Treasures from afar…mostly

In the 80s there was a television commercial for a hair replacement company where the spokesperson would enthusiastically say “I’m not just the president, I am also a client!” and I think of this when I use our interlibrary loan, or ILLO, services here at WPL. I work here but “I am also a client!”, and I really love using all of the library’s services. Which is fitting because February is known as Library Lovers’ Month and my interlibrary loans are just one of the things that I adore about the library.

By filling out a simple form which includes information about how to contact me and the book I would like staff to find, I actually have access to the library catalogues of the many libraries that WPL has lending agreements with and the possibilities can seem endless.  Our ILLO staff will do the search and then reply to let me know if they have been successful. If things work out I receive a notice through e-mail and my beautiful book is wrapped in an ILLO wrapper and placed on the Holds shelf for me – is there anything more lovely that this? It’s part of the thrill to just imagine where my interlibrary loan might be coming from because you really never know.  Books can sometimes arrive from as far away as Calgary or Vancouver or arrive from a library as close as Hamilton. Of course, if the item is only available to be loaned to us from a library at a greater distance then there might be charges involved but you have an opportunity to set that preference when you first make the request.

I just never know when I am going to come across an unusual book I will want to read and am reassured to know that the interlibrary loans staff will get to work and try to find that unique book for me. A few months ago I asked them to find Madeleine Albright’s Read my Pins: Stories from a Diplomat’s Jewel Box which was part memoir and part social history as it illustrated the way that she used the pins that she wore to indicate the way that she was feeling when she met world leaders during her time as the Secretary of State for Bill Clinton.  Her memoir, Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948, was a favourite of many local book clubs because of the vivid stories she shared and the way that she addresses political and historical impact of the war.  Two wonderful books I was able to read and learn more about this outstanding woman, one from our collection and the other on loan from a library who was willing to share their treasure with us.

I’ve also used the interlibrary loan service to do a deep dive into the world of picture books that I have loved. John Burningham’s style of art and the gentle stories he told have always been favourites of mine so when I came across a newspaper article that mentioned a book he had written about himself I checked our catalogue to see if we had purchased it. When I saw that it hadn’t made its way onto our shelves I asked the ILLO staff to try and find it for me and was thrilled with the chance to read more about his early life, his development as an artist and get a behind-the-scenes look at his approach to creating picture books. With a few clicks of my keyboard and a few weeks of waiting I was able to get Behind the Scenes in my hands and it was a wonderful read.  I probably drove my kids crazy with reading parts of this book aloud when really they just wanted to remember how much they loved us reading Mr. Gumpy’s Outing over and over again when they were small.

Sometimes the items I request through ILLO are not as spectacular as an autobiography of an award winning author-illustrator or a memoir from a former Secretary of State… sometimes they can be a lighter read. A recent book which came to me all the way from Edmonton was the less-than-fabulous Amber Fang: The Hunted, the first in a YA series from popular Canadian author Arthur Slade. You see, there are so many reasons someone might need to request a book through the ILLO system. A book might no longer be in print and we can get it from a library that still has it on their shelf – this can happen with specialty genres like Westerns, for example. We might have a series of nineteen books and the sixteenth book is missing from our shelves but a customer really wants to know what happens before they go on to read the seventeenth book. Or, in the case of Amber Fang, it isn’t a great book and WPL never needed it on our shelves in the beginning. I was fooled by a catchy tagline of “Librarian.  Assassin.  Vampire.” Amber was really all of these things but she was only good at being one of them – the vampire one – and that’s usually okay with me. Not this time. I do like a good vampire book but I won’t be putting in an ILLO request for the next one in this series. I’m not sure what my next ILLO request will be but if you want to give it a try here is the link to the ILLO services on our web site: I know you will love it.

-Penny M.