Joining RAILS

Membership in RAILS is institutional, at the library agency (e.g., public library district, school district, university, or company) level.

There is no membership fee. Funding for RAILS is provided through grants from the Illinois State Library and the Secretary of State, with funds appropriated by the Illinois General Assembly.

If you are an employee or public library trustee of a member library, you do not need to join as an individual. You should get a Library Directory & Learning Calendar (L2) account, though, if you don't already have one.

Benefits of System Membership

RAILS offers a number of services to our member libraries. While some services require a fee from participating libraries, many do not.

  • interlibrary delivery
  • continuing education and consulting resources to library employees and trustees
  • shared catalog and cataloging support
  • e-content services
  • museum and attractions pass program
  • group purchases and vendor discounts
  • networking opportunities for library employees
  • targeted grant funding to member libraries
  • ... and more

Membership in an regional library system (of which RAILS is one) is an eligibility requirement for various grants from the Illinois State Library and participation in the statewide contract for OCLC services.

Application Process

Libraries can apply for membership at any time. Before applying, please check that your library meets all of the requirements. Please note that the application can take up to two months (depending on the date of the next RAILS Board of Directors meeting). 

Below are the full steps for membership approval:

  1. Fill out the RAILS membership application.
  2. A RAILS representative will conduct a site visit. 
  3. A RAILS representative will submit a recommendation to the RAILS Board of Directors.
  4. RAILS Board of Directors votes to approve the recommendation.
  5. The recommendation is officially recognized by the Illinois State Library. 

Membership Requirements

Any academic, public, school, or special library within the geographic boundaries of RAILS is eligible to apply for membership.

All member libraries must comply with requirements as defined by Administrative Code Rules, Illinois Library System Act (23 III.Admin. Code 3030.200). These requirements include participation in interlibrary loan and support for reciprocal access.

To maintain membership, libraries must certify each year that they continue to meet membership requirements. Members must also complete the Illinois State Library's ILLINET Interlibrary Loan Statistical Survey each year. Public libraries additionally must complete the Illinois Public Library Annual Report and report their non-resident card program participation status to RAILS.

Specific Requirements

  • Library meets taxing level (Public Libraries only)
    • Must be authorized to levy a tax for library purposes
  • Library provides reciprocal borrowing to other libraries in system (Public Libraries only)
    • Must be willing to make materials available to patrons of other member libraries in the least restrictive way possible
  • Library follows ILLINET Interlibrary Loan Code
    • Must be willing to make its collection available via ILL
    • Must be willing to publish its lending and borrowing policies
    • An exception can be granted by the State Librarian for special research libraries with noncirculating collections
  • Library has bibliographically organized collection
    • Must have some system of organization, i.e. Dewey, Library of Congress Classification
  • Library is staffed by paid employees at least 15 hours per week
    • Cannot be staffed solely by volunteers
  • Library collection has permanent financial support
    • Must have a budget line or some form of sustained funding
  • Library is centrally accessible
    • Must be located in a defined place that is easily accessible to patrons
  • Library occupies identifiable quarters in one principal location
    • Must be in an easily identifiable location