or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Tracking ILL Requests

   September 15th, 2009

library mailMy brother sent me a package via UPS on Thursday, and it arrived on Monday. The neat thing, of course, is that we both could track its progress online (backup link).

It occurred to me that this would be a great feature for a library ILS. Most systems I've seen will only give the current status of a request, which is often cryptic to staff and totally indecipherable to patrons (ie, "recieved," "transit," "recorded," "check shelves," etc).

But sending patrons a link via email or text to track their request step-by-step in plain English could benefit them to no end. Not only would it give them an idea of where their item is and when to expect it, but it would also expose what all is involved in delivering their request to them. But it would be invaluable for staff, too, being able to see all of this information at a glance, for both assisting patrons and troubleshooting the delivery process.

And I bet some patrons would also be please to watch their request be returned to the library of origin after they're done with it.

I'm sure I'm not the first person to think of this, but I'm definitely going to lobby to include it as a feature if my consortium adopts an open source ILS. And this feature will be exponentially more helpful if, as planned, the entire state moves to that same ILS.

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4 Responses to “Tracking ILL Requests”

  1. M Wms Says:

    As a patron, I LOVE the ILL tracking idea. My locality either shows a blank check box beside the item I’ve ILL’d or it says “in transit.” Some “in transits” appear the next day, some take weeks, so I can’t base my reading plans on this notation. And, yes, I make reading plans! Hope you can get this feature included in your consortium’s system.

  2. Chris Says:

    I’d never heard of iShip. Looks cool, but of course, you can use The Google as well. Just punch in any UPS, USPS, FexEd, or whatever tracking number and it’ll take you to the tracking page.

    I also like BoxOh. You can get a Google Map of the location of the package. (Not the actual path, but the stops it took.) And an RSS feed for the package.


    As a guy who likes to have that kind of detail in my package shipments, I’d love to see something like that for my library requests as well.

  3. Graeme Williams Says:

    This *is* a great idea. It would be also be good if you could see where you are in a hold queue: “You are 12th of 54 requests for 4 copies” is a lot more informative than “54 requests for 4 copies”.

    Another thing I’d like is a single interface to the consortium ILL, the statewide ILL (the Mass. Virtual Catalog) and whatever fell mechanism reference librarians use when you fill out a paper ILL request.

  4. Chris Says:

    @Graeme: Perhaps I’m lucky, but my library (Cuyahoga County in Ohio) does this. I currently see that I am “70 of 106 holds” for one of my items. It would be nice if they added the total number of copies too, but I’m pretty happy with this. Looks like they use the WebPAC Pro software.