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Banner: Interlibrary Loans (ILL) at Library and Archives Canada

3. Sending Interlibrary Loan Requests to the National Library of Canada

3.1 Means of transmission

The manner in which an interlibrary loan request is received affects the speed of the turnaround time. Requests received electronically through AMICUS, ILL WEB Form, ENVOY, or ILL software packages conforming to the ILL Protocol (eg. Internet with AVISO or InterLEND) are received directly into the National Library's electronic interlibrary loan system and do not require manual keying. At the present time about 75% of requests are received by these means.

When the request includes an AMICUS Number, an ISBN, an ISSN, LCCN, OCLC control number, Canadiana number or an RSN, an automatic search is performed against AMICUS and if the National Library holds the item a retrieval slip will be printed automatically near the stack area where the item is located. Turnaround time is thus significantly faster than when manual keying is required for requests transmitted by non-compatible electronic systems such as OCLC, telefacsimile or mail. While it is anticipated that some of these electronic systems will become compatible with the National Library's system in the future, faxed and mailed requests will still be manually entered.

Requests that include call numbers may also automatically generate retrieval slips, but only if the call number is complete and spaced correctly. Because call numbers usually include spaces and parts such as "fol." (for folio) at the end it is usually preferable to omit the call number on an ILL request, or to put it in a note on the request, when another control number, such as ISBN, ISSN, AN, is provided.

The National Library prefers that ILL requests be sent by the following means (in hierarchical order, most preferred method is first):

1. AMICUS, ILL WEB Form, ENVOY, or ILL software packages based on the ILL protocol (such as Internet with an AVISO or InterLEND package)

AMICUS is the automated system developed by the National Library of Canada which contains an online union catalogue of the holdings of many Canadian Libraries. It can be accessed by subscribers across Canada and it can be used to transmit interlibrary loan requests to the National Library. For more information about this system, please contact:

AMICUS Client Information Centre
Information Technology Services
National Library of Canada
395 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON   K1A 0N4

Telephone: 819-997-7227
Fax: 819-994-6835
E-mail: cic@lac-bac.gc.ca

ILL Web Form is a web-based request form available to libraries who have registered for Interlibrary Loan services with the National Library of Canada. In order to use this form, you will need a valid library symbol as well as a user name and password. For more information, contact:

Interlibrary Loan Division
National Library of Canada
395 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON   K1A 0N4

Telephone: 613-996-7527
Fax: 613-996-4424
E-mail: illservicespeb@lac-bac.gc.ca

ENVOY is an automated means of electronically transmitting interlibrary loan requests as well as messages. It is widely used in Canada. For more information contact:

Mediatel's Customer Assistance Centre at 1-800-267-8480.

The National Library has prepared the ILL Generic Script User Guide for ENVOY users. The Guide defines the purpose and use of the various messages, outlines the appropriate sequence of messages, explains how to access and move through the script, and provides guidelines for message creation. To receive a free copy of the Guide , contact:

Publications and Marketing Services
National Library of Canada
395 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON   K1A 0N4

2. Other electronic means such as OCLC's PRISM

ILL requests sent by the above systems must be entered manually by National Library of Canada staff into the National Library's automated system since these systems are not ILL protocol compatible. For this reason these systems are less preferred than those in section 1.

OCLC's PRISM is a large American online bibliographic system that provides access to an online union catalogue and interlibrary loan service. The National Library prefers to receive requests via PRISM only from libraries outside Canada since these requests must currently be input manually into the NLC's automated system. For information about OCLC's PRISM contact:

OCLC Canada
1384 Colbert Street
Chambly, QC   J3L 2X5
Telephone: 1-888-658-6583

3. Telefacsimile 613-996-4424 (only for libraries who do not have any electronic means of interlibrary loan request transmission). Type request information on a standard ILL request form, e.g. one with author, title, etc. fields. Include your library's symbol.

A special telefacsimile request form (see example on next page) for interlibrary loans to the National Library is available from the Library. In order to obtain a form (from which you can make and use copies), contact:

Head, Service Group
Interlibrary Loan Division
National Library of Canada
395 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON   K1A 0N4
Telephone: 613-996-2380
Fax: 613-996-4424
E-mail: illservicespeb@lac-bac.gc.ca

Please note: ILL requests sent by fax are processed more slowly than those sent by electronic means such as AMICUS, since the faxed requests must be entered manually into the National Library's automated system.

4. Mail

Canadian libraries mailing interlibrary loan requests should employ a standard manual interlibrary loan request form, such as the CLA/ASTED form. This form is available for sale from:

The Canadian Library Association
328 Frank Street
Ottawa, ON   K2P 0X8
Telephone: (613)232-9625, extension 310
Fax: 613-563-9895, To: Order Desk

Please note: the National Library of Canada does not accept ILL requests by telephone. There is however a voice mailbox which can be contacted if you wish to learn the status of a request previously made, or if you would like to request a renewal. The telephone number is 613-996-3566.

The National Library does not have a special urgent service. All requests are processed in the order in which they are received.

3.2 Preparing a request

3.2.1 Bibliographic information

When preparing an interlibrary loan request please try to provide information which is as complete and accurate as possible. Extra pieces of information may often seem insignificant or unnecessary, but they can make a major difference in the success of a search.

If you are unsure whether a piece of information that you are providing is correct, you can put a "(?)" after the title or author, for example, and our interlibrary loan searchers will be alerted that the information provided may not be precise.

If your bibliographic information is skimpy, do not hesitate to include in a note the subject of the work or anything else which might prove helpful. It would be of great benefit to you and to us if you could provide as much of the following information as possible.

Also, please note: never abbreviate or use acronyms unless they are extremely well known, e.g. UNESCO.

3.2.2 Library symbols

Your library symbol must be included on all interlibrary loan requests. The symbol is necessary for the automated processing of ILL requests. If it is not on the request your request will be significantly delayed in processing. The library symbol can be inserted in the same box as your library name and address on a manual interlibrary loan form.

Library symbols are precise, standardized, shorthand identifiers that are useful for automated interlending communications and processing, as well as union lists, bibliographies and local and regional networks.

Canadian library symbols are composed of three groups of letters. The first group identifies the province, the second group identifies the city and the third identifies the institution. The following groups of letters represent the provinces and territories:

A = Alberta
B = British Columbia
M = Manitoba
NB = New Brunswick
NF = Newfoundland
NS = Nova Scotia
NU = Nunavut
NW = Northwest Territories
O = Ontario
P = Prince Edward Island
Q = Quebec
S = Saskatchewan
Y = Yukon

A typical example of a Canadian library symbol is AEU which stands for University of Alberta, Cameron Library in Edmonton, Alberta. Symbols can be up to 8 characters in length.

Federal government libraries located in the National Capital Region all have symbols beginning with "OO".

  • In order to obtain an internationally recognized Canadian library symbol, contact:

Client Services Coordinator
National Library of Canada
Interlibrary Loan Division
395 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON   K1A 0N4
Telephone: 613-996-7527
Fax: 613-996-4424
E-mail: illservicespeb@lac-bac.gc.ca

There is no charge for this service.

It is also very important to notify the National Library of any changes in your library's address, telephone and fax numbers, and/or policy information so we can keep our library file up-to-date. You can use this form for your changes.

3.2.3 Loan or locations only?

  • Please specify whether you would like a loan of the item requested, if it is available from the National Library's collections; whether you would only want a list of locations of where the item is held; or whether you want a photocopy. Specify either loan or locations only or photocopy on your interlibrary loan request.
  • Please note: when a loan is specified and the item is not available from the National Library's collections, The National Library still provides locations of libraries which do hold the item. However when locations only are requested, the National Library does not loan even if it happens to be one of the locations. It is the responsibility of the requesting library to clearly designate either loan or locations only on the interlibrary loan request. The National Library will subsequently treat requests as specified and will not make a follow-up inquiry with the requesting library in cases where it appears locations may have been requested in error.
  • When neither loan or locations only is specified, the request is treated as a request for a loan.

3.2.4 Control numbers

  • Please supply all the numbers you have which identify the item requested, e.g. AMICUS Number, ISBN, ISSN, LCCN, Canadiana No., etc. If these numbers are provided, an automatic search will be triggered which will speed the turnaround time.
  • If you have supplied an AN or any other control number that is in the AMICUS record, you do not need to supply the National Library call number. The AN will be used to link the call number to the request, thereby eliminating the chance of human or transmission error. If you choose to provide the call no. take care not to mistake LC class numbers for National Library of Canada call numbers and to include critical retrieval information such as "fol" , "JUV" etc. that is part of the National Library call number. Do not use the Call Number field in an electronically sent request for any purpose other than providing the proper call number.

3.2.5 Edition

  • If there is only one edition in particular that you want please specify it, e.g. 1977 edition only, second edition only, and add "This edition only" in the Notes.

3.2.6 Source of reference

  • This field refers to the source where the patron learned about the requested item. It may have been cited in a book or article, in which case it would be useful if the book or article was given as the source of reference, e.g. De Shazo, P. Urban workers, Ph.D. Diss. Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison, 1977, p. 590. When detailed citations are not possible it can still be useful to include information such as "Patron heard about this at a conference in 1991", or "Patron remembers seeing this at ____ Library 5 years ago".

3.2.7 Source of verification

  • This field refers to the source where the library verified the bibliographic information in the request. The library may have checked in Books in Print or AMICUS for example to ensure that the information is spelled correctly and is accurate.
  • Please give the page number and volume if the source of verification is a multi-volume work, e.g. NUC - National Union Catalog, 1968-72, v.30, p. 268.
  • If the source of verification is an online system, please supply the names of the system and the database and the document number (eg. DIALOG, ERIC, ED 107393).
  • Please note: when requesting an article, the source of verification should apply to the article title rather than to the periodical title.
  • If you consulted a source, eg. CATSS/REFCATSS, but were unsuccessful in finding information, it could be useful if you indicated in this field or in a note, that a source was consulted, but unsuccessfully.
  • If locations obtained in a previous search are not usable, it will help if you include a note to this effect to ensure that different locations are provided to you within the level requested.

3.2.8 Special delivery instructions

  • Please provide any special delivery instructions for the material you requested that are different from your library's regular delivery instructions, eg. send by courier service, send by fax. If no special delivery instructions are provided the National Library's system defaults to the regular delivery instructions attached to the description of your library.

3.2.9 Level of service

The National Library's Interlibrary Loan Division provides 2 levels of service: a Basic Search and an In-Depth Search. The requesting library should specify which level is required for each request. If a level is not specified on a request the system will default to the Basic Search.

Basic Search

  • Turnaround time: 2 days
  • AMICUS, the manual Canadian Union Catalogues, and Impact TRACEit are searched at this level. Impact TRACEit is searched only if less than 5 locations are found using AMICUS and the manual Canadian Union Catalogues. At this level, OCLC's PRISM is searched only when no Canadian locations are found and an OCLC search is specifically requested, e.g. "OCLC locs" is printed in the remarks field.
  • At your request, the National Library can search one of the above databases only.
  • Requests with scientific, technical and health related subject matter are terminated at this level.
  • Only the bibliographic information supplied by the requesting library is used. No verification work is done.

In-Depth Search

  • Turnaround time: 2 weeks
  • First, AMICUS, the manual Canadian Union catalogues, Impact TRACEit, and OCLC's PRISM are searched. Next an exhaustive verification and location search is conducted using all appropriate sources among those available to us. Some of the automated tools include: online databases like RLIN, Dialog, Questel, Ovid and Manitou; CD-ROMs like Global BIP, Microlog, Index Translationum, Bibliographie nationale de France, the British Library General Catalogue of Printed Books to 1975, and UK Official Publications; as well as a wide array of catalogues available over the Internet. Traditional manual tools consulted include: NUC Register of Additional Locations, national bibliographies, printed indexing services, subject bibliographies, and published library catalogues.
  • We provide Canadian as well as foreign locations. When unable to verify the exact title you require, we will try to find the author's address, provide a similar title by the author, suggest a library with a strong subject collection in a given field or provide an address of a national loan centre in a given country.
  • You should request an In-Depth Search for items that you expect to be difficult to locate or which could require further verification. As an example, you should request this level to locate official publications. It is expected that requests for official publications held by the National Library would be replied to earlier than the normal turnaround time at this level. We recommend that you add a question mark in an information field, such as the title or date field, when unsure about the information provided, e.g. 194?. Please provide as much bibliographic information as you have available, even if it is uncertain.
  • For an in-depth search, you must quote the source of your information.
  • We perform known item searches only.

3.2.10 ILL request information for monographs author

  • Include the full name, e.g. Connolly, James Andrew, not Connolly, J.
  • Include any dates (eg. of birth or death), pseudonyms, etc., which you might have.


  • Give the full title, including subtitle, e.g. China: A Brief History of Its Peoples, rather than simply China.

Place (of publication)

  • Try to provide some idea of where it was published even if you can only provide a country rather than a city.


  • Name of publishing company.


  • Although exact dates are preferable, approximate dates, e.g. late 1800s, are also helpful, if they are all that can be supplied.


  • If the item is part of a series, please supply the series title.

Report Number

  • If there is a report number, please include it, as it may help to distinguish similar items.

3.2.11 ILL request information for serials

Journal title

  • Include the full title and the subtitle if there is one, e.g. CAR: Canadian Auto Review.

Volume and number as well as date

  • The date should include the day, month and year, if available.
  • This information could be necessary to distinguish between identical titles.


  • Page numbers of the required article should be included.

Place of publication

  • Be specific where possible, but even if only the country or general geographic region is provided, this information could serve as a useful starting point when searching for the correct journal.

Sponsoring body

  • If there is a sponsoring body, please provide the name, e.g. United Nations, especially if the title is common, eg. Management.

Author and Title of periodical article

  • Provide complete information, if possible.

3.2.12 Following up a previous request

  • If you are following up on a previous request because, for example, you have not heard from us within the usual turnaround time, or you were confused by the reply you received from us, be sure to state that you are following up an interlibrary loan request that you made previously and provide the original request number in a message. This number will allow us to trace work that has already been done on the request. However if you are resubmitting the same ILL request again (with more information, for example), please use a new request number. Our automated system requires a new request number for each request from your institution. You would however accelerate our work if you would quote also the old number to avoid repeating searches already done.

For a follow-up you can telephone 613-996-3566 which is a special line just for this sort of inquiry. Other ways in which you could send a message to follow-up an interlibrary loan request are by sending a general message via:

Fax: 613-996-4424
Internet: illservicespeb@lac-bac.gc.ca
or by writing to:
Interlibrary Loan Division
National Library of Canada
395 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON   K1A 0N4

Please bear in mind that twenty-four (24) months after the National Library has responded to your interlibrary loan request all data relating to the request is deleted from our database. Once a request is deleted it cannot be traced.

3.2.13 Replies from the National Library

In the cases when the National Library does not send out an item or a reproduction of an item from its collection, a message is sent to the requesting library.

The message may contain a main entry or title supplied in the information source where the locations were found. This entry occasionally differs from the form of the main entry or title on the original request.

When the message lists locations where the requested item is held, library symbols are used to represent the locations. Canadian library symbols may be found in:

Symbols and Interlibrary Loan Policies in Canada.
Ottawa : National Library of Canada, 1998.
Cat no. SN13-2/2-1998E-IN

This publication lists Canadian library symbols along with their institution's name, telephone number, fax number, address, electronic addresses and interlibrary loan policies, e.g. charges for photocopies. There is also a library name index, an electronic address index and a list of A-G Canada WHO codes.

Symbols and Interlibrary Loan Policies in Canada is available for sale from:
Canadian Government Publishing
Ottawa, ON   K1A 0S9

Telephone: 819-956-4802
Fax: 819-994-1498

American library symbols may be found in:

Symbols of American Libraries. Washington, DC : Library of Congress, 1992.

This is available for sale from:
Cataloging Distribution Service
Customer Service
Library of Congress
Washington, DC 20541-5017

Telephone: (202)707-6100

The locations provided by the National Library are (in hierarchical order):

  • the National Library (whenever possible)
  • Canadian locations within the region of the requester
  • other Canadian locations
  • North American and then other locations when Canadian locations cannot be found (these are not provided in a basic search, unless OCLC locations were requested in a note on the ILL request)

A search is terminated when 5 locations are found, though up to 9 locations will be provided if they are readily available. In some cases an automated search could provide up to 25 locations. When the National Library provides locations from an AMICUS autosearch, up to 25 locations are provided in order of province, starting with the province from which the request originated. Location sources are searched in the order which is most likely to provide positive results in the fewest steps. Therefore, the locations provided in response to a request are selective, not exhaustive.

Canadian libraries' charging policies for ILL services are often complex and constantly changing; they are not a factor in the selection of locations.

When an address is supplied in a message instead of a symbol it is because the National Library does not have a symbol available for that particular institution.

Sometimes a list of locations will include holdings statements which will indicate volumes, years or in some rare cases, issue numbers. Some of the holdings indicators are explained below:

- indicates an unbroken range of holdings e.g. 18- 1957-
< > [ ] indicates incomplete holdings eg. [264-286] (library holds some but not all the issues for volumes 264 to 286)
( )indicates qualifying information, eg. 1-20 (mfm), or accompanying material information, eg. 1-(+suppl.), or a significant alternate chronology, eg. v.20-36 (no. 112-304)
, indicates an interruption in the continuity of the holdings, e.g., 1940, 1942 (i.e. library does not hold 1941)
nhg no holdings have been reported by that library
wd withdrawn holdings
cy current year(s) e.g., 2 cy (i.e. library holds only two current years)
cm current month(s), e.g. 6 cm (i.e., library holds only 6 current months)
ci current issue (library holds only the current issue)

Occasionally when we are unable to find an exact location for a requested item we will send a message suggesting that a particular library may hold the item. We are not definitely stating that the library owns the item, merely that they may have it or may be able to provide further assistance in locating it.

When supplying a verification from a standard source in a message, abbreviations are frequently used to identify the source. Some of the ones we use most often are on the following list:

BIBLIO Biblio/Bibliographie nationale de la France
BIP Books in Print BLC British Library Catalogue
BN Bibliothèque nationale de la France BNB British National Bibliography
Boston Spa Serials Serials collected by the British Library Document Supply Centre DB Deutsche Bibliographie
Global BIP English language bibliographic information GV Lists of German language publications
A-G Canada (Also known as Impact TRACEit or Impact MARCit/TRACEit) is a Canadian based union catalogue L.D. Livres disponibles
LOCIS Library of Congress Information System NST New Serial Titles
Manitou Union catalogue of Université du Québec libraries
NUC National Union Catalog (American) OCLC Online Computer Library Center is a U.S.-based online union catalogue
QUESTEL online system based in France, of bibliographic databases RLIN Research Libraries Information Network produced by Research Libraries Group, is an online union catalogue of American holdings
ULRICH'S Ulrich's International Periodicals Directory ULS Union List of Serials