May 20, 2022

New Survey Results From the OCLC SHARES Working Group: “Sharing Special Collections Through Interlibrary Loan”

From the Report:

The SHARES Sharing Special Collections Working Group was formed in September 2018 to explore the interlending of materials from special collections among members of the SHARES resource sharing consortium. The group’s first step was to conduct a survey to gather information on the current state of sharing special collections through interlibrary loan across the SHARES partnership.

The survey, which was posted to the SHARES-L discussion list on December 21, 2018 and closed on January 31, 2019, attracted 55 responses from 75 different SHARES institutions — a 73% response rate. The proportions of the various library types represented among the responses, and the proportion of US-based libraries versus non-US libraries responding, matched closely with the overall SHARES membership profile.

The survey responses capture the current state of sharing special collections at the various types of SHARES institutions and point to specific actions that could be taken by SHARES as a group to promote and improve the practice, not just within our consortium but across the library community. Lending copies from special collections is done by most respondents, while digitizing whole works and lending physical items is much less mainstream. Analysis of the survey results leads the working group to make several recommendations:

  • There needs to be a community workspace whereby SHARES partners are able to share standards driven procedures. This will enable institutions to determine their comfort level in lending special collection material.
  • Any workflows or procedures that are developed need to be flexible in order to account for the different types of libraries and special collections within the SHARES consortium.
  • Interdepartmental cooperation is key to sharing special collections.

These recommendations are based on the following points that emerged from the survey responses:

  • Cooperation between ILL and special collections staff already appears to be robust across the SHARES community.
  • Most libraries will share what they share from special collections “with any library.”
  • There is no one right way to divide responsibilities between ILL and special collections staff.
  • Some respondents noted a willingness to lend and even have protocols in mind but hadn’t yet been asked to lend anything.
  • Some respondents posited that protocols developed by this working group and adopted by SHARES, perhaps in tandem with a best practices document, would empower them to approach their special collections colleagues with the idea of lending.
  • Interlibrary loan and special collections staff need to engage in regular, sustained, detailed communication about the value of sharing special collections and the best way to go about it at their institution.

The SHARES Sharing Special Collections Working Group will now take up the next piece of our assignment, developing a framework of protocols and practices for sharing special collections materials via interlibrary loan among the members of the SHARES consortium.

Direct to Full Text Report
19 pages; PDF.

See Also: OCLC RLP SHARES Sharing Special Collections Working Group Update (July 2019)

See Also: SHARES Working Group Web Page

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.