Gary and I are working on a paper on digital libraries and the idea of the library as place. We write about (among other things) the function of the library as a space for storage of materials. ILL changes this, since ILL creates a virtual storage space: when I receive a book that I requested via ILL, I have accessed material through my local library that occupies no space in the library.

And how timely is this? I just read this post, from The Long Tail:

“… they are able to effectively extend their shelves manyfold, connecting their individual collections into a vast supercollection that can go far further down the Tail than any single institution could afford. In other words, networks are turning individual libraries into what amounts to one huge virtual Long Tail aggregator.”

On the one hand, duh. On the other hand, it’s always gratifying when the editor of a publication like Wired recognizes that libraries aren’t relics of the stone age. Sadly, blogs are not generally accepted as valid sources for scholarly writing, or I’d cite this in the paper.

The post mentions that shared cataloging has increased the use of ILL. It makes me think that someone ought to do a study of the impact of Open WorldCat on ILL stats.

In a previous post, Anderson writes that Amazon‘s figure for how much of their sales is not available offline is in the 25-30% range. It also occurs to me that someone ought to look at how much of libraries’ circulation is not available from other media vendors. Of course that would vary by type of library. I would wager that the percentage of ILL requests made by academic libraries that are not available from other media vendors would approach 100%.