University News

Peer institution libraries open doors to Brown under new program

BorrowDirect Plus offers community members on-site access to libaries of Ivies, four other peers

By
Contributing Writer
Monday, November 3, 2014

BorrowDirect Plus expands on BrownDirect, which allowed students to order books from participating institutions but did not offer on-site access.

Brown community members who seek to access material from libraries at peer institutions now have that ability, following the launch of the BorrowDirect Plus initiative last month. 

An extension of the BorrowDirect program, the new initiative allows Brown students, faculty and staff to borrow items from participating libraries on-site using their Brown IDs. The BorrowDirect partnership, which was established in 1999 and has since expanded, lets ID holders at the eight Ivy League universities, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Chicago order books to be shipped from the collections of other participating libraries.

In a change from the original program, BorrowDirect Plus also includes Duke University.

The idea for an on-site borrowing program was proposed at a meeting of the participating libraries in spring 2013, said Bart Hollingsworth, head of circulation and resource sharing at the Rockefeller Library. Representatives from the participating institutions began “working on it more diligently and deliberately” last spring, he said. After a period of testing the user interfaces at each library and familiarizing staff with the program, participating schools were prepared to implement the initiative this fall, he added.

Though the program was not launched with an explicit goal, it will “expand access in a more immediate way” and benefit students and researchers who are willing to travel to avoid waiting for items to be shipped, Hollingsworth said.

Previously, gaining on-site access to a library’s collection involved obtaining an access pass from one of the University’s libraries and meeting with a specific staff member at the other library. Even then, completing this process only granted access, not borrowing privileges. Now, Brown community members can remove and use items from other collections with a swipe of an ID card.

While Hollingsworth said he would personally prefer having items shipped directly to him, he noted that he has distributed quite a few access passes over the years and is eager to see if the new program is popular.

Several students told The Herald they appreciate the intent of the program but do not foresee using it.

“I suspect I would only take advantage of it in the most extenuating of circumstances,” said Daniel Golden ’18, who had not heard of the program. “I hardly think I’m going to be in a situation where there is a book that I absolutely need before I return to campus,” he said.

Myacah Sampson ’17 also expressed doubt that she would end up using the program, adding that she rarely needs access to libraries beyond College Hill. “It seems convenient, but how often do I find myself in Cambridge wanting to do research?”

Students may find it worth their time to ask a Brown librarian about the details of the service before attempting to use it, Hollingsworth said. They should verify that items in other libraries’ collections are available for checkout and not part of special collections or other private holdings, he added.