Farley Library adjusts to new interlibrary loan procedures

Last March, most of campus was sent home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, there was the exception of Farley Library, where staff continued to process interlibrary loans for some time, even though libraries at other institutions had sealed their doors. 

Farley’s Head of Public Services Brian Sacolic revealed how they were prepared for when campus closed. Since before the pandemic, the Farley Library had been transferring many of their resources online. 

With interlibrary loans, the Farley Library has been processing digital materials, such as magazines, articles or journal and book chapters, but not physical books, dissertations or DVDs. 

“We cannot provide these resources because, at the moment, no library is capable of giving that type of information,” said Sacolic. “Many libraries are still closed altogether, and even if students or faculty were sending requests, no one is there to receive them.”

Dean of the Library and Information Technology John Stachacz elaborated on how the IT department granted them to provide access to digital materials for students. 

Stachacz said that online publishers opened up collections to libraries as well, allowing them to receive materials for free. 

“I think we are running around 400,000 electronic books,” said Stachacz. “Part of that is also because collections opened up resources to us that we previously were not able to have.” 

Further, how digital interlibrary loans are processed has also changed. According to Suzanna Calev, an archivist and public service librarian, a software called ILLiad was originally used. 

“What we typically do in ILLiad to request books and articles is we find the resource based on the citation information given to us,” said Calev. “It lists which libraries have access to it. We then choose which loaning institutions we want to request the resource from.”

Now, ILLiad is no longer available, and the procedure for interlibrary loan requests is emailed through [email protected]. Students should provide complete bibliographic information. All requests can be made through Wilkes students’ emails, and articles will be emailed directly to their addresses. 

Despite some challenges with interlibrary loans, Sacolic, Stachacz and Calev hope this has not impacted students and professors too much when conducting research. 

This semester, Dr. Bobak Karimi, assistant professor of geology, is teaching a research course and believes the choice to halt interlibrary loans has not hampered the research process. 

“The majority of resources my student researchers need to access are either digital PDFs or data files,” said Karimi. “We rarely run into the issue of needing a resource that only exists as a physical copy.”

A member of Karimi’s course, senior biology and earth and environmental major Kayla Eller, has found the library’s sources essential to her research. 

“My research uses modern journal articles since I work with satellites and remote sensing, but my background research did require some historical analyses,” said Eller. “Without the library resources and subscriptions to journals, I wouldn’t be able to do my research.”

Dr. Jonathan Kuiken, associate professor of history, discussed that there have been positives and negatives. For instance, scholarly articles are easier to digest than full books, but sometimes, students struggle to get the full context of a historical argument.  

One of Kuiken’s students, Christopher Smith, a history and political science major, has been either buying books or finding articles on JSTOR, a digital library.

“The situation has forced some students to rethink projects or even to change topics based on available sources,” said Kuiken. “But, in a way, this is a good lesson in how to conduct research creatively. If you can’t get the sources you want, use the sources you have.”