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Do you remember three-part paper interlibrary loan (ILL) forms? How about high-speed microfilm readers, used for viewing hundreds of spools of microfilm that contained images of catalog cards? If you can recall either one, then you know how much technology has had an impact on resource sharing over the past 30 years, And if you never saw these artifacts, that's okay--there is plenty more technology-powered change ahead.
Thirty years ago most resource sharing took place between libraries, with a few formal organizations (library consortia) providing logistical support. Today there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of organizations around the world facilitating resource sharing. That's the other major change: the ongoing transformation of the organizational structure of resource sharing.
Automation has greatly accelerated the growth of resource sharing. As access to resources improved, and the ability to request materials was streamlined, resource-sharing activity skyrocketed. For example, while reference transactions, circulation, and in-house use among Association of Research Libraries (ARL) members declined significantly between 1991 and 2003, resource sharing increased dramatically. Circulation dropped by seven percent, reference transactions declined by 29 percent, and in-house use of materials went down by 49 percent, but interlibrary borrowing increased by a whopping 113 percent.
OCLC, with thousands of members, has logged 128 million ILL …