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Outerlibrary Loan

About Outerlibrary Loan (OLL)

Millions of books and other materials are within your reach.

OuterLibrary Loan (OLL) is the process of sharing (lending/borrowing) materials between libraries. It allows our patrons to borrow materials or obtain photocopies not owned in LINKcat from libraries across the U.S.

When requesting items at a Madison Public Library location through Outerlibrary Loan please be aware of the following:

  • You must have a valid SCLS public library card in good standing. We cannot initiate an outerlibrary loan request if you have fines exceeding $20.00, lost or damaged charges (regardless of amount), a 'stop' on your card, an active payment plan, or a Limited Use or reciprocal library card.
  • A maximum of fifty (50) Outerlibrary Loan requests per person will be accepted within a calendar year.
  • Please limit your requests to 5 or fewer per day.
  • Loan periods on outerlibrary loan items are generally shorter (14 days for books and 7 days for movies) and renewals are often not possible, so please plan accordingly.
  • Fines on outerlibrary loan items are $1 per day.
  • As a courtesy to all libraries, we do not request materials that have been in publication for fewer than 6 months (as listed on
  • You must wait 8 weeks from the date you submitted a request before re-requesting the same item. (This includes items which we were not able to obtain and items for which the pick-up was missed.)
  • Only a small percentage of libraries listed in WorldCat are accessible lenders and an even smaller percentage is willing to lend audiovisual materials.
  • Not everything can be requested through outerlibrary loan and not all requests can be filled.
  • Items must be returned to a Madison Public Library location.

Outerlibrary Loan (OLL) FAQ

What is outerlibrary loan (OLL)?

OuterLibrary Loan (OLL) is the process of sharing (lending/borrowing) materials between libraries. In this context it refers to the process by which library materials or photocopies are requested or supplied from outside our library system.

It is a borrowing privilege available to residents of Adams, Columbia, Dane, Green, Portage, Sauk, and Wood County. This service allows customers to borrow, from libraries across the nation, materials or copies of articles not owned in LINKcat.  

Before requesting something through outerlibrary loan, please make sure that we do not own the item, or that you have otherwise exhausted our local resources. For example, many full-text magazine and journal articles can be found in EBSCO databases. Newspaper articles are available in LexisNexis, NewspaperArchive, and Newspaper Source Plus. While we may not own a particular title on your topic, we might own many others that would meet your needs. A librarian will be happy to help you locate information on a particular subject, so please ask.

Who may use OLL service?

Any resident of Adams, Columbia, Dane, Green, Portage, Sauk, or Wood County who has a valid SCLS public library card may use this service. We can not initiate an outerlibrary loan request if you have fines exceeding $20.00, a 'stop' on your card, or an active payment plan.

Note that if you wish to submit your request through the Madison Public Library, you must pick it up at a Madison Public Library location. Items requested through Madison Public Library must be returned to a Madison Public Library location. If you wish to pick the item up at a South Central Library System library outside of Madison, please contact that library directly to make your request.

What kinds of materials can be borrowed through OLL?

OLL requests are accepted for most items that are not found in LINKcat, including books, audio books, videos, music cassettes and CDs. Photocopies of periodicals or short sections of books can generally be obtained as well, as long as such requests are in accordance with copyright laws.  Items published within the last 6 months may not be requested.

Items that may be requested but which we are often unable to obtain include:

  • Books on tape (audiocassette) or CD
  • DVDs or VHS tapes, especially feature films
  • Music on CD or audiocassette
  • Language learning kits (especially Pimsleur and Rosetta Stone)
  • Newspapers on microfilm
  • Thesis dissertations
  • Complete (orchestral) musical scores
  • Most libraries do not lend audiovisual format materials. For more information, please refer to “What kinds of materials cannot be borrowed?” below.

    What kinds of materials cannot be borrowed?

    Some items are not available through Outerlibrary Loan, though in the case of non-circulating print materials, limited photocopies of specific pages or a specific article may be requested. Other types of materials may be requested, though these items are often not able to be obtained.

    Items which cannot be requested through Outerlibrary Loan include:

  • Items published or released within the last 6 months
  • Reference books, rare books, or very old items (100+ years)
  • Genealogical materials. For more about genealogical research, please refer to the Wisconsin Historical Society Library.
  • eBooks and electronic journals
  • Phonograph records
  • Periodicals (i.e. entire issues)
  • Computer games

How much does OLL cost?

There is no direct charge to the customer for outerlibrary loan (also known as interlibrary loan) services, though borrowers are responsible for overdue charges incurred or for any charges incurred for lost or damaged items.

Madison Public Library is able to fill most requests through other non-charging libraries. However many libraries listed in WorldCat charge a fee to lend their materials via interlibrary loan. Due to an Attorney General's interpretation of Wisconsin State Statutes concerning library services, public libraries cannot accept payment from patrons for interlibrary loan services (See 2012 ILL Guidelines at Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction). While we always try to borrow from free lenders and have mutual payment plans with some charging libraries, there are times when all owning libraries/institutions charge a lending fee that our library cannot pay. In those cases we are not able to get the item via interlibrary loan.

You do have the option of applying to the University of Wisconsin-Madison for a UW-Madison library card. The cost is $40 as of April 2016 for their Annual Fee Card.

How do I request materials through OLL?

If you have confirmed that the item you need is not in the LINKcat catalog (or, in the case of newspaper of magazine articles, is not available full-text in the EBSCO, ProQuest, or Newspaper Archive) you may submit a request by contacting your local Madison Public Library, or using our online Outerlibrary Loan Request Form .

Titles published within the last 6 months (with the exception of magazine/newspaper articles) may not be requested.

Please provide as much information as possible to help identify the specific item that you are seeking,. (For example, in addition to the title, the author, publisher, etc. In the case of movies, please provide an actor, director, or year released.) When submitting a request for articles, please include all of the citation information given in the source of your citation. Do not use abbreviations unless the source of the citation uses them.

What if I need information on a particular subject but don't have an exact title?

Your local public library staff can help you find information on a particular subject, so please ask. Because of the time and expense involved in outerlibrary loan, before requesting something through outerlibrary loan, please make sure that you have fully explored our local resources. Most often, while we may not own a specific title on your topic, we probably own others that will meet your needs, or we may be able to refer you to another local library (such as a UW campus library) that has what you need. Many full-text magazine and journal articles can be found in EBSCO databases. Newspaper articles are available in NewspaperArchives

How many OLL requests can I submit?

Outerlibrary loan staff will accept and process five (5) requests per day from any one person. In addition, a maximum of fifty (50) requests per person will be accepted within a calendar year.

If requesting items that consist of multiple parts/volumes, each part/volume needs to be submited on a separate outerlibrary loan request form. Each part/volume will be counted as one request.

How long does it take to get materials through Outerlibrary Loan?

Delivery of OLL items can take from 2 - 8 weeks. Because the process is dependent upon responses from other institutions and delivery systems, delivery time may vary greatly.

We process outerlibrary loan requests in the order in which they are received. If there is a high volume of requests, it will increase the amount of time before your request is sent to lending libraries. We have no control over how quickly lending libraries act on requests they receive. Also, if your request has to go to several libraries before one will agree to lend the item, that will of course take more time. Finally, an item coming from farther away (Los Angeles vs. Janesville, for example) will take longer to arrive.

If you have a specific deadline by which you need the material, indicate this on the form where it shows a "need-by date" or "deadline date". Staff will try to obtain the item by that date, or will cancel the request and notify you if it cannot be obtained within that time.

What if you are unable to get what I have requested?

If we are unable to refer your request (because we are not able to locate a library that owns the item, or no owning libraries are lenders, for example) you should be notified within 1-2 weeks that we are unable to fill your request. You will be notified via email (preferred) or U.S. mail.

If we send your request to a number of libraries, but ultimately none are willing or able to lend the item, it can take much longer (depending on the number of libraries).

What if I no longer need an item I requested?

Call your local library staff.

How will I know when my materials arrive?

You will be notified when the item is available for pickup in the same way you are notified of your regular LINKcat holds. You will also be notified if we cannot obtain an item, either by email (preferred) or U.S. mail. OLL items can only be checked out to the library card that was used to request the item.

How long may I keep OLL items for use?

Loan periods on outerlibrary loan items are normally 14 days for books, CDs, and audiocassettes, and 7 days for DVDs and VHS tapes. We ask that you please make it a priority to pick up and use these items in the time allowed as renewals are often not possible. Overdue fines on outerlibrary loan items are $1 per day.

The loan period for all OLL materials is determined by the lending library. Materials are subject to recall by the lender at any time. The lending library may restrict loan periods and/or conditions of use. (For example, some materials may be restricted to "Library use only" by the lending library and may not be checked out for use at home.) We must abide by these conditions.

Are renewals allowed on outerlibrary loan items? 

Renewal requests are sometimes possible, but not encouraged. Some lending libraries never allow renewals on their items. For those that do, we must send a request for renewal, to which the lending library has four days to reply. Most libraries already give extended loan periods for outerlibrary loan materials to allow for delivery time, so they may be reluctant to give renewals.

If a renewal is needed, please contact your local library at least 2 days prior to the due date.

Why can't you get what I've requested?

Sometimes we are not even able to send your request because we are not able to find an accessible library that we know is a lender. Each lending library is free to set up their own outerlibrary loan policies that outline what they will and will not lend. A library’s Outerlibrary Loan policies often specify that they will not lend audiovisual formats, new or popular items, or rare/fragile items through outerlibrary loan.

Perhaps you found the item in WorldCat; please note that while a number of libraries may be listed in WorldCat as owning an item, a much smaller number are free accessible lenders. For example:

  • Many libraries use WorldCat for cataloging purposes, so they list the items they own but do not participate in outerlibrary loan.
  • Of those libraries that do loan books, only a tiny minority will lend other formats (such as audiovisual materials). Most libraries do not lend movies, music, and microfilm.
  • Some owning libraries you see may actually be in such places as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, or the UK (we cannot request international loans, and most do not lend in any case).
  • Of those requests we can send, there are a number of reasons libraries will not lend the item. Some common reasons are:

  • The item is in use or is very popular at the owning library. Like us, they want to make the items available to their local customers first. Libraries will not place holds for us.
  • The item is too new. While we will not ask for anything that is less than 6 months old, other libraries may not lend materials less than 2 years old, or that have been on their shelves less than 1 year (even if it is an older item).
  • The item may be lost, missing, damaged, or no longer owned
  • Some libraries just say “no” without specifying a reason; they are not obligated to do so.
  • Refer to What kinds of materials cannot normally be borrowed? for further information.