The Pratt Library has a vast and versatile collection of material, making it a veritable forest of information in which to conduct research. However, the collection is not infinite (like a Borgesian library), so sometimes an item needed for leisure or research purposes is not available at the Pratt Library—what’s one to do?
That’s when the interlibrary loan (ILL) system comes into play. Maryland's exceptional ILL system allows customers not only to return a book from any public library in the state to any other public library in the state, but to request books from libraries all over the world.
If you’re like me, then you have already used this system, maybe to the point of excess. So I decided to take a trip to the lower realms of the Central Library’s stacks and visit the friendly folks who make all of the interlibrary loan magic happen, in the MILO Department (MILO = "Maryland Interlibrary Loan Organization").
The folks in MILO are not only responsible for processing the outgoing requests from Pratt Library customers to other library systems, but they are also responsible for processing incoming requests from outside libraries for items in our collection, and this can be quite a staggering number of items. On average, they search, pull, process, and ship 2,500 outgoing items a month to customers from other library systems.
This consortium of exchange may be between a library system as close as Baltimore County, or as far away as Germany, and includes all kinds of material. I also find it fascinating to think that by the time an ILL item arrives at its destination it has probably gone through at least a half-dozen pair of hands, if not more, showing a dedication to their customers’ needs that libraries share in unison.
Recently, the Marina Interlibrary Loan catalog was renovated, improving customer accessibility to ILL books from other libraries via the Library’s website.
So now, if you can’t find what you’re searching for through the Pratt Library catalog, you can log into Marina and search other Maryland public libraries; and if they don’t have the item, you can simply fill out the request form, and the MILO Department will try to find it for you from libraries outside of Maryland. And you can do all of this from the convenience of home. Plus, they always strive to find you copies of material that can come at no cost to you! How great is that?
Emma, the MILO Department Supervisor, speaking about this great service, highlights that customers can request all types of material (not just books) from other libraries, including DVDs, CDs, microfilm, and even photocopies of articles. So the next time you’re conducting research and the Pratt Library system does not have what you’re looking for, try using the ILL service. After all, there is a reason why their motto is the three crucial A’s: "Anything, Anytime, Anywhere."