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The ILLiad International conference, held Thursday-Friday, March 25-26, 2010 in Virginia Beach, VA had many sessions whose common content all boiled down to this: collaboration is key; communication is critical; promotion is needed; and evaluation is necessary. There were a few other things that I learned, but those are the highest level takeaways from the day and a half. These are, I would guess, the same takeaways from previous ILLiad conferences, but the differences this year highlighted HOW we collaborate, communicate, promote and evaluate.

Chip Nilges of OCLC was the keynoter for the conference. His address was very interesting and among the most salient points he made were:

* Before cloud computing, institutions spent 70% of their time on infrastructure, allowing only 30% for innovation and creation. Cloud computing allows for that ratio to reverse.

* Collaboration is key to working at web scale. Aggregated data supports multiple users.

* When taken together, circulations and ILL requests in libraries nation-wide average 5,200 requests fulfilled every second. (That’s bigger than Amazon.)

* Patron expectations are changing, and OCLC’s mission is to meet user needs in the way they’ve become accustomed.

To identify areas for future development OCLC surveyed users asking “If libraries could mail you this book, providing a return address envelop for a small fee that covered shipping would you find this valuable?” 34% of respondents said it would be “valuable” or “extremely valuable”. And 65% of users said a “global library card” that would be valid everywhere is “valuable” or “extremely valuable.” Not surprisingly, the greatest percentage of users who rated the universal library card “extremely valuable” were University students.

The first session of the day I attended was “Text Messaging (BAM!) – A quick, low cost way to pump your customer service up a notch.” Presenters Dave Williams and Ken Kinslow from Notre Dame and Barbara Coopey, Joyce Harwell and Shane Burris from Penn State discussed how you can push notifications to users when materials arrive by adding, (or having them add) their cell phone number with the extension that corresponds to their provider into their ILLiad account field that contains their email address. The presenters discussed the value to the users, (who as we know prefer texting to email) because of the immediacy of the notification. They suggested shortening the notification message that is sent so that it is text friendly. Eliminating the title and the users’ name for instance, and shortening the contact information, the message can be whittled down to less than the goal of 150 characters. They discussed ways to promote the service, (I think it would require little promotion, just notification.) And they also showed some statistics that the length of time between notification and book pickup for users who had implemented the text messaging service dropped from just under 48 hours to about 6 hours! (Though the presenter did caution that they’d only started the service in January, and their participation rate is still very small.) Setting up this is a no-brainer, and we will begin to do this soon.

The next session I attended was a “Copyright Roundtable” where there were as many interpretations of copyright law and what was allowable under licensing agreements as there were attendees in the room. Not much new content to report but I am extremely glad that we have such a strong commitment to doing copyright right. It is an exceedingly frustrating law, but, especially after hearing the stories related here, I’m confident that we have adopted the best practices for ILL.

My first session of the afternoon was canceled because the presenter was ill. I ended up in a session called “Free for All: ILLiad and Open Access” given by Tina Baich of IUPUI. She gave a very good presentation unearthing sites she’d found that provide free OA content. This is important because, finding freely available information on the web cuts down on customer wait, and eliminates cost to the seeking library. She discussed the difficulty of getting, for instance, electronic theses and dissertations. All of her finding aids she conveniently put together in a delicious list tagged ILLiad10 .

The last session that I attended that day was a session led by Christian DuPont, of Atlas Systems. While I was a little fearful that it might turn out to be nothing more than a promotion for AEON, Atlas’ Special Collections Management software, other than a passing reference, Christian managed to do a good job of describing the tension that increases as libraries promote their unique and special collections on one hand, but are frequently reluctant to share them on the other hand. During the first half of his presentation he shared the experience of one library and what they did to try to create useful workflows between ILL and Special Collections staff. Then he opened the conversation up to those in the audience to share their experiences. Respondents discussed frustrations on both the lending and the borrowing of materials from Special Collections. Frustrations on lending: once an item in special collections is requested, ILL staff basically lose control of the request. They “cancel” or “conditionalize” it and have to pass it off to others who may not have the same desire to fill requests quickly. (ILL staff are all about filling requests quickly.) Frustrations on borrowing: One library experienced a long delay with a special collections office that needed to have a $7 pre-payment before they processed a request. But the borrowing library didn’t have a credit card, and the lending library didn’t utilize IFM (the Fee Management system that OCLC libraries utilize for easy payment.) The ILL and the Special Collections people had to try many avenues to arrange payment, while administrative costs mounted, just to fulfill this request. Christian Dupont and the rest of the participants came away with many ideas on how creating management workflows might ease the requests of items from Special Collections. It was a very enlightening session.

The Friday session was perhaps the most interesting of the sessions I attended. (And in this conference, that says a lot!) The session was called “GIST, The Getting It System Toolkit.” The development of the toolkit came out of the IDS Project.

The toolkit allows for ILL staff to, in a single view, determine for items requested by our borrowers whether it might make more sense to purchase the item than borrow it. From their website: “The Getting It System Toolkit (GIST) is a customizable set of ILLiad tools and workflows that will enhance interlibrary loan and just-in-time acquisitions services; purchase request processing; and cooperative collection development efforts… GIST provides users and the library practical and thoughtful resolution of disparate information sources with key data, such as: uniqueness (for cooperative collection development strategies); free online sources (to reduce cost and/or catalog eBooks just-in-time); reviews and rankings (to add value to the request process); and purchasing options and prices (to give users and libraries options and streamline library work). GIST is flexible, so you can pick or choose which features to use or adapt. ” The documentation on the project is available at The toolkit provides, in a single interface, information on the cost to purchase the item, how many others in your usual borrowing sites own it to lend, whether it is available full text in GoogleBooks or elsewhere. AND IT’S FREE! Cristina and I were both so interested in this tool. We talked about implementing it for much of our trip back to Winston Salem. We can’t wait to begin conversations with others in the library to put this, and many of the other ideas we learned over the 2.5 days, in place soon.