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Membership Requirements

You can apply for IHLS membership at any time, and there is no fee to apply for or to retain membership.  As part of the application process, a member of our staff will come to your library for a required site visit. You will also need to meet the criteria for obtaining membership. If you meet these criteria, following the site visit, our board of directors will vote to recommend your application for approval. Upon board recommendation, your application will be sent to the State Librarian for review. 

Criteria for Obtaining IHLS Membership


Ensure that you’re located within the IHLS service area.
Meet the definition of "library" in Section 3030.110 and the definition of academic, public, school, or special library.
  • Academic: "Academic Library" means the library or libraries of an institution of education beyond the secondary level that is recognized by the Illinois Board of Higher Education as either an Illinois academic institution or an out-of-state academic institution with a physical presence in Illinois.
  • Public: "Public Library" means a tax-supported public library established by or as a governmental unit that is authorized to levy a tax for library purposes or supports the library at least in part from local tax revenues.  Such a library is established by a city, village, incorporated town, township, county or library district under the Illinois Local Library Act [75 ILCS 5], the Village Library Act [75 ILCS 40], Division 5-38 of the Counties Code (Public County Library Service) [55 ILCS 5/Div. 5-38], the Village Library Conversion Act [75 ILCS 45], the Library Property Sale Act [75 ILCS 55], and the Public Library District Act of 1991 [75 ILCS 16].  A library that receives no income from local tax sources but does receive ongoing income from other sources at least sufficient to qualify for per capita grants provided in Section 8.1 of the Act, and provides library service to the residents of a city, village, incorporated town, township or county through contractual agreement, may also be considered a public library.
  • School: "School Library" means the library or libraries of an elementary and/or secondary school district, or private elementary and/or secondary schools under a single governing authority.
  • Special: "Special Library" means a library with a unique collection or specialized services recognized by the Illinois State Library that does not meet the definition of "academic," "public," or "school library."
  • Your library must also meet the following criteria based on library type:
    • Public: A public library that is applying for membership in any library system shall meet the definition of public "library" in Section 3030.110 and shall meet the financial requirements for State per capita grants to public libraries as stated in Section 8.1 of the Act.
    • School: A public school district that is applying for membership in any library system shall meet the requirements for school library grants specified in Section 8.4 of the Act.  The governing authority of an elementary/secondary or consolidated school district or the governing authority of private elementary and/or secondary schools shall authorize the application for system membership.
    • Academic: The governing authority of an academic institution recognized by the Illinois Board of Higher Education shall authorize an application for its academic library.
    • Special: The governing authority of a special library shall authorize the application for library system membership. The applicant library shall agree to participate in interlibrary loan. (In special circumstances, the library system board may, with concurrence from the State Librarian, accept libraries as full members with special noncirculating research collections.)

For more information, see the various criteria below or download the checklist at the bottom of this page.

Criteria for Retaining IHLS Membership


Keep up with Administrative Tasks:
  • Keep your annual certification up to date.

    (Typically, this certification takes place between Jan. 2 and March 31 of a calendar year) 

  • Complete the Illinois State Library's annual survey of interlibrary loan traffic by the specified deadline.  
  • Participate in the IHLS decision-making process through involvement in meetings, responding to surveys, board membership, and serving on committees.
Provide and Share Resources: 
  • Keep meeting the primary information needs of the library's primary clientele. That means building and maintaining collections of books, serials, media and electronic resources sufficient to meet the needs of your primary clientele. 
  • Comply with the ILLINET Interlibrary Loan Code, making your collection available via interlibrary loan.
  • Participate in our resource sharing training or the Illinois State Library’s resource sharing training. 
  • Provide reciprocal access to your library resources, according to the IHLS resource sharing plan.
  • Consider participation in SHARE or another Local Library System Automation Program (LLSAP). (Your library would be responsible for the financial and policy requirements associated with participation in a shared integrated library system.)
  • Evaluate whether you need upgrades to your automated discovery tools. 
Follow the Rules 
  • Follow IHLS policies for the resolution of problems and conflicts associated with resource sharing.
  • Comply with all applicable State statutes and administrative rules, and with IHLS bylaws, policies. and plan of service.
Additional Requirements for Public Libraries
  • Provide reciprocal borrowing to registered patrons of other IHLS public libraries.
  • Circulate various materials to eligible reciprocal borrowers under the same conditions that you circulate those materials to your own patrons.  
  • Ensure that limitations in reciprocal borrowing, if any, do not exceed limitations approved in our resource sharing plan and are imposed equally among all reciprocal borrowing patrons.
  • If your library participates in the nonresident program, you must honor library cards issued to nonresidents by participating IHLS public libraries.
  • Complete the public library annual report.
  • Regularly assess possibilities for library service to adjacent unserved areas, if any.



Contact Us

Resources and advice are just a phone call, email, or click away.

If your library is an existing member and needs support, or if your library resides in the IHLS service area and is not yet a system member, please contact our membership team to discuss your library’s situation or to learn more about free membership opportunities.


6725 Goshen Road
Edwardsville, IL 62025