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Huntsville-Madison County Public Library Information & Business Center: Interlibrary Loan

A research guide describing the services and resources provided by the Information & Business Center at the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library

Interlibrary Loan Service

Every library has to make decisions regarding what books to carry in their collection. If we don't have the materials you need, or if the item you're looking for in our collection is marked 'missing,' 'lost,' 'claims returned,' or 'long overdue,' we will be happy to set up an interlibrary loan for you.

What materials can I get through interlibrary loan?

Most books that circulate, and photocopies. Most libraries will not loan special collections material, videos, reference material, or new books. New books are books that have been in a library's collection for fewer than six months.

How do I make a request?

You can place your request online at We will gladly take interlibrary loan requests over the phone at (256) 532-5967. However, patrons who have more than two loan requests should come to their local branch in person.

NOTE: You MUST have a full privilege library card with the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library in order to check out books through Interlibrary Loan.

Is it free?

There is a small charge for items loaned between libraries, to cover the cost of shipping your request from one library system to another. You will need to pay this fee to pick up your item when it arrives:

  • $3.00 per book
  • $1.00 per microfilm roll
  • $1.00 for photocopies
  • $3.00 for 20 or more pages of photocopies

(In addition, special libraries, medical libraries, and some university libraries charge a fee for loans or photocopies. Those fees will be passed to you, in addition to our fee. Usually, if there is an additional fee, you will be contacted before the material comes in.)

How will I be contacted when my loan comes in?

We will call you. If we cannot reach you, we will make every effort to leave a message. If we cannot contact you by phone, or we cannot arrange for a loan, you will receive a card in the mail.

How long will it take for my item to come in?

Generally it takes 2-4 weeks. Genealogy material may take two to three months. (Most libraries will not loan genealogy material. If you are looking for specific names, please put these on the request and we will request photocopies for you.) Some factors that determine how long your item will take to arrive:

  1. The item's distance from Huntsville. We will try to locate your item in the State of Alabama library system first, but if your requested item isn't available in Alabama, we will then search nationwide. A nationwide search will take longer to find and longer to ship.
  2. If the book is currently checked out at the owning library, a reserve will be placed on it for you, and it will be shipped when the current borrower returns it.
  3. If a book is requested, but is determined to be 'lost' at the owning library, it will then be ordered from another library.
  4. The postal service. All requests must go through the postal service, and mail is sometimes lost or misdirected.

How long may I keep the loaned item?

The owning library determines the due date on your item. We also need to allow for mailing time to return the item to them before their deadline. Please disregard any dates listed in the book. Your due date is on the blue or pink band attached to your item.

What if a book I want is loaned out to someone through an interlibrary loan?

Books that belong to our library are loaned out through Interlibrary Loan for 28 days. While it is gone, you may place a reserve on it at the Circulation desk. When the book comes in, you will receive a letter letting you know it is available. We cannot predict exactly when a book will be returned to us; it depends on the book being returned on time, as well as the time needed for the book to be mailed back from the other library.