MOUSS Interlibrary Loan Committee--RLG Report

Midwinter 2004

When I filed my last liaison report, before ALA met in Toronto this past June, true peer-to-peer ILL between distributed systems made by different developers was still a dream. No libraries were able to do it in production, anywhere in the world.

Six months later, peer-to-peer ILL between libraries using RLG’s ILL Manager and the ISO version of OCLC ILLiad has become routine. More than a hundred libraries now do this kind of next-generation resource sharing every single day. Getting two different ILL systems to talk to each other is an achievement that was a long time coming, and it has enormous implications for all resource sharing practitioners everywhere. Perhaps the most amazing thing about this new model of resource sharing is that it works so well that our success within the SHARES program seems rather anticlimactic.

RLG’s legacy ILL system, RLIN ILL, was retired on September 1, 2003. For more than twenty years RLIN ILL had been the messaging and tracking system for SHARES, a resource sharing partnership made up of over a hundred RLG member libraries. Staff at these SHARES libraries have long felt that peer-to-peer ILL is a crucial part of any answer to the question, “How will ILL be done in the future?” They wanted to be able to talk to all their SHARES partners on whatever ILL system they also used for all their non-SHARES traffic, and they did not want to be told by RLG or anyone else what system that should be. The ISO ILL protocols and the IPIG profile have long promised to make this scenario possible.

It finally happened on August 7, 2003, when the first production interlibrary loan requests passed between users of RLG’s ILL Manager and Cornell University’s Olin Library, which was using the new ISO version of OCLC ILLiad. Today 83 ILL Manager libraries and 18 OCLC ILLiad libraries trade thousands of ISO requests each week, peer-to-peer, server to server. They’re saving money on each request, because peer-to-peer messaging between distributed systems is free. We’re already working with other libraries that would like to add VDX to the mix of viable SHARES systems. We’re also hearing from consortia in Canada, Australia, and California that would like to interoperate with SHARES libraries through peer-to-peer ISO systems. This is clearly a model that is catching on, after spending so much time merely as a dream.

The SHARES group did it first.

ALA Midwinter attendees, we’d love to see you at the ILL Manager user’s group meeting, Sunday, January 11, 2004, 10:00 - 11:30 a.m., at the Hilton San Diego Gaslamp Quarter, in the Santa Rosa Room.
And visit us in Booth 1449.

Prepared by Dennis Massie, dxm@notes.rlg.org.

ILL Manager users have interoperated with each other via the ISO ILL protocols for over four years, and with their partners on legacy ILL systems such as RLIN ILL and OCLC ILL via ISO gateways for three years. ILL Manager users have requested items peer-to-peer from major document suppliers such as BLDSC, CISTI, and the National Library of Canada as those organizations have become ISO-ready. But pure peer-to-peer ILL, between two libraries using two different systems created by two unaffiliated developers, was a much tougher nut to crack. That great breakthrough didn’t happen until August 7, 2003. On that day, after months of beta-testing, bug-fixing, problem-solving and stomach-churning, the first production interlibrary loan requests passed between users of RLG’s ILL Manager and Cornell University’s Olin Library, which was using the new ISO version of OCLC ILLiad.