Behind the scenes look at Interlibrary loans: written by Fatima Sidi Aliyu

three women standing reading books

Hello everyone!

My name is Fatima, I'm a second year Arts and Business student and this is my second term as a Library Ambassador. I chose to be a Library Ambassador in the Fall 2018 term. Like many other students, I spend a lot of time in the library and I can remember going through my first year without knowing a lot about the services provided. I knew about liaison librarians and booking study rooms, but I didn't know much about Interlibrary Loans and research tutorials. I became a Library Ambassador to learn more about the library and to help other students do the same.

woman holding Canada goose

My job has given me the opportunity to meet some great people that are members of the library staff. As students, we usually don't know what goes on behind the scenes. Staff work very hard to keep the library running smoothly and get us the resources and support we need to complete assignments. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Ted Harms, a Resource Sharing Associate working with interlibrary loans at Dana Porter Library. Ted started working at the library as a part-time UWaterloo student in January 1990. He came on as a full-time staff member in 1995. Ted has worked as an evening supervisor and a library associate in the past. He has now been working with Interlibrary Loans at Dana Porter for 15 years.

Man smiling

As a Resource Sharing Associate, Ted's job involves connecting students and faculty at UWaterloo with the resources they need to get their work done. Patrons may need a book or an article that the library doesn't have, which is why a service like Interlibrary Loans is extremely important. Most students that know about Interlibrary Loans think that their access to books in other university libraries is limited to the University of Guelph and Wilfrid Laurier University. During my interview with Ted, I discovered that the library tries to get resources not only across Canada but also in the U.S., Europe and Asia. After someone requests a book or an article through Interlibrary Loans Ted’s job is to connect with these libraries by phone or email and obtain the resources needed. He also spends about four hours a week at the Information Desk. Here he can connect with students and faculty face-to-face to answer research questions and help with search strategies.

I really enjoy the balance between working privately and getting the chance for face-to-face interaction with the students and faculty at UW,” Ted Harms.

As a student, I know how important it is to get the support you need to complete assignments and research papers. Sometimes it takes a while to find the right materials, even when they are available in the library. Being able to access resources that aren't available at UWaterloo is very important to student success. There is also the convenience of not having to look for these materials on our own. Support doesn't stop at asking other libraries for resources. Although UWaterloo has a high success rate with Interlibrary Loans, it is not always guaranteed that there will be a timely and positive response from other libraries. In such cases, the UWaterloo Library helps students plan alternatives so they can still carry out their tasks. Ted advises students "to be curious and open to alternatives."  He also stated the importance of planning ahead. "The earlier you start with a project, the more flexibility you will have."

Finding out more about what goes on behind the scenes to help with student success reminds you of all the support that's available on campus. Sometimes the problem with coursework is knowing where to begin and what resources you need. That is why there are people available to help you get started, obtain resources and help you figure out the best research strategy. The work that is done by library staff like Ted is a big part of student success.