Volume 30, Number 1, Spring 2008

Rethinking Resource Sharing: Interlibrary Loan in Texas

Sue Bennett and Heather Clark
TexNet Coordinator, Texas State Library and Archives Commission and Member Services Librarian, Bibliographic Center for Research

The TexNet Program is a statewide interlibrary loan network including academic, public, and special libraries throughout the state of Texas. Managed by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC), it embodies several Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) grant funded programs that work together to enable library users to gain access to materials not available at their local libraries. The TexNet Program is made up of three smaller programs: the TexNet Interlibrary Loan Centers, the Texas Group, and Project Loan.

TexNet Center Program consists of ten centers located throughout the state. Nine are in large public libraries and one is at the TSLAC. The TexNet Centers provide interlibrary loan and OCLC referral service for smaller, non-OCLC member libraries in their service regions. They also lend materials to other libraries throughout Texas and the world.

The Texas Group is an OCLC Group Access Capability (GAC) group that includes both OCLC member libraries and non-OCLC members. TSLAC subsidizes eighty-eight public libraries within the Texas Group.

The TSLAC also manages the Project Loan program where the state library reimburses Texas libraries that are not TexNet Centers for net loans provided to Texas public libraries using the OCLC system.

Changes in technology and patron expectations have prompted TSLAC to evaluate the TexNet Program. In 2007, TSLAC contracted with Bibliographical Center for Research (BCR) to conduct a thorough unbiased evaluation of the Program and develop a plan for interlibrary loan services to meet the challenges of a changing environment.

The BCR report covered three areas—background analysis, models for change, and recommendations for next steps. The background analysis examined the current structure through site visits to TexNet Centers. GIS analysis was applied to budget and program data in order to visually analyze the distribution of the current resource sharing programs. The team surveyed the current array of products and implementations available for large scale resource sharing. A literature review, an examination of current ILL protocol and best practices, and a discussion of the resource sharing culture in Texas were provided. Additionally, a survey of patrons and library resource sharing staff was conducted to clarify patron demands and staff expectations.

From these studies, BRS developed six models, which might better meet the needs and expectations of the TSLAC, resources sharing staff, and the patron community. Three models modified the current structure and three represented more comprehensive change. Each model included cost estimates to TSLAC, impact to the current program stakeholders, and a feasibility analysis.

The final portion of the report contained recommendations for the next steps to create a more dynamic service model. Due to the constraints in TSLAC's legislative and fiscal cycles, the research team recommended the implementation of cost saving measures in the next three to five years while simultaneously conducting pilot programs in order to determine the best solution for the state.

TSLAC is disseminating the final report and collecting comments regarding the study. An implementation advisory committee will also be integral to the change process. As we move forward, we hope to develop a new interlibrary loan program to reflect the changes in technology and patrons expectations.