Today I made a few changes to our online tools that make it easier for our users to get material we don’t own. It’s long been hard to direct users who are looking for books we don’t have to MeLCat, our Michigan consortial catalog, and to Document Delivery (Interlibrary Loan). While the catalog has a button to search for items in MeLCat, and the copy for failed searches prompts to search MeLCat, there hasn’t ever been anything stopping folks from manually requesting items from Document Delivery when they could have gotten them much faster through MeLCat. (MeLCat also saves us money, so there is an internal motivation to make this change, too).
Today I added a small script that works inside of Illiad, our interlibrary loan software. When a user enters a book title into the Loan request form, Illiad does a quick search in MeLCat behind the scenes. If it detects that MeLCat has results for that title, it will recommend that the user request the item from another Michigan library, since they will get it faster.
Here’s what the alert looks like in action:
If the results page shows several possible titles, it won’t specify the number of libraries, as in the example above. If the MeLCat search goes directly to a bib record, then the script will tell the user how many Michigan libraries have the book (as in the example below).
If MeLCat doesn’t return any results for the title, then the script won’t do anything. It will let the user proceed to fill out the form. (The script does add a hidden token in the page’s source code that says that a search was run but MeLCat didn’t have any results).
While showing this to Brian today, he mentioned that a large number of books have been requested from Document Delivery over the past few months that were actually books owned by GVSU, but checked out to other patrons. While it was possible to recall those books, our users have been hesitent to do so. We discussed requesting the books through MeLCat instead, since it is a policy of Document Delivery not to request items that we own if they are merely checked out.
So, I modified our customization scripts for the catalog to change the reuest button for checked out items. The label for this button now says “Request from another library”, and the button takes the user to MeLCat. Hopefully, by changing the label and the URL but keeping the normal workflow for requesting books, we’ll help folks get books we don’t have faster. (Recalling a book gives the original borrower 2 weeks to return the book. MeLCat turn-aorund is often just a few days). Here’s a bib record with the new button:
Currently, this new button replaces the recall button, although that could be added back in.