Interlibrary Loan

Interlibrary Loan (ILL) Process

The Athenæum encourages members to make use of interlibrary loan to obtain material not held by the Library. Both books and periodical articles may be requested in person, by phone, (617) 227-0270 x280 or by email ( Forms are provided at both the Reference and Circulation Desks.  Requests are normally filled within two weeks. Many items may be requested at no cost; however, when there is a charge from the lending institution, this cost must be passed on to the member, who would always have the chance to cancel the request. See below for more information.


The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproduction of copyrighted material. Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other reproduction. One of these specified conditions is that the photocopy or reproduction is not to be “used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship or research.” If a user makes a request for, or later uses, a photocopy or reproduction for purposes in excess of “fair use”, that user may be liable for copyright infringement. This institution reserves the right to refuse to accept a copying order if, in its judgment, fulfillment of the order would involve violation of copyright law.

How to Request Books

After checking Athena to be sure that the Library does not own a particular book, a member need only provide the author and title of a work. A publication date is also helpful, but only necessary if a specific edition is wanted.

  • Because of the small size of our staff and their many duties, readers are asked to limit requests to no more than three or four books at a time.
  • Interlibrary loan books cannot be mailed to members. If unable to come in to the Athenæum or arrange to have a book picked up, members are encouraged to use their local library’s interlibrary loan service.
  • While the Reference Department makes every effort to fill any request, some books are difficult or impossible to borrow—reference books, rare or non-circulating items, genealogies, local histories, as well as new books in heavy demand. 
  • Some material loaned to us may be used only under certain restrictions: “in library use only,” or “no photocopying allowed,” for example.

How to Request Articles

If the Library does not subscribe to or keep a particular journal, members may request articles, which are sent as photocopies or occasionally emailed. A complete citation is necessary: author, title, journal name, volume, date, and the inclusive page numbers of the article. The reference staff can assist readers in finding an accurate and complete citation.

  • Photocopied materials can be forwarded to members unable to come to the Library.
  • Photocopies of specific newspaper articles can also be requested.
  • Members are asked to keep their requests to no more than three or four articles at a time.

How to Request Other Materials

The loan of non-print material can be rare. This kind of material includes microfilm, audio-visual tapes, DVDs, CDs, records, etc. The Reference Department can assess the likelihood of filling a specific request and try to suggest viable alternatives for accessing the material.

  • Many libraries will loan microfilm and will loan it for use in the building. The Library has a microfilm reader; information may be saved to a USB drive.
  • Libraries do not loan archival, rare, or manuscript material (unless available on microfilm) and even photocopies can be hard to obtain.