Interlibrary Loan & Reciprocal Access/Borrowing

Interlibrary loan (ILL) is the process and practice of requesting items from, or providing them to, another library. ILL allows you to provide your library users with items that are not in your own collection.

Read more about ILL

RAILS libraries are required to provide reciprocal access to your library materials to patrons of other member libraries (with some exceptions). Public libraries need to allow reciprocal borrowing by cardholders from other RAILS public libraries.

Read more about Reciprocal Access & Reciprocal Borrowing

Interlibrary Loan

Interlibrary loan (ILL) is the process and practice of requesting items from, or providing them to, another library. ILL allows you to provide your library users with items that are not in your own collection.

All RAILS libraries have delivery of ILL items available (within Illinois) without charge, as a benefit of system membership, through RAILS and the Illinois Library Delivery System.

ILL Requests

Most interlibrary loan activity occurs among members of the same shared catalog consortium, and the requests are placed online as holds.

RAILS supports six shared catalogs in the RAILS service area. These Local Library System Automation Programs (LLSAPS) provide member libraries with a seamless interlibrary loan experience through a shared catalog.

Several options are available to request an ILL from outside of one's own shared catalog, or for standalone libraries to request items:

  • Find More Illinois provides a single discovery interface that draws from the online catalogs of participating libraries. Patrons and staff of participating libraries can log in to place requests, and items are delivered to the requesting library through the RAILS delivery service.
  • OCLC members can request items via WorldCat Resource Sharing. Learn more about OCLC services from the Illinois State Library.
  • Lastly, you have the option of faxing or emailing an ALA ILL form to a prospective lender.

ILL Responsibilities

ILL carries a number of responsibilities for all of our members:

ILLINET is the statewide alliance of libraries that are members of the Illinois library systems. All RAILS libraries are ILLINET members.

If your library is part of a catalog or lending consortium, you may have additional responsibilities.

More ILL Resources

Reciprocal Access & Reciprocal Borrowing

RAILS members are required to make your library materials available to patrons of other member libraries in the least restrictive way possible, with some exceptions. Public libraries need to allow cardholders from other RAILS public libraries to borrow items when those patrons visit your library.

Members need to answer questions about reciprocal access as part of the Illinois State Library's annual certification, and to report reciprocal lending to ISL on the annual ILLINET statistics survey. RAILS currently does not collect regular reciprocal borrowing statistics from our libraries. In the Chicago area, RAILS helps support reciprocal access through the InfoPass program.

Library responsibilities regarding reciprocal access and borrowing are described in the RAILS Resource Sharing Plan, and in the Illinois State Library's rules under the Library Systems Act.

Definitions from ISL rules in the Illinois Administrative Code:

Reciprocal Access means how the resources of all full member libraries of a library system are made available to all library patrons in the system area. Reciprocal access benefits should be imposed equally among all reciprocal access patrons and can include interlibrary loans, photocopy service, reference service, use of library materials on site, and other services. The library governing authority may approve reasonable restrictions, applied equally among all reciprocal access patrons, for services such as computer access, library programs and meeting room use in accordance with the library system's resource sharing plan.

Libraries may provide access to resources that are not open to the general public through participation in the InfoPass program.

Reciprocal Borrowing means the right of a person who holds a valid, in-good-standing library registration card from a full member public library to borrow materials on site from other library system full member public libraries under the same conditions that the library provides those materials to its patrons, subject to reasonable restrictions approved by the library's governing board in accordance with requirements of the library system's resource sharing plan and this Part. The term "reciprocal borrowing" encompasses "Statewide Reciprocal Borrowing" and "System-wide Reciprocal Borrowing", which are also defined in this Section.

(23 Ill. Admin. Code 3030.110)

C) System-wide Reciprocal Borrowing

iii) the requirement that all reciprocal borrowing patrons will be treated the same and that reasonable limitations on quantities of reciprocal borrowing loans shall be allowed only if system-specified parameters are met, as established in the system resource sharing plan.

vi) the requirement that the library of a patron who borrows materials from another library through reciprocal borrowing is responsible for lost and damaged materials if the patron does not pay. The resource sharing plan, however, may allow for alternate means of resolving the loss or damage if the lending library agrees.

(23 Ill. Admin. Code 3030.215)

Reciprocal Borrowing from Chicago Public Library

The Reciprocal Borrowing Program (RBP) enables Illinois public library cardholders to visit other public libraries throughout the state and check out materials on their home library card.

Illinois library systems assist each other in recovering materials or in collecting the charges for damaged or lost materials involved in intersystem reciprocal borrowing. RAILS has agreed to help the Chicago Public Library (CPL) collect charges by sending bills for damaged or lost materials to RAILS member libraries.

Because of the size of our membership, it is not possible for RAILS to pay the CPL bills on behalf of our libraries.

Payment of CPL Bills

Twice per year, CPL will submit invoices to RAILS, to be sent via mail to RAILS libraries. A cover memo will be attached to the bills with more information, including the address where payments should be sent. Libraries are expected to pay the bills they receive from CPL for losses/damages incurred by their patrons. After the bills are paid, they also have the option of seeking reimbursement from their patrons.

Payments will need to be sent directly to the following address:

Chicago Public Library
Attn: Accounting – Reciprocal
400 S. State St, 10 N
Chicago, IL 60605

If you have questions about invoices or about reciprocal procedures at CPL, contact Laura Gorczyca Hanes, CPL Circulation Coordinator, at or 312-747-4061.

CPL Reciprocal Borrower Policies

To get the current standing of a CPL patron, please call 312-747-4300 or any CPL location.

  1. Holds Policy for Library Materials: Current policy is to permit all patrons to a limit of 5 Holds pending at a time. In 2012, the policy will reduce the number to 3 Holds pending per patron record. This reduction does not impact Holds in transit or Holds waiting for pickup; and does not change CPL's total circulation limit of 30 items per patron record.
  2. Library Card Status: Current policy blocks any patron account that owes any amount of fine or fee to CPL. New policy revises the definition of a library card in good standing to any patron account owing less than $10.00. Good standing means access to all library services that apply to that card: circulation, accessing electronic resources, online holds placement, online renewal. (Amended, effective March 31, 2014)
  3. Borrowing privileges: Current policy allows patrons in good standing to download electronic format materials regardless of type of library card. New policy eliminates borrowing of CPL downloadable materials for patrons holding reciprocal library cards, deposit cards and PC reservation cards for non-local patrons. This revision to eliminate borrowing of CPL downloadable materials on reciprocal cards now makes the Chicago Public Library's policies consistent with policies previously instituted by reciprocal institutions toward Chicago patrons. In addition, Chicago Public Library patrons who enter into a reciprocal card arrangement with another library will be limited to a maximum of 50 items (maximum of 10 audiovisual items) on their account at any time, which is CPL's policy. If a reciprocal library allows its patron to circulate more than 50 items, CPL patrons holding a reciprocal card will be limited to 50 items only from that reciprocal institution. (Amended, effective March 31, 2014)