The rapid growth of interlibrary loans in recent years has forced us to take a hard look at the practical and financial aspects of what we once thought of as a simple barter system. One good turn (the loan of a book) deserves another. The concepts of “reciprocal borrowing: and “resource sharing” are yielding to accounting principles and business processes. Charging for loans is becoming an acceptable practice. Which leads to the question, where did we get the idea that loans should be free in the first place? Early proponents of interlibrary loans in the USA did not shrink from the idea of charging but were stymied by the mechanics of collecting and distributing money. Our moral reluctance to charge is a relatively recent and perhaps transitory phenomenon. Bibliographic utilities have resolved many of the accounting problems. In the light of history, the decision to charge has more to do with mechanics than morality.
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