An analysis of interlibrary loan services : a case study of a university in South Africa
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Purpose – The landscape of teaching, learning and research has changed requiring the need for diverse information resources. Given the current budgetary constraints and financial conditions prevailing in many universities, sharing of information resources has become a necessity. The Interlibrary Loan (ILL) services have thus become an important service to meet the immediate needs of library users. The aim of this paper is to analyse the ILL services of the North-West University in South Africa from 2006 to 2016. Using statistical data, the paper shows the emerging pattern in borrowing and lending between institutions as well as determines the existence of correlations between borrowing and lending libraries. The results of this study show that ILL amongst libraries has decreased in the past 11 years. A need exists for increased awareness of ILL and there is need for technological innovations that will ensure that library users are able to request for information resources seamlessly. Design/methodology/approach – This is a quantitative study that uses ILL data from the North-West University. Data were downloaded from the SABINET ILL system using the three NWU JC codes. They were then collated and uploaded on excel spreadsheets. In the main, the excel spreadsheets were used to interpret the data. Further, the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) software, in particular Spearman’s Correlation Analysis was used to test correlations between data from libraries that requested information resources from NWU and data from libraries that supplied information resources to NWU during this period using Rumsey’s guidelines to interpret the correlations. Findings – The findings of the study reveal that ILL among libraries in South Africa had generally declined owing mostly to the proliferation of online resources resulting to changes in user information-seeking behaviour. The decline is despite the challenges of low budgets received by most libraries for the acquisition of information resources. It can also be concluded that public university libraries still value ILL as demonstrated by the high number of items requested from other libraries. The findings also reveal that most ILL activities were conducted by public universities. Research limitations/implications – It was not possible to obtain the list of titles that have been requested and also to obtain the user’s details. This would have enabled the authors to determine the type of titles that are being requested, and the users that request them. Practical implications – ILL should continue to be enhanced in view of the challenge of dwindling library budgets against the escalating prices of information resources. There is also a need for user education so that they become aware of the ILL service. From experience, library users normally give up once they realize that what they wanted is not available through the local catalogue and this calls for librarians to create an awareness to users that ILL could help solve their frustrations. Social implications – These results show that ILL can play a significant role to level the playing field between the well-resourced libraries in urbanized regions or provinces and the poorly resourced ones in rural regions or provinces. This social justice aspect of ILL is probably the reason why better resourced libraries in South Africa have decided to remain in the scheme unlike other countries where better resourced libraries opted out of reciprocal arrangements with small and medium-sized institutions. Originality/value – The study adds to a very limited number of studies emanating from Africa. A study of this nature has never been conducted in Africa, as previous studies were nationwide studies. As far as the authors know, this is the first study that uses ILL data to research the impact of the global financial crisis on libraries in Africa.
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