Back to top

Outerlibrary Loan

Make an OLL Request

Borrow materials or obtain photocopies of items from across the country

Recommend a Purchase

Recommend an item for the Library to purchase

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 from items that aren't owned in LINKcat.

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, an outstanding lost or damaged charge for another outerlibrary loan item (regardless of amount), a 'stop' on your card, an active payment plan, or an Easy Access 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 four weeks, and renewals are not possible, so please plan accordingly.
  • Fines on outerlibrary loan items are still $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 our name for borrowing items from libraries that are outside the South Central Library System. Many other libraries call this Interlibrary Loan (ILL). We borrow from other Wisconsin library systems, and certain libraries nationwide.


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 the OLL service?

You can use the OLL service if you are a resident of Adams, Columbia, Dane, Green, Portage, Sauk, or Wood County; have a full-use (not virtual or Easy Access) library card in good standing; and are able to pick up and return your borrowed item at a Madison Public Library location.

If you want 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?

We accept requests for most items that are not found in LINKcat, including books, audio books, DVDs, and CDs. Photocopies of magazine articles or short sections of books can generally be obtained as well, subject to copyright restrictions.  Items published within the last 6 months may not be requested.

Items that may be hard for us to get 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
  • Many libraries do not lend audiovisual materials, like CDs and DVDs. For more information, please refer to “What kinds of materials cannot be borrowed?” below.

    What kinds of materials cannot be borrowed?


  • 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
  • Playaways
  • Phonograph records/vinyl 
  • Entire issues of magazines
  • Computer/software games

How much does OLL cost?

There's no direct cost to you for OLL services. We do charge overdue fines of $1.00/day, and we pass on any charges for lost or damaged items that the owning library bills us for.

We can only borrow from libraries that do not charge us a fee for their service, which means that there are many lenders we can't even send requests to. Patrons sometimes ask if they can pay the lending library's fee in these cases, but Wisconsin public libraries are not permitted to pass on any basic charges for this service to our patrons. 


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 or 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 often available in NewspaperArchives, or another newspaper database to which we subscribe.

How many OLL requests can I submit?

Five per day, with a maximum of 50 per calendar year.

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

Delivery of OLL items can take from 2 - 8 weeks.  We have no control over which library will lend us an item, and thus we can't ever guarantee when an OLL item will arrive.

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

We'll send you a notice via email or U.S. mail explaining why we weren't able to get the item you requested.

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.  OLL items can only be checked out to the library card that was used to request the item, even if you have a hold pickup authorization on file. 

How long may I keep OLL items for use?

We allow four weeks of use, but no renewals. Please plan to use your materials within the allotted time.  Overdue fines on outerlibrary loan items remain $1 per day, even though MPL is otherwise fine-free.

Rarely, the lending library may recall the item and ask us to return it before the original due date. They have the right to do this, and we have to abide by that if it happens. OLL staff will contact you with a revised due date in this unusual instance.

Are renewals allowed on outerlibrary loan items? 

We've recently increased our loan period from two to four weeks, but because of this change we can no longer offer renewals.

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

Here are just some of the reasons an item might not be available for us to borrow.

  • The owning library doesn't participate in outerlibrary loan.
  • The owning library doesn't lend to us for free.
  • Many libraries do not lend movies, music, and microfilm.
  • The only owning libraries are overseas.
  • The item is in use or is very popular at the owning library. 
  • The item is too new to lend. Every library has their own definition of "too new."
  • 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.