Interlibrary Loan vs. Borrow Direct: Which One Should You Use?


There are benefits to using both Borrow Direct and Interlibrary Loan (ILL). Which service you should use largely depends on your research needs and the item you are trying to obtain.  Most people use a mix of both services.

The following table outlines some specifics of Borrow Direct vs. ILL.

  Borrow Direct ILL
Books
Articles/book chapter scans (.pdf)
 
Music scores
Music CDs
Non-book loans (DVDs, microfilm, dissertations, maps, etc.)
Delivery in 3-5 business days  
16-week loan period  
Renewal option
 
Subject to recall by lender
International loans and articles  
Loans from a library other than the Borrow Direct partners (including public, law, medical, special collections, etc.)  

Here are some sample scenarios that might help you decide which service to use.

I need to borrow a book that is checked out at Columbia.  It is for a class assignment due in two weeks.

When speed is the issue for a loan, try Borrow Direct first.  If the book is unavailable through Borrow Direct, try ILL.  Keep in mind that ILL loans generally arrive within two weeks, which may be too late for your assignment.  Adjust the "Not Wanted After Date" on the ILL form to reflect your actual deadline.

I need to borrow a multi-volume set or one volume from a multi-volume set.

Although both services can accommodate multiple-volume-set requests, Borrow Direct is the better choice for ordering several volumes at once.  Indicate in the "Notes" field which volumes you need.  Typically, partner libraries will send no more than 5 volumes at a time of larger sets.  Please contact Borrow Direct staff if you need assistance (borrowdirect@columbia.edu).

I tried to place a Borrow Direct request for a book that Columbia does not own.  Even though I find the book through a Borrow Direct catalog search, the system will not let me place a request. What are my options?

Place an ILL request for the item if it is unavailable in Borrow Direct.

I need to borrow a book for the semester.  I know that a Borrow Direct library owns it. Should I use Borrow Direct or ILL?

Use Borrow Direct because the standardized loan period is 16 weeks, no renewals.  ILL does offer a renewal option but both the loan period and ability to renew are at the lender's discretion.  All loans are subject to recall.


Contact Interlibrary Loan (ILL) Staff