Interlibrary Loans

ALA Library Fact Sheet 8

As defined by the Interlibrary Loan Code for the United States, "Interlibrary loan is the process by which a library requests material from, or supplies material to, another library. ... The purpose of interlibrary loan as defined by this code is to obtain, upon request of a library user, material not available in the user's local library."

This fact sheet has been designed for libraries in the U.S. and Canada. If you are outside of the U.S. and Canada, please see the section on international interlibrary loan below and follow the guidelines set forth by the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA).


Interlibrary Loan in the United States

Libraries should follow the Interlibrary Loan Code for the United States, originally approved in 1917 and most recently revised by the Codes, Guidelines, and Technical Standards Committee of RUSA STARS (Sharing and Transforming Access to Resources section) in 2015.  Revisions were approved by the RUSA Board of Directors on January 11, 2016.  The ILL Code was also published in the Summer 2016 issue of the official RUSA journal, Reference & User Services Quarterly (v.55 no. 4, pp.306-307).  The Explanatory Supplement accompanies the U.S. ILL Code and is intended to amplify specific sections, providing fuller explanation and specific examples.

The U.S. ILL Code is intended to provide guidelines for exchanges between libraries in the United States when no other agreement applies.  The Code does not override individual, consortial, state, or regional agreements which may be more liberal or more prescriptive.  

Most state and regional library networks/consortia and state library agencies have interlibrary loan procedures, and libraries in their service areas should be familiar with these procedures.


Interlibrary Loan Form

Libraries normally transmit requests electronically through OCLC, DOCLINE, or other networks.  When an electronic means of making a request is unavailable, the ALA Interlibrary Loan Request Form (a fillable PDF) may be used. 

The form can also be purchased in bulk from library supply houses. A list of directories of library product suppliers is available on ALA Library Fact Sheet 9, Library Products and Services.

Interlibrary Loan in Canada

Loans to Canada are conducted on much the same basis as domestic loans, with slightly different mailing procedures (many Canadian libraries are part of OCLC or other networks).

For more information on ILL in Canada contact:

Interlibrary Loan Division
Library and Archives Canada
395 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0N4 Canada
Phone: (613) 996-7527
Fax: (613) 996-4424
E-Mail: (for general messages only)
Library and Archives Canada Interlibrary Loans (ILL) web page:


International Interlibrary Borrowing

Any library may participate in international interlibrary loan activities. When seeking a loan from a library outside the United States and Canada follow the guidelines set forth by the Document Delivery and Resource Sharing Section of IFLA:

Guidelines for Best Practice in Interlibrary Loan and Document Delivery.
Latest revision: 15 October 2007

IFLA loan/photocopy request form.

IFLA Voucher Scheme
Payment System for International Interlibrary Transactions

IFLA -- Ask an Expert
Do you have a question about document delivery and/or interlending? Now you can ask an expert! Send your question to the Information Coordinator for the Section on Document Delivery and Resource Sharing, who will either reply directly or refer your question to an appropriate person for response.
While the service is intended particularly for questions related to IFLA documents and services, questions related to international document delivery and interlending will also be welcome.

International Lending and Document Delivery: Principles and Guidelines for Procedure.
First agreed by IFLA 1954
Major revision 1978, modified 1987
Major revision 2001

Model National Interlibrary Loan Code.
First agreed by IFLA 1983
Revised 2000


Interlibrary Loan Information Resources

For more information on interlibrary loan, you may want to consult the following titles:

ACRL/RBMS Guidelines for Interlibrary and Exhibition Loan of Special Collections Materials, 2012

Beaubien, Anne K. "ARL White Paper on Interlibrary Loan." Association of Research Libraries, 2007,  Accessed 13 December 2012.

Chambers, Joan. "Determining the Cost of an Interlibrary Loan in North American Research Libraries: Initial Study." 62nd IFLA General Conference: Conference Proceedings, August 25-31, 1996,  Accessed 13 December 2012.

Guidelines For Interlibrary And Exhibition Loan Of Special Collections Materials, RUSA-RBMS, ALA, 2012. Accessed 9 January 2013.

Guidelines for Interlibrary Loan Operations Management, RUSA-STARS, ALA, 2012. Accessed 13 December 2012.

Guidelines for Resource-Sharing Response to Natural and Man-made Disasters, RUSA Standards & Guidelines Committee, 2010. Accessed 13 December 2012.

Higginbotham, Barbara Buckner and Sally Bowdoin. Access Versus Assets: A Comprehensive Guide to Resource Sharing For Academic Librarians. ALA, 1993.

Horton, Valerie and Bruce Smith, eds. Moving Materials: Physical Delivery in Libraries. Chicago: ALA, 2010.

ILL-L.  [An email listserv for professionals interested in interlibrary loan, doc delivery, and resource sharing]

Jackson, Mary E. "Assessing ILL/DD Services Study: Initial Observations." ARL, No. 230/231 (October/December 2003): 21-22, Accessed 13 December 2012.

Jackson, Mary E. "Document Access in the United States: Revisited 1978-2004." Interlending & Document Supply. Bradford: 2004. Vol. 32, Iss. 3, p. 164-168.

Knox, Emily. Document Delivery and Interlibrary Loan on a Shoestring. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, 2010.

Morris, Leslie R., ed. Interlibrary Loan Policies Directory, 7th ed. Neal-Schuman, 2002.

Nyquist, Corinne. Resource Sharing Today: A Practical Guide to Interlibrary Loan, Consortial Circulation, and Global Cooperation. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014.

Rethinking Resource Sharing Initiative. [General principles and best practices in resource sharing]

ShareILL.  [An online international interlibrary loan and document delivery information center]

Weible, Cherié L., and Karen L. Janke. Interlibrary Loan Practices Handbook, Third Edition. Chicago: American Library Association, 2011.


Last updated: August 2016


For more information on this or other fact sheets, contact the ALA Library Reference Desk by telephone: 800-545-2433, extension 2153; fax: 312-280-3255; e-mail:; or regular mail: ALA Library, American Library Association, 50 East Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60611-2795.