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Inter-Library Loans (ILL)

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One alternative resource if the library does not have what you are looking for is the Inter-Library Loan service (ILL). This service is available to all members of College: staff, research students, taught postgraduates, undergraduates. 

When should I use the Inter-Library Loan service or consider an alternative?


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You may request an item that is not held in library stock or as part of Senate House Library's electronic collections. If the item you require is currently on loan, you need to place a hold on it via Library Search

Requests may only be made for material that supports learning and research at Royal Holloway.

Materials for postgraduate taught and undergraduate courses should be provided from the library's own collections - if an item recommended on a reading list is not in the library, please let the library know via the 'Suggest a book' form. However if you are a postgraduate taught student  or an undergraduate in your second or third year, you may need to use the ILL service when you are working on your dissertation.

If you need an item urgently, please bear in mind that we cannot guarantee next day delivery or even within a few days, depending on the item required. If you do need the item urgently, we suggest you contact the information consultant for your department who will be able to advise you.

Similarly if you make a very large number of requests, Library information consultants or ILL staff may consult you to discuss whether other options may be more suitable.


How to order an Inter-Library Loan (ILL)

Connect to LibrarySearch and sign in with your username and password.

Select 'Inter-Library Loans' from the menu near the top of the screen.

Select 'Request type' – select ‘Book’ for a copy of a chapter in a book.

Complete the form with the details of the item you require. If you request a multi-volume work, you will need to make separate requests for each volume.

When making a request for a journal article or a book chapter, check that 'Digital' in the 'Format' field and 'Alternative address' are selected if you wish to receive the article in an electronic format.

If you would prefer to receive your article as a print copy rather than electronically, select 'Digital' in the 'Format' field and 'Deliver to Library' and add a note 'Print copy required' in the 'Comment' field. See 'Requesting and receiving articles' below for further information. [Add note about how it can be sent directly to your email address]

Please make sure when ordering a copy of a journal article or a book chapter that you read  the copyright declaration before ticking the relevant box on the request form.

When the request has been submitted, you will see a screen with the message 'Request placed'.


Is there a charge for this service? 

There is no charge for an ILL request, though charges will be made if you return an ILL item late or if you lose an item. You will also be charged if you do not collect an ILL item or article that you have ordered.

You will be able to renew an ILL item three times - after that a charge will be made.

Current charges are as follows:

Book loan - initial loan: Free

Book loan - first 3 renewals: Free

Article supply - electronic supply: Free

Article supply - paper supply: Free

Thesis - loan: Free

Thesis - digitisation request to EThOS: Free

Late return of ILL: £5

Fourth and subsequent renewals: £5

Non-collection of book or article: £10

Re-submission of electronic article from British Library: £10

Lost ILL book: Charges applied by the lending library will be passed on to the Library user. British Library charges are currently £106.10, though the charge may be more if the item is particularly expensive to replace. 


How long do ILLs take to arrive?

It varies from a couple of days to a few weeks/months depending on the ease with which the British Library can obtain the item. We may need to apply to another library in the UK or outside the UK.

Copies of articles from journals and chapters from books obtained from the British Library are sent direct to your college email address as a pdf file. This is the preferred method of delivery. Please see 'Requesting and receiving articles' below for more information.


Requesting and receiving articles

The quickest way of receiving articles requested from the British Library is to receive them directly via email as a pdf file. This is the preferred option - for this you need to select 'Digital' in the format field and 'Alternative address'.

If you wish to receive your copy in print form, select 'Digital' in the format field and 'Deliver to library'  and add a note 'Print copy required' in the 'Comment' field. A printed copy will be sent to your departmental pigeon-hole.

How do I receive the document?

An email message is sent to your college email address to tell you that it is available. The email will contain the hyperlink to the document.

Please check your spam folder if you have not received an email before contacting us.

How do I read, download and print the document?

British Library provides details on how to install the appropriate software with the link to your document. To read the document you will need Adobe Reader version 4 or above with the FileOpen plug installed. FileOpen is a Digital Rights Management tool that is compatible with every version of Adobe Reader 4 and above. On College computers this plugin should have installed automatically. To install the plugin on your personal laptops and computers please go to http://plugin.fileopen.com/all.aspx.

How many times can I print a document?

You may download and print the article three times, but can view the document on the same computer for up to 3 years.

How much time do I have to download and print the document?

We recommend that you print a copy as soon as you can after downloading the document. The electronic copy will be available from the server for 30 days after which the file will be deleted.  The document must be printed within 14 days of download after which access will be locked. 

Once the 30 day period has passed, you will need to submit another request if you still need the document, for which there will be a charge. Please see above 'Is there a charge for this service?'

What if I have no access to a printer?

If you have no access to a printer, you should not open the item from the link in the email but forward the email message to the ILL office at: ill@rhul.ac.uk. We will then print off the document and send it to you at your department or if required to your home address.

How many articles can I request from a journal?

There is a limit of one copy of one article from a journal issue for copyright reasons. If more than one article is requested from the same issue of a journal, please contact your IC.


Receiving Books 

You will be notified via college email on the arrival of a loan. Books need to be collected from and returned to the Helpdesk in Founder’s Library. They cannot be sent directly to you. You will need to have your college card with you when you come to collect. Please keep with the item all documentation that comes with it when you receive it.

Can all items be taken out  of the library?

Some loans of books are 'For Use in the Library Only', and cannot be removed from the library.  These are kept in the Library Operations office (Room 103) on the 1st floor of Founder’s Library. An item for use in library only has to be loaned using your college card each time you wish to use it, and then returned either to the Library Operations office or to Founder's Helpdesk if the office is closed, before you leave the library.

In most cases the usual copyright restrictions regarding printed items apply. Some items for use in the library only cannot be photocopied, but this is stated clearly within the item.


How long is the loan period and are renewals possible?

The loan period for items obtained from the British Library is 3 weeks plus an additional 2 weeks if required, for which you need to contact the Inter-Library Loans team. ILLs cannot be renewed online. 

A further 2 renewals may be requested from BL (initially 3 weeks, plus another 2 weeks if required, for which you will need to contact the ILL team). These are subject to immediate recall by British Library if the item is required by another user.

There is a charge for subsequent renewals  - this is currently £5.  For more information please see above ''Is there a charge for this service?'

The loan period from other libraries varies but will be written clearly in the front of the item. Further renewals for these may also be requested but you need to contact the ILL office. There is no charge for a first renewal but there will be a charge for subsequent renewals.


Ordering a British thesis

Many British theses are available via British Library's Ethos service (Electronic Theses Online System)

How do I access Ethos and order theses?

The Ethos website can be accessed at ethos.bl.uk.

Anyone can search Ethos, but you will need to register and login before ordering and downloading theses. We are unable to do this for you, as you personally have to accept the terms and conditions of supply and undertake not to quote the work without proper citation.

There are instructions on the home page on how to order theses via the Ethos website. From here you will be able to download theses already on the system and order theses not yet digitised.

Is there a charge for downloads?

If the thesis is already on the system, it may be downloaded free of charge, once you have registered and logged in.

What if the thesis is not on the system?

If the thesis is not on the system, many institutions offer a digitisation-on-demand service of the print thesis via Ethos, for which they may charge. These institutions are shown in bold  in the list of 'Which institutions are taking part?' on the Ethos homepage. 

If there is no charge, you may order the thesis yourself, once you have registered. If there is a charge, you will need to submit an ILL request and and we will then order the thesis on your behalf and pay the charge. We will notify you when the thesis is available for download.

To submit an ILL request for a thesis, select 'Book' as 'Request type'. In the 'Place of Publication' field, enter the name of the awarding university, in the 'Publisher' field, 'PhD thesis' and in the 'Year of publication' field the date of the thesis.

What do I do if the awarding institution is not on the Ethos list or does not offer a digitisation-on-demand service? 

Some British institutions may have a loan copy of the thesis you require which they may loan to us.  These theses will always be for use in the library only.

Some British theses may be available in British Library's Reading Rooms at St Pancras. To view a thesis there you will need a British Library pass - you will also need to check with the British Library beforehand that it is available for you to consult.

Copies of theses from the University of Cambridge  and the University of Oxford may be purchased via their imaging services departments. For these theses you need to submit an ILL request, selecting 'Book' as the 'Request type'. In the 'Place of Publication' field, enter the name of the awarding university, in the 'Publisher' field, 'PhD thesis' and in the 'Year of publication' field the date of the thesis. We will order the thesis for you and notify you when it is available for download. This  can take a couple of months or more  as we have to contact the author of the thesis for their permission to digitise. If you need to view the thesis urgently we suggest therefore, that it may be quicker to go in person to the awarding university, and view the thesis there, but do check beforehand that it is available for you to do so.

Some institutions will not lend theses - in these instances there is no alternative to visiting the awarding institution.


Ordering a non-UK thesis

Nearly all American theses and some other foreign theses may be accessed via Proquest Dissertations and Theses Global (PQDT) database to which Royal Holloway subscribes. It provides full text access for theses added since 1997 and selected full text for works written before then.

Some institutions abroad may also lend theses - either as print copy or as a digital copy. If you require a non-UK thesis which is not in the PQDT database, submit an ILL request, selecting 'Book' as 'Request type'. In the 'Place of Publication' field, enter the name of the awarding university, in the 'Publisher' field 'PhD thesis' and in the 'Year of publication' field the date of the thesis.

For more information on acquiring non-UK theses please refer to the section 'Theses from other countries' at:


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