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About Reciprocal Borrowing

Reciprocal borrowing is when a patron physically goes to another public library to borrow material. Libraries tend to encourage reciprocal borrowing by their patrons, as it has a lower impact than interlibrary loan on the library’s budget.

Reciprocal Borrowing: a short history
Reciprocal Borrowing, as an outgrowth of interlibrary loan, is a convenient method of supplementing a library’s collection. In Illinois, it means that patrons of any one public library have walk-in, physical access to the collections of over 650 other public libraries. Its major difference from an interlibrary loan transaction is the patron moves from library to library, not the material. In fact, reciprocal borrowing is less expensive for libraries as it is slightly less staff and labor intensive.

Since the mid-1970s, Illinois public libraries have participated in reciprocal borrowing by public library patrons. The Intra-System reciprocal borrowing (borrowing among public libraries within a library system) is a condition of Illinois Heartland system membership (see IHLS Resource Sharing Policy).

Inter-System reciprocal borrowing (borrowing among public libraries across system boundaries) is part of the Illinois Intersystem Reciprocal Borrowing Covenant and for IHLS members, is also part of system membership (Read the agreement here).

Who is responsible for paying for lost or damaged reciprocal borrowed material?
Obviously, the patron is responsible for their own debts concerning material they have lost or damaged, regardless of where or how the material was borrowed. However, in the few cases when the patron does not pay, the patron’s home library (the library that receives the patron’s tax revenue and which issued the borrower’s card) is fiscally responsible to pay the debt.

How has electronic access to material and information changed reciprocal borrowing?
The capability of remote access to electronic databases is becoming an issue. As part of their electronic database purchases, many libraries are including remote access for their patrons. This is a wonderful service for the patrons and reduces some of the crowding in the library. However, this negotiated remote access is for library patrons, not necessarily for reciprocal borrowers.

Why do some libraries have more reciprocal borrowers than others?
Many public libraries because of hours, collection size, and/or location see an excessive number of reciprocal borrowers visiting their library. In such cases where a library has an inordinate amount of reciprocal borrowing, the library board can place restrictions on the whole of the reciprocal borrowers. For example, a member library’s trustees may adopt a policy that limits reciprocal borrowers to 2 DVDs, while its own patrons may borrow 5 DVDs from the collection. Such a Board-adopted restriction on reciprocal borrowers is permissible in Illinois under the ILLINET Interlibrary Code, the I-Share Resource Sharing Code, and the Illinois Library Systems Act (75 ILCS 10).

What about non-residents and reciprocal borrowing?
Under the Illinois Compiled Statutes, an individual without tax-supported library service is eligible to purchase access to library
service from the public library serving their school district. This patron card is referred to as a Non-Resident card. As of 2002, this Non-Resident card “shall allow for borrowing privileges at all participating public libraries in the regional library system.”  (From 75 ILCS 16/30-55.60 or 75 ILCS 5/4-7(12))

So when a non-resident purchases a card from a public library within IHLS, that card is valid at any IHLS public library AND other Illinois public libraries.

What about interlibrary loan and the reciprocal borrower?
The ILLINET Interlibrary Loan Code indicates that interlibrary loan activity should be performed by the patron’s home library, whether public library, school library, etc. This is because the home library is fiscally responsible should the patron refuse to pay for lost or damaged ILL material.