Interlibrary Loan Procedures

Monday–Friday, 9 a.m.–5 p.m.

Who Can Request Interlibrary Loan Items?

In order to request an item through interlibrary loan, you must:

Please note: Email is our primary means of contact, for more efficient service. We do not give out patron information of any kind. If you do not have email, we can also contact you by phone.

If you don’t have a card or need to check your account, please read the BPL Borrowing & Circulating Information.

Getting Items Through Interlibrary Loan

Any type of material can be requested through interlibrary loan, but some items are harder to borrow than others. It may be more difficult to find a library willing to lend:

We cannot borrow textbooks via interlibrary loan.

Newspaper microfilms can be borrowed but there are often strict guidelines, including number of reels available at one time.

If Boston Public Library owns a non-circulating copy of an item, we will only borrow it if we can find a free lender in Massachusetts.

Some requests will be referred to Collection Development so that the item can be purchased for the BPL collection. When this happens, you will have first place in the request list for that item.

If the request is for a pre-1923 item every effort will be made to find a digital version for home use.

Submitting an Interlibrary Loan Request

To submit a request, please fill out our online form. We cannot accept requests over the phone.

Each item must have a separate request form.

Due to budget constraints, only six active requests are allowed at one time. This includes items currently checked out and those that have already been requested.

Please provide accurate and complete information for each item. You can use WorldCat (an online library catalog) to find additional information for many items.

Waiting for Your Interlibrary Loan Item

Receiving an item through interlibrary loan can take as little as a few days or as long as a few weeks. How long it takes depends on whether the item is available at any library, where it is available, and how long it needs to ship to Boston.

Articles or copies from books are usually faster and are normally sent as email attachments in PDF.

Once an interlibrary loan item is received at the BPL, we’ll contact you by email or phone. Each item will be checked out to you with the original lending library’s due date. Please note that the usual BPL lending times do not apply to interlibrary loan items, and that items checked out on the same day may have different due dates.

Renewing an Interlibrary Loan Item

You may be able to renew interlibrary loan items, but you must ask ILL staff for a renewal at least 3 days before the due date. Please call 617-859-2343 to ask for a renewal. Renewals cannot be guaranteed, and are at the owning library’s discretion.

Returning an Interlibrary Loan Item

ILL items must be returned to the Circulation desk of the location where they were picked up.

ILL items may not be returned in a book drop.