BREAKING NEWS: Important information about changes to the way journal articles are delivered.

The resources of libraries throughout the UK and the world are made available through the Inter-Library Loan (ILL) network.

We obtain ILLs from a number of sources, the chief source being the British Library (BL). Below is a list of Frequently Asked Questions about the Inter-Library Loan network.

Our Inter-library Loan service is available to:

  • Current staff and students of the University of Dundee;
  • Library members covered by the Service Level Agreement with NHS Tayside.

Staff and students from other universities should apply through their home institution. All others should apply through their local Public Library.

You apply for an ILL when you need a book, journal or journal article not held in our collection for private study or for research for a non-commercial purpose. To avoid unnecessary expenditure, we recommend that you check that the item is not held at another local library such as the University of Abertay or the public library.

If your request is for a commercial purpose, contact us for an application form (it is not possible to apply online for a commercial photocopy). Please be aware that copyright clearance charges will apply.

  • First check that the item you require is not available locally
  • Apply online from the Library Search
  • Sign in to Library Search.  When a user is not signed in to Library Search, the link will be visible but not clickable.
  • Click on the 'Interlibrary Loan' tab at the top of the page
  • Enter the details on the form
  • Complete the delivery information section of the form, and click 'Request'

Journal articles (and single chapters from books) which we acquire from the British Library (BL) are supplied as encrypted PDFs. When such a document becomes available on the BL server you will receive an email from containing a link to it.

Important Message:  It will only be possible to access (open) the BL supplied document you have requested if you are using a computer which has FileOpen Software installed.  Your computer must also be connected to a printer.

FileOpen software is installed on University PCs as part of the standard operating environment (Managed Desktop); if your school does not use the SOE you will need to contact your departmental IT administrator.  We strongly recommend that before you make any BL ILL requests that you use this link to test whether you will be able to open documents.  If you experience any difficulty opening a PDF, please contact the Library & Learning Centre rather than the British Library.

If an error message appears when you click the link to open a BL PDF, please copy and paste the full URL that begins ... from the email into a new browser tab.  This should allow you access to the article, but if not please contact for further help.

The link to any BL supplied document will expire after 30 days even if it is not accessed

  • You may access the document more than once but only within 14 days and only from the computer you first used
  • You may print a single copy but only within 14 days and only from the computer you first used
  • Documents cannot be stored electronically
  • Documents can be read using Adobe Reader version 4 or above
  • It is advisable that documents are printed on your first access to ensure expiry deadlines are not reached

You should note that the British Library may not be able to supply everything requested in electronic format, and that other suppliers (such as university libraries) are not generally licensed to do so. Items which cannot be supplied as PDFs will be supplied and charged as photocopies. If you request pickup from one of our sites rather than direct delivery then you will also be charged the rate for photocopies.

Requests from UK libraries may arrive very quickly, perhaps within a week, but requests from overseas may take several months. There may be a delay if the item is in demand and we have to join a waiting list. We will normally be notified if a long delay is likely, and we will pass this information on to you.

The British Library no longer offer an "urgent action" service, however, with BLDSS (the new BL ILL system) the majority of available items are usually sent out within 24-48 hours of a request being submitted by us.

Journal articles are usually supplied as encrypted PDFs and are subject to the same copyright restrictions as your own photocopying - see the Intellectual Property and Copyright page for details.

It is illegal to obtain ILL copies of more than one article from the same issue of a journal. If you want more than one article we must apply for copyright clearance, for which there is an additional fee levied by the Copyright Licensing Agency. Alternatively you can apply to borrow the relevant journal issue. NB. the British Library will not lend journal issues less than 6 months old.

Copyright regulations are legally binding and both we and the lending library must ensure that readers' requests comply with them.

Theses: please apply directly to EThOS (British Library Electronic Theses Online Service) to obtain a thesis. Please email the Library if they are unable to supply.

An automatic email will be sent to you as soon as a loan item arrives. Please collect items promptly as they can only be kept for a limited period.

Most single journal articles are sent as encrypted PDFs. If you request direct delivery and the article is not available in electronic format, it will be posted out to you.

More valuable publications (e.g. very rare books) are often lent only on condition that we keep them in the Library at all times. These items are not on open access and must be signed out for use within the Library only, so please ask for assistance at the InfoZone or Enquiry Desk. Check library opening hours to avoid self-service only periods.

ILLs are issued for 4 weeks: there will be a slip attached to the item with the date it is due for return to us. It is advisable to return all ILLs promptly as the fines you will be charged by the British Library, and/or charges incurred for lost or damaged items, are very substantial.

In some cases loans can be renewed, but if you wish us to request this you MUST notify us on or before the due date.  If you bring a BL loan item to the Library when asking for a renewal we should be able to advise you of the new date that day, if it is not required by another Library.  With other suppliers it may take some time to obtain a response.  Renewal may be possible without the item being present, in which case we will inform you of the new due date by email. 

If you get a recall notice for an ILL item please return it immediately, even if you have renewed it.  A recall means the supplier has received further requests for the item.

Once an application has been sent to the British Library it can normally only be cancelled if they notify us there is a long waiting list or if they cannot trace the item. In these cases we will contact you and ask if you wish to cancel.  Other suppliers may allow cancellations but many have similar policies to the BL.

And finally, please bear in mind when using the ILL system that the British Library processes around 10,000 ILL requests on an average day and deals with them in strict rotation.

We are happy to process ILLs for institutions within the UK, and from the Republic of Ireland and overseas.

Photocopy requests must comply with current copyright regulations, and be of a non-commercial nature. We are unable to provide commercial copies to other libraries. Please contact the British Library Document Supply Centre (BLDSC).

The prices of such requests keep in line with current BLDSC charges and charges will be claimed through BLDSC at regular intervals.

Please check Library Search to determine which site holds the item you require. Most books can be lent, with the following exceptions:

  • 1 and 7 day loan
  • Reference
  • Journal parts/volumes
  • Special collections

Email your request, quoting your BL account number and request number, to


*In the case of overseas libraries, we would prefer payment using IFLA vouchers or by credit card. If neither option is possible, we will send an invoice which is payable in advance of supply.