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A.        INTRODUCTION: The Berkshire Athenaeum is a member of the Central/Western Massachusetts Automated Resource Sharing, Inc. (C/WMARS), a library consortium of over 150 libraries of different types sharing an online computer catalog and circulation files, and offering reciprocal borrowing privileges to patrons of member libraries. The Berkshire Athenaeum is also a member of the Massachusetts Library System (MLS), which provides an interlibrary loan network and locates materials for the users of the System’s member libraries.

B.         DEFINITIONS: Interlibrary loan service is based on the premise that people have a need for all types of information located in all types of libraries, and that limitations in funding, physical space, and other factors preclude any library from being entirely self‑sufficient.

B.1.      System Wide Holds / Patron Placed Holds (SWH / PPH): A transaction in which a hold is placed online in the C/W MARS database by a library staff member or a patron for an item in the collection of their own or another member library. A filled SWH or PPH (also known as a reserve) constitutes a transaction in which the patron is responsible to the lending library for the return of the borrowed item.

B.2.      Virtual Catalog: The Virtual Catalog provides a single, searchable catalog of materials owned by participating academic and public libraries in Massachusetts. Library patrons in good standing may use the Virtual Catalog to request items that are unavailable through their own library network or institution.

B.3.      Virtual Holds:  Transaction in which holds are placed online in the Virtual Catalog database by a library staff member or a patron for an item in the collection of a member library.  A filled Virtual Hold constitutes a transaction in which the pickup location library is responsible for the return of the borrowed item.

B.4.      Interlibrary Loan (ILL): A transaction in which the Berkshire Athenaeum requests for the use of a patron an item not available for loan from a library within the C/W MARS network or Virtual Catalog. A filled ILL constitutes a transaction in which the Berkshire Athenaeum is responsible to the lending library for the return of the borrowed item.


C.1.     ILL’s generated by the Berkshire Athenaeum are processed through and overseen by the Reference Department. All such loans should be originated, picked up, and returned to that department.

C.2.     The Thomas Crane Public Library in Quincy (hereinafter referred to as “Quincy”) is the interlibrary loan processing center for the MLS, providing mediated interlibrary loan borrowing service to MLS member libraries.

C.3.    ILL service operates within general guidelines established by C/W MARS, the American Library Association (ALA), Quincy , and the policies and procedures of lending libraries. 

D.     HIERARCHY OF RESOURCES: In accordance with the standard library precept of accessing local resources first, a patron seeking an item available within the C/W MARS network will have that request submitted as a SWH / PPH.  See also “Holds Procedures: A Supplement to Borrowing Policy & Procedures”) If the item is not obtainable through CW MARS, and the item is available in the Virtual Catalog, the request will be submitted as a Virtual Hold.  A patron seeking an item not available for loan and not fillable within the C/W MARS network orVirtual Catalog has the option of requesting the item through the ILL service.


E.1.      Library materials may be requested on loan or in photocopy from another library. The lending library will decide in each case whether a particular item can be provided.

E.2.      Items missing from the Berkshire Athenaeum collection may be requested.

E.3.      While perhaps available from C/W MARS library collections via SWH/PPH, the Berkshire Athenaeum will not knowingly request or lend the following types of materials through ILL service:

  • Bulky or fragile materials that are difficult or expensive to ship
  • Rare or valuable materials
  • Items identified as non-circulating
  • Multiple copies of titles for reading groups
  • Materials for recurring class assignments. College students should rely upon the collections and interlibrary loan systems of their college libraries for materials needed for courses. Textbooks needed by students in connection with course work activity at any level will not be requested.


F.1.      Patrons placing or having placed for them SWH, PPH or ILL transactions are subject to the circulation policies of the lending library.

F.2.      A patron may not have more than three (3) ILL transactions in process at any given time.

F.3.      For ILL requests that are photocopies (i.e., from magazine articles or other reference materials), charges by the lending library are the patron’s responsibility and will be collected by the Athenaeum at the time the item is claimed.

F.4.      ILL’s are to be picked up and returned to the Reference Department.

F.5.      Patrons are responsible for the timely return of borrowed items. All overdue items are subject to overdue fines of $.10 per day to a maximum of $10.00 per item.

F.6.      Patrons are responsible for all costs associated with lost or damaged items paid by the Athenaeum to the lending library.


G.1.     Any on duty Reference Department staff member will accept an Interlibrary Loan request from a patron. The initial request is accepted on an Athenaeum work form, which allows the ILL librarian to track the transaction from initial submission to closing out of the transaction. The work form is two-sided, designed for use with Magazine/Journal copy requests on one side and with all other requests on the opposite side. RD staff accepting an ILL request will complete the form as fully as possible, given the time constraints at the service desk, and initial the request, making it easy for the ILL librarian to follow up, as necessary.

G.2.     After completing any needed verification or additional bibliographic information for the ILL request, the ILL librarian submits the request on the Quincy electronic interlibrary loan form. Requests for known items should include complete bibliographic information. Subject requests should be accompanied by a full description of the nature and level of materials requested.

G.3.     The Athenaeum will not forward an ILL request for an item that cannot be minimally identified by title and author. Staff will use the C/W MARS database, the statewide virtual catalog, and other sources as appropriate to complete partial citations, but if this proves fruitless, the borrower will be asked to obtain the minimum information of author and title.

G.4.     The Athenaeum will honor any limitation on use imposed by the lending library.

G.5.     Patrons who through previous ILL experience have demonstrated irresponsible borrowing habits shall be denied interlibrary loan service.

G.6.     The Athenaeum is responsible for assuring the prompt return in good condition of any ILL items.

G.7.     The Athenaeum will meet all costs of replacement for lost/damaged items as assessed by the lending library, seeking reimbursement from the patron for these charges.

G.8.     Requests to renew ILL materials are not accepted.

H.    FAMILY HISTORY CENTER: The Local History Department of the Berkshire Athenaeum has entered into an agreement with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (also known as the Mormons) to serve as a Family History Center. Requests for genealogical microfilm are handled in accordance with the Athenaeum’s “Family History Center Policy and Procedures.”

(1) The American Library Association “Interlibrary Loan Code for the United States” may be viewed at and

(2) links to the “Guide to Interlibrary Loan Services” provided by the Thomas Crane Public Library.


Updated December 2010.  

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Berkshire Athenaeum, Pittsfield's Public Library, Pittsfield, Massachusetts