Frequently Asked Questions Illinois State Library


What is library delivery?
Library delivery in Illinois comprises the physical transportation of appropriate library materials - such as books - from one library to another in order to fulfill the request of a library user. Delivery also includes the return of the materials to the owning library or sending the item onward to meet the requests of other users. Delivery is one element of statewide resource sharing.

Who provides the funding to support delivery?
Library delivery in Illinois is funded by the Illinois State Library through grants to three organizations to provide the delivery service. The organizations are the Illinois Heartland Library System (IHLS), the Reaching Across Illinois Library System (RAILS), and the Illinois Library Delivery System managed by the Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois (CARLI).

What is resource sharing and why is it important?
Resource sharing is the ability of any resident of the state who has borrowing privileges at any library in the state to freely request and obtain a loanable book, journal article, CD, DVD, Blu-ray disc, etc. from any other library in the state.

Resource sharing has been the foundation of statewide library service in Illinois for 50 years. Its guiding principles are that the information needs of every resident of Illinois are equally important and that resources are collected and organized by all libraries so that they may be used to inform and educate anyone with an expressed need.

Resource sharing requires the collaboration of library users, library agencies, consortia and librarians. It depends upon web accessible integrated library systems and other library technologies to function effectively.

Resource sharing comprises a series of inter-related steps and actions. First, a person identifies a specific need for information and searches for resources that meet that need. Those resources may include books, journals or other media held in one or more libraries. Once specific items are identified, the person may be able to directly request it through one of the many shared, automated library systems available in Illinois. Examples include I-Share, SHARE, SWAN, MAGIC, RSA, PrairieCat or CCS. A request may also be made through traditional Interlibrary Loan, using OCLC or other methods.

When the request reaches the library that owns the book or other item, it must be retrieved from its place on the shelves, processed through the library's circulation system, properly labeled and packaged for transportation. This process typically takes 1-3 days to complete, depending on the lending library's volume of requests.

At this point, the statewide delivery system takes over. The book or other item is picked up according to the library's delivery frequency and travels on one or more parts of the delivery chain to reach the requestor's library. The physical transportation of materials can take as little as 1 day. However, if the item is coming from or going to libraries with infrequent deliveries or if the item is handled several times in the delivery chain, the transportation step of a resource sharing transaction may take a week or more.

Upon delivery to the requestor's library the item's status is updated in the appropriate shared library system or a file is created to keep track of the material(s). The person needing the item(s) is notified and the transaction is complete. When the patron is finished with the material or when its loan comes due, the book or other item is returned and it follows the same path back to its home library.

What items are allowed to travel in delivery?
In the opinion of the Illinois Secretary of State's Legal Counsel, any items that can be cataloged within a library are deliverable through the library delivery service. This may include – but are not limited to - books and journals, photocopies in envelopes, recordings, maps, and audio-visual materials.

Items and materials that are typically sent through the U.S. Postal Service should not be sent through library delivery, including overdue notices, letters, memos, or loan request forms (except when the form is traveling with the loaned item itself).

Additionally, office supplies, furniture, computer equipment, perishables, inter-office correspondence and inter-organization mail to branches or departmental libraries should not be sent through the delivery system.

What organizations are entitled to delivery?
As specified in the administrative rules governing library systems [23 Ill. Adm. Code 3030], each ILLINET member library is entitled to one delivery stop at no direct cost.

Does every ILLINET member library mean every library building?
No. Each library agency that is an ILLINET member is entitled to delivery at no cost to one location. [See the discussion of Community Delivery Partnerships below for further information.]

How can a library agency obtain additional delivery service?
A library may contract with a delivery service provider, including a library system or ILDS, to obtain additional fee-for-service delivery. The contracting library is responsible for the cost of the additional service. Fees are set by the service provider, in consultation with the Illinois State Library.

A library is free make to whatever arrangements it wishes to provide for the distribution of library materials between its branches, departmental libraries, attendance centers or other facilities.

How can I stay informed about the current operation and future development of delivery service in Illinois?
Information about statewide delivery issues, initiatives and planning for the future can be found on the Illinois State Library delivery webpage.

The Illinois State Library also maintains a subscription email list for the provision of timely information and highlights about delivery. Information on subscribing to the list is located at

Information specific to system delivery for members of the Illinois Heartland Library System can be found at This includes details about delivery routes and schedule and contacts for system staff at each service center.

Information specific to system delivery for members of the Reaching Across Illinois Library System can be found at This includes details about delivery routes and schedule and contacts for system staff at each service center.

Information specific to ILDS can be found at This includes lists of participants, documentation, a delivery ILDS label generator and an institutionally specific statistics generator.

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Organization of Delivery Service in Illinois

Who is responsible for delivery in Illinois?
Delivery to public, school, most special and selected academic libraries is organized and managed by one of three organizations:

  1. The Illinois Heartland Library System (IHLS)
  2. The Reaching Across Illinois Library System (RAILS)
  3. The Illinois Library Delivery System managed by CARLI

Your actual delivery may be done by an employee of your library system, a contractor employed by a commercial courier company or through the U.S. Postal Service.

How is my service provider determined?
All public libraries (except the Chicago Public Library), school libraries, most special libraries and selected academic libraries receive their delivery from the library system that serves their geographic region. An individual library is served from one of 8 service centers. Centers in Champaign, Du Quoin and Edwardsville serve IHLS libraries and centers in Bensenville (Bolingbrook and Wheeling hubs), Coal Valley, East Peoria, Geneva (Geneva and Shorewood hubs) and Rockford serve RAILS members, including school and special libraries in the City of Chicago.

Most academic libraries and the 8 system delivery service centers are served by ILDS. ILDS serves as the connecting backbone that makes efficient statewide service possible. The Chicago Public Library is connected to the rest of the Illinois library community through an ILDS stop at the Harold Washington Library Center. CPL operates its own delivery to its extensive branch library system.

ILDS and some parts of the RAILS delivery service are provided under contract to commercial courier companies. The remainder of RAILS and all of IHLS service is provided by staff employed by library systems. Libraries with very low resource sharing volumes and/or located in remote areas may receive delivery by USPS. In all cases, delivery to the primary library location is provided at no direct cost to the library or the requesting patron.

Can items travel across a delivery service provider's borders?
Certainly. Delivery is part of resource sharing, which is a statewide program. For instance, a book requested by a user in Waukegan from a library in Charleston will travel on several parts of this inter-connected delivery chain to get to the resident who requested it and then again as it travels back to its home library. When the system is functioning optimally, it can take as little as 1-3 days for an item to arrive at the requesting patron's library, once the request is processed.

Delivery Frequency

What is the desired frequency of delivery for all ILLINET libraries?
The goal is to provide statewide delivery 5 day each week (Monday-Friday) to support resource sharing for the residents of Illinois. Please note that the goal is to provide daily delivery for all library users, not necessarily to every library building.

How is the frequency of my delivery determined?
The most common method for determining delivery frequency currently is by the volume of material carried in delivery for the participating library.

However, a variety of means for establishing delivery frequency have been employed as resource sharing has evolved and especially with the incorporation of automated processes and integrated library systems. A library's current delivery frequency may be an artifact of historical system service patterns, including the design of effective routes and the availability of funding.

Delivery frequency may also be determined contractually or through negotiation with the service provider. When the statewide ILDS backbone was redesigned, the service was outsourced with the stipulation that all direct ILDS stops would receive 5 day per week service.

Are there uniform standards for determining delivery frequency based on volume?
Yes, where delivery volume is used to determine service frequency, the following standard will be applied.

What is counted to determine delivery volume?
Delivery volume for libraries that receive delivery from the library systems is calculated based on one week sample counts conducted four times per year.

Libraries that are direct stops on ILDS receive 5 day per week delivery and are, thus, not subject to the volume standards. Nevertheless, each participating library does an actual count of materials sent and where it is sent each day.

Will the application of the volume standards be used to reduce my delivery frequency?
No. There are no plans to reduce any library's delivery frequency. Based on the recommendations of the Delivery Advisory Committee, it is the long term goal of the Illinois State Library to make 5 day per week delivery the statewide standard.

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Community Delivery Partnerships

What is a Community Delivery Partnership?
A Community Delivery Partnership (CDP) comprises an agreement between two or more ILLINET member libraries to have all library materials requested by a patron of any participating library delivered to a single designated location. The delivery location may be one of the participating libraries or a conveniently located community drop box. The participants in a CDP work with the delivery service provider (IHLS, RAILS, ILDS, etc.) to establish the delivery location and ensure that all materials intended for the participating libraries users are directed to the delivery location in a timely manner.

Do Community Delivery Partnerships already exist in Illinois?
Yes. As of January 2016, there are 206 partnerships operating across Illinois serving approximately 520 libraries. That means that more than 28% of the libraries statewide already use a community partnership for delivery!

What constitutes a "community" for the purposes of delivery?
Delivery communities share a variety of distinguishing characteristics. The first is reasonable geographic proximity. A city, town, village, township, county or governmental district can serve as the basis for a CDP. Libraries in several nearby towns may also serve as the basis for forming a CDP.

Next, two or more libraries in the identified area need delivery service.

In addition, there is typically a disparity in the frequency of delivery to which the potential partners are entitled based on delivery volumes and/or the service patterns of the participants. For example, a town's community college may receive delivery 5 days per week, its public library 3 days per week, the public schools 1 day per week and the local hospital library on demand only delivery. These four libraries could form a CDP to improve resource sharing for the entire town.

The key to understanding the Community Delivery Partnership concept is that the group of libraries partnering for delivery actually "create the community."

Are there restrictions on how many or what types of libraries may participate in a Community Delivery Partnership?
No. Currently, CDP's have between 2 and 12 participants. All sizes and types of libraries are currently involved in partnerships and any type of library may participate in a newly formed CDP.

How will delivery frequency be determined for a Community Delivery Partnership?
The goal has always been to offer 5 day per week service to all libraries entering into a Community Delivery Partnership.

Until recently, the participants in a CDP were receiving the delivery frequency equal to the sum of their individual delivery volumes. For example, if four libraries each had delivery volumes 100 items per week, they would individually receive 2 day per week service. As a CDP, the volume would be 400 items per week, entitling the CDP to 5 day per week service.

Moving forward, the goal is to upgrade all CDPs to 5 day delivery regardless of volume by June 30, 2017. All new CDPs created after July 1, 2016 will receive functional 5-day delivery from their initiation.

How will the single delivery location be determined for a Community Delivery Partnership?
The primary delivery location will be selected jointly by the potential participants and in consultation with the prospective service providers (IHLS, RAILS or ILDS).

Factors to consider in selecting the primary delivery location include the convenience of access to a location, the current delivery frequency of all the potential participants, the hours of operation of the participating libraries, the availability of space and staff to coordinate the CDP, administrative and/or Board commitment to act as the primary delivery location for a CDP.

Can a Community Delivery Partnership be formed without one of the participating libraries serving as the primary delivery location?
Yes. The participating libraries could decide to use a jointly maintained drop box at one of their facilities or they could negotiate with some other agency (i.e. the town hall) or a local business (i.e. the 24 hour truck plaza) to serve as a location for a delivery drop box.

What are the responsibilities of a library that serves as a primary delivery location in a Community Delivery Partnership?
A library serving as a primary delivery location will accept incoming materials for all participants and provide staff to separate materials for pick up by participants, notify participants in a timely manner when they have materials to pick up, and prepare materials to go out on delivery from all participants.

If my library is not the primary delivery location in a Community Delivery Partnership, how would the process work and what are my responsibilities?
On an agreed upon schedule or when notified that your library has materials to pick up, staff will retrieve materials from the primary delivery library. You will properly prepare materials requested from your library for resource sharing or materials to be returned materials borrowed by your patrons. You will take them to the primary delivery library in a timely manner.

Who will provide the service to my Community Delivery Partnership?
Delivery may be provided by the library system's dedicated service, a library system contractor or ILDS depending on what is most efficient and effective.

How could a Community Delivery Partnership benefit the patrons of my library?
A CDP will provide more frequent service to many participants, so that materials requested by your patrons will get into their hands more quickly.

Service will be consistent and reliable. That will allow you to promote resource sharing with confidence.

The materials your library lends to users elsewhere in the state will be returned and put back on your shelves more quickly.

Can I retain my current delivery service, even if it is less frequent than I would receive in a CDP arrangement?
Immediate objectives for statewide delivery service will be to enhance service to the more than 210 CDPs that already exist and to foster the creation of new CDPs where there is collaborative agreement among community members.

The final report of the Delivery Advisory Committee recommends that CDP be mandatory, where they are logistically feasible and cost effective. The recommendation is based on the administrative rules that govern library service supported by the Illinois State Library that state that basic delivery service will be provided "at no cost to full member libraries with one delivery point per member or community drop-off point ..." (emphasis added).

Not every library in Illinois will be part of a CDP; however Community Delivery Partnerships will become a routine and principal means of library delivery in Illinois.

Must my library enter into a formal agreement to participate in a Community Delivery Partnership?
Participants in a CDP will create an agreement specifying the responsibilities of all parties, as well as those of the service provider.