How to Get Any Book Into Your Lap…Free!

Have you ever been in the situation of wanting to look up one item in a book, but the book is either expensive or obscure. Chances are you turn to your local library. Many people know about Interlibrary Loan (ILL) within their own library system, but what happens if your library system doesn’t carry a specific book?

In my last post I described how to get ahold of serious research in professional journals by accessing your library’s computer database. Today I want to describe how to get any book, from places all over the world, and have it delivered directly to your library branch?

The first time you do this it may seem tedious, but once you know how, it’s a breeze. I typically order about a dozen books a month this way. Your library system may vary, but here’s how my library does it:

  1. Bring up my library web site: Jefferson County Library
  2. Click on maroon-colored icon called “Research tools”
  3. This brings up:  “Subscription Databases A – Z” Click on this.
  4. In the Databases A to Z, click on “W” and choose “World Cat” or scroll down to “World Cat” Click link.
  5. Search for book. It is best to put several items in the search boxes. For instance, the book title and the author. Here I selected the title Seeking Peace and the author Mary Pipher. (I write about self-care and wanted to see how a bestselling author and psychotherapist burned out and subsequently learned to simplify her life.)
  6. When the world catalog finds your book, either print out the page, move it over to a dual monitor, or jot down the most important items: Publisher, year, and the OCLC number. (For Mary Pipher’s book the OCLC number is at the bottom of the page and is 233547957)
  7. Now go back to your library’s main screen. Choose the blue icon on the left side, “Find Library Books and More” – You will find a link called “Interlibrary Loan Request.” Double click. At the bottom of this page is a link called “ILL form for Books/AV Materials.” Click on that.
  8. Fill out the author, title of book, publisher/place/date, format (book, video, DVD), pick-up location (for me that is “Columbine Library”) and OCLC number.

*I don’t fill out the part about paying money for the request or the “cancel if not filled by date” information.

At the bottom of the page, I type my name and library card number.


Almost any title from across the miles will be delivered right to my library. It takes about a week. If you find this confusing, go into your library and ask how you can use the World Catalog and Interlibrary Loan. Chances are your librarian has a bookmark with instructions already printed on them.

I’m curious, did you know you could do this?  What research tips do you have to offer writers?