A better shipping system

In ILL, we rely on quite a few different shipping services to get books into the hands of our patrons as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, some get lost along the way. Frustrated with the lack of information available to us when attempting to track down these missing items, we turned to a new tracking system–OBILLSK, or Online Based Inter-Library Loan Statistical Kit, developed under the direction of Ryan Litsey, Texas Tech University.

Moving beyond traditional tracking methods, this system traces items every step of the way across a number of shipping services, such as USPS and Fed-Ex. We simply input the shipped item’s intended recipient, shipping label, and reference number into OBILLSK and have immediate access to full tracking information in one place. We’re thrilled to report that now, when items go missing, we can detect their location or prove their delivery.

OBILLSK Dashboard

Beyond tracking, the system reports on a number of helpful statistics, including our top receivers and the average number of items shipped per package.

One of the neatest things about this system is the interactive map of shipment recipients. OBILLSK tracks each shipped item and creates an interactive visualization that can be sorted either by recipients within the United States or the world. Beyond the practical benefits of having a robust tracking system, it’s interesting to see a visual representation of our resource sharing process.

-Contributed by Amie Freeman


Open Access and Interlibrary Loan

The University of South Carolina Libraries care about sustainable publishing and research collection practices. We readily acknowledge that open access publishing has more than a few issues. However, we support the exploration of different types of open access models that can enable our patrons to access resources more quickly and affordably while reducing our budget.

One way that we’ve attempted to both introduce our patrons to open publishing and to encourage economically viable research is by implementing an open access policy into the Interlibrary Loan workflow. 

Before requesting any article, thesis, or gray literature from another institution, we check to make sure that this item is not already freely available through an open access publisher or a repository. While there are a many places that scholars can check for open access to needed materials (see this excellent list compiled by the Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois), we’ve found that the simplest way to quickly check for access is through a browser add-on called Unpaywall.

Unpaywall automatically checks requested content against numerous repositories for legally uploaded copies of documents. When we search for an item in a browser, we can quickly see if a free copy is available. If it is, we simply copy the link and place it in an email that not only provides access to the article, but includes a link to more information on open access for interested patrons.

Have any suggestions to improve our open access workflow? Let us know in the comments!

-Contributed by Amie Freeman