activities and network performance.
  6. Investigates new developments in interlibrary loan systems and implements new technologies when feasible.
  7. Updates the Interlibrary Loan Code for British Columbia Public Libraries and other manuals and resources, as needed.

Types of Materials Not Available Through Interlibrary Loan

  1. Libraries may lend any item from their collections but the following types of material are not usually available through interlibrary loan:
    1. Reference works: Reference books that are non-circulating are not likely to be available through interlibrary loan. However, photocopies of specified small portions of reference books, as permissible under the Copyright Act, may be requested. (See Appendix A for examples of typical reference works).
    2. Genealogical materials: Although genealogical source materials are not generally available through interlibrary loan, microfilm copies may be available. Requests should indicate specifically if microfilm is acceptable.
    3. Periodicals and serials: Complete issues and bound volumes of periodicals are generally not available. Photocopies of articles or specified portions of periodical materials are usually provided for the cost of photocopying.
    4. Best-sellers or high-demand titles: Titles in this category should be considered for purchase by the requesting library.
    5. Recently published books: Because of high local demand, books published within the last twelve months are not normally available.
    6. Mass-market paperbacks and in-print material priced under $15: Libraries are encouraged to buy mass-market paperbacks and materials priced at under $15 for their collections.
    7. Audiovisual materials [phonograph records, audio and video tapes, compact disks], computer software and games: Except for talking books, audiovisual materials are not usually available on interlibrary loan. Some libraries will allow materials in these formats to be borrowed under certain circumstances and with special shipping/insurance arrangements.
    8. Multi-volume sets: Books published in sets of more than three volumes may not be available through interlibrary loan, or may be available only a few volumes at a time. Requests for photocopies of the table of contents, the index, specific pages, or particular information from a multi-volume set can be submitted, provided that the request for this material is specific.
    9. Theses and dissertations: Dissertations listed in Dissertation Abstracts are not normally available through interlibrary loan. These should be requested from the issuing university or from University Microfilms International.
    10. Prescribed texts for school, college, or university courses
    11. Rare books
    12. Ephemeral materials

Appendix A: Typical Reference Works

The following is a list of items, which are typically considered reference works and are not normally available for interlibrary loan. Libraries may request that specific small portions of a reference text be photocopied.

  • Almanacs
  • Atlases
  • Bibliographies
  • Dictionaries
  • Directories
  • Encyclopaedias
  • Government publications
  • Manuals (e.g., repair manuals, computer program manuals, equipment manuals, etc.)
  • Manuscripts
  • Maps
  • Price guides for collecting and memorabilia
  • Yearbooks
NOTE: Periodicals and newspapers, while not considered reference works, are often non-circulating and not usually available through interlibrary loan.