Interlibrary Loan/Document Delivery and Customer Satisfaction: Strategies for Redesigning Services

Judith Edwards (Head of Reader Services, University College London Library)

The Electronic Library

ISSN: 0264-0473

Article publication date: 1 April 2000




Edwards, J. (2000), "Interlibrary Loan/Document Delivery and Customer Satisfaction: Strategies for Redesigning Services", The Electronic Library, Vol. 18 No. 2, pp. 137-146.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

The papers in this book are based on a 1995 customer satisfaction survey on interlibrary loan conducted by members of the Greater Midwest Research Library Consortium, and they analyse the results in various ways. The emphasis throughout is on academic libraries in the US (hence I shall retain the book’s use of “customer”). The survey might seem to be a rather narrow base for what turns out to be a fairly wide‐ranging work, which for UK readers in particular is something of a curate’s egg. Let’s get the less useful material out of the way first.

UK librarians will obviously find much of the book rather remote from their experience. Some of the papers, such as that on a courier service between the members of the consortium, are irrelevant to a British audience. Others have a very different slant because of our extensive use of the British Library Document Supply Centre and our copyright law. None of the standalone ILL management software packages compared in one paper is in use in the UK as far as I know; academic libraries now tend to use the ILL module of their library management system. The book shows its age in that all three systems are DOS‐based. The 65‐page Appendix contains the data from the above‐mentioned survey, and was also published in Vol. 23 Issues 1/2 (1996) of the Journal of Library Administration. One feels that the reader may be more inclined to look at it if at least some of the data were presented graphically.

There is however much interesting material to be found in the book. A strong correlation was found between customer satisfaction and timeliness; the perception of the latter depends however on whether the item was received while still deemed to be useful. Analysis of comments from the survey supports the theory that customer satisfaction depends on multiple characteristics of an interlibrary loan service rather than on turnaround time alone. A comparison between libraries showed that despite significant differences in the cost and speed of their service, there was little difference in customer satisfaction. I did however feel that the crucial element of customers’ expectations of the service was left out of the equation.

As someone responsible for interlibrary loans in a library which has just introduced fees for the service, I was particularly interested in the paper on charging. The lists of anti‐ and pro‐charging arguments might have been useful!I found its conclusions both interesting and reassuring; a flat fee for all requests and customers is better than discrimination by type of request or customer, and charging for only a proportion of requests may be an ineffective way of reducing ILL costs.

The last paper is especially thought provoking, despite its use of once‐trendy jargon such as “paradigm shift” and “reengineering”. Given that interlibrary loans services are under stress because of user demand and smaller proportions of material being held locally, the author discusses how we might bring about radical change in response to these problems. Many of us would find a further paper on putting the theory into practice interesting.

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