Exploring Interlibrary Borrowing Services and How to Get the Most Out of Them

Interlibrary Loan (ILL) is a wonderful service and a great tool which allows you to get access not only to the collection owned by your local library, but also to the collections of other libraries within our library network, as well as numerous public and academic libraries within the state of Massachusetts and even beyond, in the far reaches all across the country.

If the item you wish to borrow is owned by the Abbot Public Library or any other library within our NOBLE (North of Boston Library Exchange) network, it can be very easily requested by placing a hold on it through the online account

If you do not have an online account and would like to open one, all you need is your library card and a temporary password. A temporary (initial) password can be requested over the phone by calling the Abbot Public Library’s Reference Desk during service hours at 781-631-1481 – you can change it later after you log into your new account.

When you perform a catalog search, you will see multiple editions of the same title – usually, a choice between a paperback or hardcover, a print copy or an electronic book, etc.

  • First, make sure you are requesting the title in the desired format (audiobook vs ebook vs print copy).
  • Next, try to see if the Abbot Public Library owns a copy, or if there exist multiple copies of the title owned by various libraries. This will make your chances of acquiring an item much better.

You are also able to request items through the Commonwealth Catalog (ComCat), which bands together collections of many libraries in our state.

  • While it seems like going through the Commonwealth Catalog to find and request an item would be the easiest solution, it should actually be done only after a NOBLE search has been exhausted. If an item, found and requested through the ComCat, exists within NOBLE, the ComCat hold will be automatically cancelled and will – eventually – need to be placed through the local network. 
  • The same goes for the very recently published books (less than 3-6 months) and especially popular items on big demand.
  • If a popular item with a future publication date does not yet appear in the NOBLE catalog but is listed in the ComCat, it is better to suggest the purchase to the local library, rather than placing a hold in ComCat.  The library might be very much in favor of purchasing the item and circulating it. Meanwhile, an in-demand item, constantly requested through the ComCat, will not be made available to external libraries until first, the library that owns it has exhausted its own demand, and secondly, the network that the library belongs to has satisfied the demand, as well. Therefore, a ComCat hold on a popular item will result in a very long wait.
  • It is entirely possible that an item is so rare that it is owned only by a few libraries in the country, and neither the local network, nor the state-wide catalog system is able to locate it. Despair not: a team of ILL librarians at the Massachusetts Library System are able to search catalogs across the country.  The mediated ILL needs to be requested at the local library by the library staff. 
  • Whatever you are searching for, library staff are always happy to request items for you through any of the ILL services – please call us during service hours at 781-631-1481 or email us at mar@noblenet.org

If you would like to conduct a search yourself, please do not hesitate to ask us any questions and we will assist you!