EIFL Information note: Inter-library document supply

EIFL briefing note on a behind the scenes library operation that fulfills a fundamental goal

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December 2016

Inter-library document supply, or document delivery, is an essential service that enables researchers and scholars to access material such as books or journal articles not available in their ‘home library’ - the library of the institution to which they are affiliated. While document delivery services are well known to librarians and valued by those who use them, they are less well known outside the library world.

The ‘Information note: Inter-library document supply’ from EIFL’s Copyright and Libraries Programme provides brief factual information on what inter-library document supply is, why it is important, how it works, and how copyright law affects services. There are links to examples of document delivery services in two major research libraries, and resources for further reading.

Document delivery works through a system of library-to-library cooperation whereby the requesting library looks for the item needed by the end user from another library. If the item is not available within the national library network, the search may be broadened to libraries outside the country. While the administration and the ways of requesting and receiving the material have evolved in recent years, the largely behind-the-scenes operations related to inter-library document supply fulfil a fundamental goal - to serve the information needs of users of library users.

EIFL is advocating at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) for a copyright exception to support international inter-library document supply. Read about our work at WIPO.