In March, we announced InstantILL, a new, powerfully simple library tool that delivers articles — no subscription needed. Since then, over 250 libraries, of all sizes have joined the waiting list to save money, improve services, and advance Open. Today, we’re debuting the first iteration with our partner, IUPUI University Library.

We’re excited to show you how it works, but, if you haven’t read our announcement, we suggest you take a few minutes to do that first and join the waiting list if you’d like to stay up to date and explore bringing InstantILL to your campus.

InstantILL is a next-generation interlibrary loan form that integrates with and complements systems that you already use to improve services, save money, and accelerate Open Access. InstantILL embeds into your website and turns your interlibrary loan form into one simple place where patrons can get legal access to any article through the library. InstantILL checks Open Access availability and uses your existing systems to check your subscriptions and submit ILL requests for an article.

How InstantILL submits into your Interlibrary Loan (ILL) system

A GIF of InstantILL deployed on IUPUI’s website when they don’t have subscription access and when Open Access isn’t available. InstantILL powers the search, results, and links out to IUPUI’s resource sharing systems for fulfillment and user identification. In this case, we’re already logged into ILLiad, so the authentication step is skipped.

When articles aren’t immediately available, patrons can submit an ILL. We streamline the submission and processing of requests by gathering metadata automatically. Given just an article title (the hardest case), in tests with 1,000 previous IUPUI requests, 80% of the time, we found journal titles and ISSNs, years of publication, and often fuller citation information, such as PMIDs, DOIs, page numbers, issues, and volumes. We combine this information about what a patron wants with a record of what we found available in Open Access and in your holdings. This provides reliable information to staff to allow automated processing without patrons needing to fill in long forms. Patrons can confirm information prior to submission and add any missing critical information.

InstantILL works with your existing ILL systems to create requests in one of three ways. The primary method is to use a flexible OpenURL (or URL parameters, where article information is communicated through the URL), commonly supported in library systems, to send patrons to your existing ILL form with all the required fields filled out for confirmation. This means your existing ILL system handles login, submission, payment, and fulfillment, and we never handle your patrons’ information. If your patrons submit requests via email instead of a web form, InstantILL can submit requests to any email address. Lastly, we provide a free, documented API that your technical staff can use to integrate with your ILL system.

How InstantILL knows your electronic holdings

A GIF of InstantILL deployed on IUPUI’s website when they have subscription access. Here, we’re using Serials Solutions to understand, and link directly to, content that IUPUI subscribes to.

InstantILL is built to understand the electronic resources that your library subscribes to, so that, if your user requests an article they should have access to, they don’t need to wait on staff to find out. When a user searches for an article, we’ll check your holdings. If you have access, InstantILL will provide a direct link for the user to access through your proxy. Off campus, they’ll be nudged to login to access the content.

We understand your holdings by integrating with your link resolver. If it says you have access, we tell the patron that you do and provide them with the link. This means that you handle authentication, you don’t have another system to maintain, and only you know what your patron is accessing. To set this up, all we need is your link resolver URL. Currently, our tests show we find 90% of IUPUI’s subscriptions successfully, and we’re working to make sure we find them all.

How InstantILL finds Open Access

A GIF of InstantILL deployed on IUPUI’s website when they don’t have subscription access, but Open Access is available.

Users want to access content instantly. This is what Open Access enables, but, sometimes, patrons need help finding an accessible copy. So, we built the ability to find and show Open Access articles into the heart of InstantILL. If there is an Open Access copy, which can be 23% of the time, and the library doesn’t subscribe to the work, we’ll use the Open Access Button API to give immediate access alongside clear instructions on how it can and can’t be used, and the option to submit an ILL. We’ve been pioneers in discovering and delivering Open Access copies, and our content comes only from legal aggregators, such as Unpaywall, DOAJ, and many more.

How patrons use InstantILL

InstantILL can be a new starting point for users who want an interlibrary loan from anywhere on the library website, or linked to from inside a link resolver or library search.

A gif of InstantILL integrated into other systems at IUPUI. InstantILL can be embedded directly into other pages, like Link Resolvers, or linked to from inside other systems.

InstantILL isn’t a discovery system: we focus on delivery of content from known item searches. Regardless of how users get there, InstantILL understands what they need by accepting article titles, citations, URLs, DOIs, PMCID, or PMIDs. Users can simply copy and paste these, we’ll show critical metadata for the user to know that we know what they want and to show the best options that they have to get access. If we get it wrong, users can let us know and input the required information.

InstantILL allows copy requests to be submitted in just a few clicks, with the potential for instant delivery and faster processing. At every step, we’ve used simple language, thoughtful design, and user feedback to make sure that InstantILL is easy for patrons and that it displays what they need to know, when they need to know it. In user testing, patrons usually immediately understood what the tool does and how to use it.

How InstantILL is set up

A screenshot from our demo and set-up process for InstantILL. On our website, you’ll get a guided tour of InstantILL at your leisure and get to fully test the real system. Then, you can sign up, adjust and preview your settings, and, once again, test before deployment on campus.

InstantILL is built to be easy to manage for all libraries, big and small, with or without a technical team. Once released, you’ll be able to go to our website, demo the system, and get set up in minutes by following our step-by-step process.

The set-up process has three major steps. To get InstantILL on your website, you’ll copy and paste one line of code. To get it integrated with any ILL or subscriptions systems that you have, you’ll only need to give us a link to your ILL form and link resolver. Of course, you’ll be able to adjust such information as what your requests cost, the fulfillment time, the terms, and much more. As you adjust settings, you’ll see an immediate preview and be able to test it before you roll out. Information such as our privacy policy and background on InstantILL to keep others on campus in the loop will be available. Once set up, we’ll manage maintenance, monitor for errors and deliver upgrades, and keep you in the loop as InstantILL gets better.

What’s next?

This is just the beginning. We’re already testing InstantILL with other major ILL and link resolver systems on other campuses. We’re also continuing to build out features from your requests and user feedback — for example, supporting purchase on demand, using InstantILL as a replacement for link resolvers/library search, and enabling InstantILL to help authors make their work Open Access. You’ll be able to see and contribute to our roadmap on Github. Finally, we’re excited to leverage what we’ve learned to build GetPDF, our tool to bring all these features from the library’s website to wherever the user is, through a browser plugin.

Thanks again to Tina Baich, Mike Paxton, Gary Maixner, Teodora Durbin, Kevin Petsche, Rich Wing, and Kristi Palmer at IUPUI University Library for their incredible support. Thanks also to the Arcadia Fund, which has generously supported building this, and other tools for libraries, including for embedding Open Access onto your website, behind the scenes during the ILL process, and other library systems.

If you’re interested in bringing InstantILL to your campus, join the waiting list.