Interlibrary Loan In a Virtual World
December 01, 2011
A customer came in looking for an obscure church history. It was not available on microfilm, and he was looking for a library that might do an interlibrary loan. WorldCat is a database that allows anyone to search for books in almost any library in the world. You can access WorldCat through the MCPL website with your library card. WorldCat opens automatically to look for books only in Missouri libraries, so be sure to change the setting to World Libraries on the Search page.
We did a search by the title and author, and came up with 86 libraries that own the book. Unfortunately, they were universities and research libraries; these institutions rarely loan their books. The closest copy was a "Research-only" copy at the St. Louis Public Library.
I also noted two Internet results. The first was only a reference to a university’s library catalog. The second hit linked us to Archive.org, a site that has joined many organizations in digitizing rare books. At this site, we found that we could read the book online (every word indexed), save or print a PDF version (492 pages!), or download the book to a KindleTM. Instead of traveling to St. Louis and having a limited amount of time with the book, the customer can read the book in the comfort of his own home!
If you are looking for a little-known book, don’t give up. Rare books are being digitized at a rate of thousands per month. Sooner or later someone has to get to the book you want!
Midwest Genealogy Center