Friday, September 28, 2007

From interlibrary loans to institutional repository department: a natural transition

When articles are open access, there is no need for interlibrary loan (ILL). There should be, globally if not at every individual library, an inverse relationship between the amount of open access, and the demand for interlibrary loan. That is, the more open access peer-reviewed articles there are, the less need there is for ILL.

This frees up funds (from ILL charges), and staff time. Freed-up funds can be redeployed to offset article processing fees and subsidies for faculty OA publishing.

The greatest savings in staff time will be experienced by the largest research libraries with the biggest collections, as these libraries are the biggest net lenders.

It makes sense, then, to consider whether the staff that are currently involved in interlibrary loans, could be retrained for the work needed for the institutional repository. In my opinion, staff who are proficient at interlibrary loans, have an important skill set to bring to the institutional repository. These staff are accustomed to working with documents, and faculty members, on a one-on-one basis, paying careful attention to metadata and quality control with documents sent electronically.

Working in an area where activity and needs are decreasing is depressing; working in an area that is emerging and increasing in activity is energizing. A well-planned ILL to IR transition just might mean a library will have increasing staffing available for the IR in a pattern that somewhat reflects the shifting needs. More importantly, approaching the transition in this thoughtful manner could mean potentially substantial benefits in staff morale and positive organizational culture.

This post is a part of the Transitioning to Open Access Series.