Some of you are probably asking why is it so difficult to acquire some of these materials. Most people probably understand why Special Collections/Archival material cannot be lent. In many cases its one of a kind or one of only a handful out there. And when I say handful, I mean editions of less than 50. You’ll find some libraries that are willing to make copies of SOME of the items they have in their collection. It depends on the type of material and its condition. If its really, really old (think over 200 years) it may not stand up to being photocopied or even photographed. Ever wonder why a lot of museums say no flash photography allowed and strictly enforce it? Its because the material–painting, book, or other–can be harmed by bright lights. Its why you’ll often see archivists wearing gloves when handling material as well. Even the oils found on your hand, just normal everyday body producing oils, can cause damage to these materials.
Now what will probably confuse most people is why won’t libraries lend out Audio Visual material, CD’s, tapes, DVD’s, etc. One reason is cost. That’s right money again. Now you may be thinking that libraries can surely afford to pay 20 dollars to replace that copy of “Lady and the Tramp” and they maybe able to. But it depends on who sells it to them and who they have to buy from. You see libraries can’t always run out to the local new bookstore and pay the same price you do for a book or video. Why? Well publishers want to charge libraries more, because more people are likely to view that DVD or listen to that new CD. That’s right because 5, 10 or more people may listen to that new Bach CD (you know the man may be old, but he still does some good music) the company that made it wants to charge more money because those people won’t be buying the CD themselves. Is this wrong? Well…many people don’t think it’s fair. But that’s the way it is. Libraries have to pay more for materials. Books are a little bit easier to come by, but those DVD’s, CD’s etc can cause major amounts of cash to replace. So that’s why there are libraries that won’t lend them.
The fact that Theses and Dissertations are not lent disturbs many an academic library user. Professors and graduate students often state that have to have that Dissertation as it is vital to their research and are dismayed when it can not be acquired through ILL. Here’s why. Most Theses and Dissertations are not ground breaking reading that a publisher is interested in mass producing.. They might be ground breaking research, but lets face it there are not many people out there that want to read a dissertation of the night time study of the red parrot’s eating habits during the month of March in monsoon season. It will get you that PhD you crave, but most people are not interested in reading it. As such, generally the University that you graduated for maintains a copy and if you’re in the US a company called UMI generally also has a copy. That’s it. One library in the world and maybe if you’re lucky one or two more. That’s the way it works with most theses and dissertations, they are owned by one library–maybe two or three at the most. Note that I say most theses and dissertations. Every once in a while you’ll find a dissertation or theses that has multiple copies, but not often. This is why you can’t often acquire this material through ILL. Now UMI does have many US theses and dissertations and if you can’t get it through ILL, try here. You will have to pay for it, but at least you have a copy.
None of this is to say you can’t get these materials through ILL, its just that it is often very difficult.