Interlibrary Loan is one of the most underused resources for genealogists. As I teach classes at the Mesa Arizona Regional Family History Center I frequently ask the class participants if they are aware of the interlibrary loan process. Usually, only one or two out of twenty or more have even heard of borrowing books from remote libraries. In our own Mesa Public Library, the Interlibrary Loan selection appears on the individual login screen for registered users (i.e. library card holders). I use this method of requesting books and other documents any time I cannot conveniently find a copy of the material in a local library. The requested item is then forwarded to your local library where you can either check out the material (in Mesa for two weeks) or use the item in the library. At the end of the process the book is returned to the originating library. There is usually no charge for this service to the user.
The libraries who participate include the Library of Congress. Virtually all of the holdings of the Library of Congress, except some rare books, are available for circulation to participating libraries. The Library of Congress describes the process as follows:
Before making a request, verify that the item exists and is held by LC. Requests should be verified through an electronic database or other standard bibliographic tool, preferably also in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. The most useful identifiers are online record numbers such as the Library of Congress control number (e.g., 9712456), the International Standard Book Number (ISBN), or the OCLC record number. Include these, or a citation to a published tool such as the National Union Catalog, whenever possible.Included in the materials available is most of the Library's newspaper collection. The Library describes its collection as follows:
The Library of Congress maintains one of the largest and most comprehensive newspaper collections in the world, comprised not only of the major papers published in all 50 states and territories of the United States, but also those published in most other countries of the world that have existed over the past three centuries. Almost all of the more than 500,000 reels of newspaper microfilm held by the Newspaper & Current Periodical, European, Asian, and African & Middle Eastern Divisions are available for interlibrary loan. Only newspapers that have been microfilmed are available for loan.Searching the Library of Congress catalog is very interesting to a genealogist. For example, I found the following book:
Lutrell, Estelle. Newspapers and Periodicals of Arizona, 1859-1911. Tucson, Ariz: University of Arizona, 1950.
Rather than order the book on interlibrary loan immediately, I switched to Google Books and immediately found the book listed. By clicking the link to "Find in a Library" I found that my local City of Mesa Library has a copy. I go by the Mesa Library every day on my way to work. What could be more convenient? (Yes, I know, having the books and newspapers online).