Getting Books/Articles We Don't Own

WR3 | Workshops

Getting Sh*t the Library Doesn’t Have

A common problem in academic research is discovering that a book or article you require for a project is checked out, missing, or not owned by the library. Less commonly, you may find yourself in a global pandemic and be unable to physically visit a library to borrow books. There are a number of free services available to you when you encounter this problem.

Borrow Direct consortium

A number of the best libraries in the world have formed a consortium designed to share resources and expand research opportunities for the entire academic community. As students at Dartmouth you may obtain borrowing privileges at any of the other participating libraries including Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, MIT, University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, Yale, and the Center for Research Libraries.

To see if a book is available at another library, use a service called Borrow Direct. With this service you may search every library in the consortium simultaneously to see if the book you require is available at another institution. If the book is owned by another school and is not checked out at the time, you may request that the item be sent to our library. These requests usually arrive in 4 working days or less. When they arrive, you will receive an email that it is being held for you at the circulation desk. Just tell the person behind the desk that you have a “hold” while giving them your ID. They will get the book for you.

These texts have shorter borrowing periods. The book will arrive wrapped with a special sleeve containing information about when the book must be returned to avoid punishing fines.
Borrow Direct only works for books. If you need a scholarly article, use DartDoc.


If there is a book or article you would like to read that is not available through Borrow Direct, you may request it from Dartmouth’s interlibrary loan program, known as DartDoc.1 To request an item, visit the DartDoc webpage, select the appropriate form (article, book, book chapter, etc.), and send your request electronically to the office. Staff will request your item from another library, who will ship the book to our library through the mail. If you are requesting a book chapter or article, the donor library will send you a .pdf free of charge to your DartDoc account. Make sure to download the .pdf to your computer as they disappear after a period of time.

If you are ordering a physical book, DartDoc is often the slowest option. Requests may take up to two weeks to be fulfilled.

Recall Request

If a book is owned by our library, but checked out by another patron, you have one final option: a recall request. If a book is currently on loan, its catalog entry will contain a link that you may use to request a recall of the book. After you initiate a recall, the patron who has borrowed the book will receive a notice that they must return it.

I don’t recommend using recall requests for two reasons. First, it is considered something of a researcher’s faux pas to do so. Some researchers, angered by a recall, have been known to counter by returning the book and then immediately recalling it right back from you.2 These are the petty games academics play, and we play for keeps. Secondly, the patron will have up to two weeks to return the book in question. A very devious person would wait the full two weeks, return it to circulation, then immediately recall it back from you.3 That is likely far too long for you to wait. Using Borrow Direct will almost always be a quicker path to your prized tome.


  1. Visit Borrow Direct and familiarize yourself with the service.

  2. Create a login for DartDoc and explore the service.

  1. One of my biggest pet peeves about Dartmouth is our absurd need to re-brand everything to make it “Dartmouthy.” Hence, “interlibrary loan”—a term comprehensible to everyone who has ever been to a library—is replaced with something completely alienating, like “Dart-Doc.” It is madness. It is Dartmouth. They are the same. ↩︎

  2. This was (allegedly) me. But it was some time ago and I have since sought professional help for research rage. ↩︎

  3. Yes, this was also me. ↩︎