After some arduous testing, scripting and rescripting, I am happy to announce that ZSR is officially offering Direct Request for our patrons.
OCLC ILL Direct Request gives our patrons the ability to send ILL requests directly to potential lending libraries without ILL staff’s intervention. This is a big leap forward for the ZSR ILL department, functionally and psychologically.
The first step in setting up for Direct Request is to have ILL Custom Holding groups, which we already use to choose the libraries to send our requests to for best results. I just needed to tweaked it a little, so the requests would go to our favorite libraries first and that our patrons will not accidentally ask for materials held in the ZSR or the Law library. The next step is to decide what formats or the age of the materials are allowed and which patron groups can participate. To avoid delay, I decided the lending string has to have three libraries (versus one as the default) to go through Direct Request. Our Direct Request profile also excludes libraries that charge over $30. Those requests usually need extra consideration and there may be better options. As of May, our policy is that everything is fair game and everyone, including faculty, students and staff are eligible for Direct Request.
Our days after implementing Direct Request have been a little bumpy. We found out that Direct Request will only work with an OCLC number, not an ISBN, and it is only for loan (versus article) requests. Article requests are usually more complicated, mainly because of the union listing on OCLC. The system is not smart enough to interpret the various ways the union listing information is displayed therefore it may not choose the best possible lenders. Another more serious issue we noticed is that patron’s notes do not show up to the lending library in Direct Request, for example, a request for just one volume of the fifty-seven volume set. Fortunately, the lending library is willing to take the time to ask us which one we wanted. Some libraries have the tendency to just cancel it. We also have some connectivity issues with OCLC, which is more conspicuous and disruptive with Direct Request than before.
As far as the rest of the ILL operations, such as receiving the materials, updating, pulling, scanning, printing, packaging, notifying, returning and mailing are still the same as before. The turnaround time can be shortened, especially when we are faced with over 90 requests on a Monday morning or when we are short staffed. I have always encouraged patrons to use WorldCat for ILL purpose, especially for foreign titles. It really expedites the processing and patrons get exactly what they want. We are excited about this new service and we are looking forward to spreading the word.