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Best Practices for Users

These guidelines started as an etiquette list by users on the DOCLINE® Listserv and were compiled, evaluated and created by DOCLINE Coordinators at the Network of the National Library of Medicine to help facilitate the best use of this system by libraries. Keep in mind that many DOCLINE libraries have different policies regarding document delivery transactions and all libraries must be sensitive to the needs and policies of other libraries that they work with on a daily basis. This list has been shortened to just the basics on providing quality DOCLINE service.

The information in your DOCLINE Serial Holdings, Institution Record, and Routing Tables guide all DOCLINE requests. DOCLINE will not perform at its best if the information in these three areas is incomplete or incorrect. If you are having difficulty with DOCLINE, remember that the NN/LM DOCLINE Coordination Office (NDCO) is only a phone call away at 410-706-4173. Here are some steps to ensure that DOCLINE will work optimally for you.

Serial Holdings

DOCLINE routes requests to libraries that have the correct material to fill the requests using Serial Holdings. Therefore, keeping accurate information in your Serial Holdings record is very important and will prevent libraries from receiving requests that they cannot fill. This maintenance is mandated in the National Networks of Libraries of Medicine Resource Sharing Plan.

Add titles in Serial Holdings only if your library can provide document delivery service for that title. Do not report any electronic serial holdings, including titles that are free online, unless you have a license to do so by the publisher.

Institutional Records

Your institution's record is seen by all other institutions that use DOCLINE. Keeping your record up to date gives other libraries accurate information about what you can offer them as a DOCLINE library. This includes methods of delivery, levels of service, membership in groups, charges, and contact information. Keeping your library's institutional information current is mandated in the Network of the National Library of Medicine Resource Sharing Plan.

Use caution when considering whether you want to be a library that fills "Rush" or "Urgent Patient Care" requests. Rush libraries must fill the request within one business day of receipting the request. Libraries that fill these requests should check for them at least two times each day. Urgent Patient Care requests must be filled within two hours after receipt; therefore, libraries that agree to fill Urgent Patent Care requests should be filling requests at least every two hours Monday through Friday.

Libraries are encouraged to include their service standards in the "Service Comments" field. For example, "same day service for requests received by 9am PST", or "1 day turn around." This will help libraries determine if they should include your library in their routing tables.

Routing Tables

Some DOCLINE users organize their routing tables by state, quick turnaround times, or specific formats of delivery. It is strongly recommended that you put libraries you trust most, or libraries that you have an agreement with, in your lower cells. Additionally, you may want to put the less expensive libraries in your earlier cells. If you should put a group in your routing table, put it in a routing cell by itself. It is not necessary to prefix libraries. Construct your routing tables carefully and then rely on them to route requests. For more information on how to best organize your routing tables, contact the National DOCLINE Coordination Office (NDCO) at 410-706-4173.

When to Contact a Borrowing Library

  1. When following up on a request, use the DOCLINE request number to refer to the request.
  2. Examine the article to see if it seems complete. If there are any discrepancies, contact the borrowing library.
  3. If a request is accidentally updated as "filled" when the lending library cannot supply it, the lending library should contact the borrowing library immediately so that they may resubmit their request.
  4. If a borrowing library consistently does something problematic, contact the borrowing library directly to discuss the problem. The borrowing library may be unaware of the problem, or may not realize that a standard procedure on their part makes work more difficult for other libraries.

When to Contact a Lending Library

  1. When following up on a request, always use the DOCLINE request number to refer to the request.
  2. If a lending library consistently does something problematic, contact the lending library directly about the problem. The lending library may be unaware of the problem or not realize that a standard procedure on their part makes work more difficult for other libraries.

Filling Requests

  1. When scanning or manually copying, make sure that all pages are included and in correct order. It is recommended that text documents be scanned at 300 dpi. Higher resolutions should be used for more sensitive pictures and graphics.
  2. Supply the DOCLINE request number when filling a request. This information can be included on a cover page or email. If sending electronically, put the DOCLINE request number in the subject line of the email.
  3. If a lending library cannot create a readable copy, reject the request and cite the reason as poor condition.
  4. As noted in the eligibility guidelines (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/docline/doclineguidelines.html#nmresponsibilities), DOCLINE participants should log in daily to receipt and act upon requests. Staffing and volume of requests will dictate a library's reasonable average turnaround time. The time-sensitive rules for the re-routing of requests in DOCLINE exist as a safety net for situations when a library does not update an item within the maximum amount of time allowed.
  5. Make sure the patron name is correct whenever it is used. This could be difficult for people with unusual names.
  6. Fill in the manner requested by the borrower. This includes alternate delivery methods.
  7. When lending, make sure the item is updated as filled in the same manner it was actually filled. This may be difficult for ILLiad libraries.
  8. Mark an ILL request as "filled" only after it has actually been sent.
  9. If a request cannot be filled, update that record in DOCLINE as soon as possible so it can route on to other libraries. This is especially true for "Rush" requests.

Sending Requests

  1. For those libraries that store email addresses, make sure the articles are being sent to the correct email address and check the special messages for changes.
  2. When sending multiple requests to the same library, send them individually.

When Requesting an Article

According to the ALA Interlibrary Loan Code for the United States Explanatory Supplement at: http://www.ala.org/rusa/resources/guidelines/interlibraryloancode.htm, "The requesting library is responsible for complying with the provisions of Section 108(g)(2) Copyright Law and the Guidelines for the Proviso of Subsection 108(g)(2) prepared by the National Commission on New Technological Uses of Copyrighted Works (the CONTU Guidelines)."


Comply with your institution's patron privacy policies. For more information on patron privacy, refer to the ALA Interlibrary Loan Code for the United States Explanatory Supplement at: http://www.ala.org/rusa/resources/guidelines/interlibraryloancode.htm, sections 4.2 and 5.3.