Interlibrary Loan FAQs

What is Interlibrary Loan?
Interlibrary loan (also known as ILLO) is a resource sharing service between libraries. By submitting an ILLO request, customers can access materials that aren’t available in their own local library by borrowing them from library systems outside of their community.

How were items borrowed through ILLO delivered to libraries?
Materials borrowed through ILLO were transferred through a delivery service provided by the Southern Ontario Library Service (also known as SOLS).  The delivery service relied upon couriers to transport materials. In 2018, SOLS drivers drove almost 1 million kilometers to deliver 710,000 packages to 153 main library branches across Ontario.

What is the Southern Ontario Library Service (SOLS)?
SOLS is a Government Transfer Payment Agency, who provides support to public libraries on behalf of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and Sport in a variety of ways, including resource sharing and staff and library board training. The SOLS budget was cut by 50% in April, leading to the elimination of the ILLO Delivery Service.

What is Resource Sharing?
Resource sharing is a collaboration between libraries involving the sharing of library material, which helps to leverage collections and budgets. This document provides information on three types of resource sharing: ILLO, the Libraries in Niagara Cooperative and Reciprocal Borrowing.  

Resource sharing opens access to all library users and enriches library services in all communities. Aside from fulfilling library users’ basic needs for information and entertainment, resource sharing:

  • allows access to out-of-print material or material not digitally accessible. 
  • allows distance education students access to material for distance/online learning
  • allows community members to access material in a variety of languages

The recent Provincial cuts have impacted the lending and sharing of resources, locally and provincially.

Can I continue to have materials sent from one location of the Niagara Falls Public Library (NFPL) to another?
Yes, you can. The elimination of the ILLO Delivery Service doesn’t affect the internal transfer of materials owned by NFPL to our four branches. Customers can continue to transfer materials from one branch to another for pickup. For example, if you live in Chippawa and see an item that you want at the Victoria Avenue Library, you can have it transferred to the Chippawa Library for you to pick up.

Can I continue to return my materials to any of the NFPL branches, no matter where I checked it out?
Yes, you can. Customers can continue to return their materials to any of the four NFPL branches, no matter at which location it was checked it out. Did you know there’s also a return box for your convenience to use at the Gale Centre if you’re headed to the walking track or the arena?

What is LiNC?
LiNC is the Libraries in Niagara Cooperative. The libraries included in the cooperative are Fort Erie, Lincoln, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Pelham and Thorold Public Libraries, as well as the Niagara College Library. Customers in these communities share a Library catalogue and collections and can have materials sent from another library in the cooperative to their own local library for pickup. NFPL is not a part of LiNC.

Why doesn’t NFPL participate in LiNC?
At this point in time NFPL is roughly the size of the LiNC Cooperative.  Joining LiNC at this point may overwhelm the Cooperative, especially in light of the recent Provincial Budget cuts.  LiNC is currently re-evaluating their workflows and courier delivery service. While NFPL has recently migrated to the same ILS software as LiNC, our Library is also working through resolving internal workflows and procedures for our much larger library system.

NFPL also hosts the Evergreen software internally on our own servers and have negotiated our own contract with the Vendor, which is more cost effective for our Library.  At this time there are some contractual and budgetary obligations which restrict our ability to join LiNC.

The potential for NFPL to join LiNC in the future exists. Until then, we will continue to collaborate and share resources with LiNC, so that we all benefit from cost efficiencies to ensure the sustainability and viability of the Cooperative for the Niagara region.

What is Reciprocal Borrowing?
NFPL participates in Reciprocal Borrowing agreements with Fort Erie, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Pelham, Thorold and Welland Public Libraries. This means that a NFPL cardholder can go to one of the other Reciprocal Borrowing libraries and get a free library card, which can be used to borrow materials and access resources. 

The difference between Reciprocal Borrowing and LiNC is that the NFPL customer must travel to the other library to borrow and return materials - there is no delivery of materials involved.

If I want to borrow an item that isn’t owned by NFPL, what are my options?
There are still options for customers to pursue before deciding to buy the item you’re looking for:

  • Try submitting a Suggestion for Purchase for the item.  
  • Check our Virtual Library for an eBook or eAudiobook copy.
  • Search the catalogues of the Reciprocal Borrowing libraries to see if they own the item. A reminder that you will have to visit the lending library to borrow and return the item.

How has NFPL and its customers been impacted by the elimination of ILLO delivery services?

Although NFPL has a large collection of materials compared to smaller libraries, our customers actively used ILLO to access many items that we don’t own. In 2018, we borrowed 2,574 items from libraries outside of Niagara Falls on behalf of our customers through ILLO. We also shared our resources by loaning 1,753 items from our collection to customers from other libraries throughout Ontario and beyond.

For more information about the Niagara Falls Public Library and its services, please call us at 905-356-8080 or visit our website at