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When Auburn made the decision to go into remote learning mode, closed buildings and encouraged working from home to protect all members of the Auburn Family, Auburn Libraries’ Interlibrary Loans, or ILL, Document Delivery Department became critical to the university’s research mission that it could not be limited and they continued to provide research material scans to remote learners, near and far.

“Both keeping up with the undiminished requirement for our services that necessitate access to the physical library collections and complying with the university mandate to disperse our employees to protect them from COVID-19 has been a challenge,” said Gail Barton, head of Interlibrary Loan. “The result has been a Herculean effort by our staff coming into the library to scan requests from print materials while still maintaining social distancing.”

ILL’s mission of borrowing and securing research materials from other libraries for Auburn researchers and lending/sharing our own research materials to other libraries in the U.S. and around the world made their continued operation critical.

From March 13, when Auburn Libraries closed their doors to users, to April 15, 867 requests were made for research materials from Auburn users. In the same period, 2,680 requests came in from libraries worldwide.

Other uses of ILL’s resources also presented themselves. When distant borrowers request materials from AU Libraries, pages are scanned from print and the article, chapter, table of contents or index is provided to the requester electronically. This service has been extended to Auburn library users in order to cut down on in-person interactions. Over 1,500 pages of materials were scanned for Auburn users and provided to them electronically.

To assist in providing materials through ILL/Document Delivery, subject librarians, who know research materials in their subject areas thoroughly, have been pulling requested materials from shelves and delivering them to ILL for scanning and distribution.

In several instances ILL has notified library acquisition personnel to purchase eBooks so that research materials are available in the critical moment of need. Catalogers have been ensuring the discoverability of these new purchases for all Auburn students, faculty, researchers and staff.

Its mission to the rest of the world has not been neglected, as research materials have been delivered regularly to global partners. Auburn University Libraries is one of the rare libraries where staff still has access to the print collection. Most libraries have staff working remotely who are only able to share from electronic resources. This has caused some interesting distribution gymnastics to be played out.

Recently a professor for small animal surgery working at the University of Munich in Germany contacted the Charles Allen Cary Veterinary Medical Library, a branch of the Auburn University Libraries, and requested an article from the publication, Auburn Veterinarian, which is held by few other libraries. The veterinary subject librarian Rob Buchanan and library technical specialist Jonathon Brock checked the collection and found that holdings in the VetMed branch library began after the requested date but discovered that the Special Collection in the Ralph Brown Draughon Library had the 1976 volume and issue needed. Buchanan contacted ILL with the researcher’s information and that “the catalog shows that we should have a copy in Special Collections.” He asked that ILL scan the article and deliver it electronically. ILL contacted the Special Collections department and almost immediately library technical specialist Elizabeth Bates pulled the journal from the archives and provided it to ILL personnel for scanning and delivery to Germany.

With the assistance of other departments of the AU Libraries, Interlibrary Loan/Document Delivery has been maintaining a robust research resources exchange with other libraries worldwide and providing our own library users with a continued access to AU Libraries materials through creative use of its capabilities.

Users wishing to take advantage of these services should contact ILL through the Libraries website.