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March 14, 2005

Library Consortium’s Virtual Catalog
Makes Borrowing Easier, Quicker

If you need a book the UConn Libraries don’t have, the Boston Library Consortium’s “Virtual Catalog” may be the quickest way to get it.

The University’s participation in the Consortium’s Virtual Catalog, which has been in operation for just over a year, enables UConn students, faculty, and staff (including retirees) to simultaneously search the catalogs of 18 member institutions, request items, and pick up and return them at their own campus library. The process takes two or three days on average, compared to the five to seven days typically needed for traditional interlibrary loan service.

“In the past year, we have found that the Virtual Catalog has provided members of the University community with the most expeditious means of getting books that our library doesn’t hold – books that are essential to the teaching and learning that occur here,” says Joe Natale, Babbidge Library’s document delivery/shared resources librarian and coordinator of the Virtual Catalog for UConn. “We encourage those who have yet to try the service to do so.”

To use the Virtual Catalog, go to the website, sign in with your University ID number, and request material.

Unlike interlibrary loan, which requires users to key in the title, author, and date of publication, which can involve citation errors that result in delays, more limited information– similar to that needed to use the University Libraries’ own online catalog – is required when using the Virtual Catalog.

“It’s wonderful: easy, quick procedure, and fast delivery,” says Josef Gugler, a professor-in-residence of sociology. “I am a heavy user of interlibrary loan and, eager to give some relief to the wonderful people in the interlibrary loan department, I started using the Boston Library Consortium’s Virtual Catalog early on. I found it was considerably faster.”

The Virtual Catalog includes all books that can normally be checked out. Materials not available are journals, reference works, course reserves, audiovisual items, and other special collections, and books that are already checked out. The loan period is 28 days; renewals are not allowed.

The Virtual Catalog enables UConn users to search and request material from the following libraries:

Boston University; Boston University Medical Center; Brown University; the Marine Biology Laboratory-Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; Northeastern University; Northeastern University School of Law; Tufts University; Tufts University Health Sciences; Tufts University School of Law and Diplomacy; Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine; the University of New Hampshire; UMass-Amherst; UMass-Boston; UMass-Dartmouth; UMass-Lowell; UMass-Medical (Worcester); Wellesley College; and Williams College.

History graduate student Daitoku Takaaki, who uses the Virtual Catalog “at least once or twice a week,” says he can’t live without the service, “not only for its quick delivery but also for its on-the-screen response to the availability of books.”

Jill Castek, a member of the University’s New Literacies Research Team, which studies the new reading, writing, and communication skills required by networked technologies, says she is impressed with the speed of the service and the expanded access to resources it offers.

“It has made available to me books I couldn’t have read otherwise,” she says.

Clifford Weed, a graduate student in chemical engineering, describes the Virtual Catalog as “the most useful service the Library provides.” He says he uses it not only to request books from other member institutions, but as a search engine for the UConn Libraries as well.

UConn became a member of the Boston Library Consortium, New England’s most prestigious library association of academic and research libraries, in September 2002. Its offerings include Ask 24/7 – an online reference service – and a card that allows users to borrow materials onsite at other member libraries.