Skip to Main Content

Sacred Heart University Library Newsletter for Faculty No. 25 (December 2021)

Library Newsletter for Faculty No. 25 (December, 2021)

The Lede: What is InterLibrary Loan (Actually)?

Faculty members certainly use ILL—over 1,800 journal articles or books received from other libraries 2020-2021 (the pandemic year, down from over 2,600 in 2019-2020).

ILL is a useful but dated term—most of these interlibrary transactions are not loans, but digital copies.  The “interlibrary” emphasizes that this is a collective, networked service—libraries must be willing not only to receive, but to give. (SHU library supplied 382 items in 2020-2021, down from 515 in the slightly more normal 2019-2020.). Most of the items supplied were copies of journal articles.

An ordinary transaction happens like this: 

  1. A library user (often faculty member) requests an item;
  2. If the request is completely accurate, it will require minimal human mediation at SHU Library; if there are problems, a staff member will have to correct it, or return it for clarification;
  3. The request is relayed to a chain of libraries (which libraries depends on the details of the request);
  4. A library in that chain supplies the item via online .pdf or tangible mail (package).  If it is a journal article, it is copied as a .pdf and posted to a clearinghouse called “Article Exchange,” and the user who originated the request will receive a message with a link and a unique password to retrieve the file.

All this can take time. The Library’s response time has improved —and our central network, OCLC recognized us by inviting us to join OCLC Article Express, a consortium of the fastest libraries. Most of the process is now automated and when important details in a request are correct, the system can work within hours.

What can go wrong? Lots –at every step:  

  • Users can enter wrong information (page numbers, ISSN or ISBN numbers, slightly mis-spelled authors’ names). 
  • The requested item might be very new (published this year).  Articles published in the past 12 to 24 months are often subject to publishers’ embargoes, meaning they cannot be reproduced for other libraries.
  • Tangible books may be in processing queues at other libraries, or have to be recalled from other users there.
  • The requested item might be available at very few libraries.  Libraries almost never loan dissertations and theses.
  • The “supply chain” can bog down with “downstream” issues such as IT problems, worker shortages, or delivery delays (for physical items).
  • Email applications route delivery notices to junk mail, or users ignore them.

Occasionally SHU interlibrary loan will act on a request expeditiously and hit a chain of bad luck, including items that are misplaced or missing from other libraries’ collections, but still technically shown as available. Supply chain problems seem to be everywhere this year —and ILL depends upon the same supply chain, including truck deliveries, parcel carriers, and dependable and secure networks. 

Other libraries sometimes charge fees to fulfill a request: a portion of the SHU library budget covers them.  The Library does not pass this charge onto the requestor or department, unlike the practices of some other university services.  Librarians are very mindful of costs: we try our best to route requests to “free” libraries with whom we have reciprocal free arrangements. When a fee is charged, it will probably cost far less than full subscription access to a high-priced but rarely used journal, so the fee is still a good deal.

Given what can go wrong, it’s amazing how often things go precisely right on behalf of the Library’s user, who just wants his or her requested article or book (or chapter).  The good will and hard work of other libraries really makes this cooperative system go, as does our Library’s good will on behalf of its peers.

Hints that can reduce processing time when you submit an ILL request:

  • Make sure your citation is correct, especially the ISSN or ISBN numbers.
  • If you submit a request on a Friday afternoon, or the weekend, it will not be processed until Monday morning.  Timing is all.
  • Set your “needed before” date at least a month away.  If you set that date very soon, the system may automatically cancel your request before another library has had a chance to respond.  You may in fact need an article tomorrow or next week, but don’t let that trigger an automatic cancellation.

A Resource You Should Know About: Data Planet

A Resource You Should Know About: Data Planet

Data Planet makes a vast collection of U.S. and international statistics available. This dynamic tool enables you to compare and contrast numerous variables and create customized views in tables, maps, rankings, and charts. Data Planet covers a wide range of subjects —not just business and finance, but political science, demographics, health statistics, social surveys, and more. It is highly transparent regarding data sources and employs only reliable data sets from well-respected producers. Those studying marketing will benefit in particular from Claritas Consumer Profiles.  The library’s Data Planet research guide is an excellent place to start learning to use this subtle and immensely rewarding resource.

A Tutorial You Should Know About: Critical Thinking

A Tutorial You Should Know About: Critical Thinking

Public opinion writers have long suggested that “critical thinking” provides a way out of conspiracy theories and misinformation. (See an example by Adam Laats in The Atlantic.) “Critical thinking” can be hard to introduce in any course: there never seems to be enough time.  SHU Library Instruct provides specific modules Using Critical Thinking and Logic that can be placed in your Blackboard course shell.  These modules feature short, incisive videos, interactive tutorials, and quizzes. (Here’s how to place this content directly into your course.) The tidal wave of conspiracy thinking, misinformation, denials, and “alternative facts” is hard to address —and the SHU Library Instruct modules off concrete steps to address these kinds of distortions and fraudulence.

A Service You Should Know About: Your Library Liaison Team

A Service You Should Know About: Your Library Liaison Team

Librarians have organized to address the needs and concerns of faculty in each of the University’s colleges.  You can reach them individually or as a team:

While all librarians are capable of addressing basic research and resources questions from your students, the specialists are able to go further with specific skills and experience.  Don’t hesitate to reach out to your librarian team!

Welcome New Librarians

Welcome New Librarians!

In the past three months, university librarians have welcomed three new colleagues:

  • Kristina D'Agostino has begun work as part-time Evening & Weekend Reference Librarian.  Kristina is present on campus on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings, and Saturday afternoons.  She comes to the Library from an internship with the Netter Health Scieneds Library at Quinnipiac University.  Kristina is a recent graduate of Southern Connecticut State University (M.L.I.S.) and Quinnipiac University (B.S. and M.S. in Biomedical Science).
  • Emily Komornik has begun work as Discovery & Metadata Services Librarian.  Emily comes to Sacred Heart University Library from The Winthrop Group, where she was a processing archivist for materials from the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University.  Emily is 2019 graduate from Simmons University (M.L.I.S.) and Eastern Connecticut State University ( B.A. in History and English).  Emily is a member of the College of Arts and Sciences library liaison team.
  • Erin Thompson began work in early October as Research Librarian for the Social and Health Sciences.  Erin comes to Sacred Heart University Library from the Wahlstrom Library at the University of. Bridgeport, and has served as refernence librarian there and at Pine Manor College in Chestnut Hill, MA since 2018.  She is a graduate of Simmons University (M.L.I.S.) and the University of Connecticut (B.A. in English).  Erin is a member of the Health Sciences library liaison team.