Ask the Gazette: InterLibrary Loan Fees

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

McCabe’s Inter-Library Loan Office, a program that allows students and faculty to borrow material outside of the Consortium, sees a sharp increase in activity this time of year as frantic students search for various sources to finish final papers. One Gazette reader recently asked whether the library paid any fee for borrowed items.

Interlibrary Loan Coordinator, Sandy Vermeychuk, says the library doesn’t pay per book. Instead, the college pays significant membership fees to remain within certain borrowing networks of outside universities, museums, and other external academic resources.

Membership fees range in the thousands and increase slightly every year. The benefit is the ability of the College to easily request material from various sources without requiring any paperwork from students.

Some suppliers also charge additional fees for certain items, which fluctuate depending on the lender, said Vermeychuk. Harvard libraries, for example, charge $25 for any material sent, be it a one-paged article or some heavy tome.

Regular baseline costs for shipping and packaging also apply with every loan.

Fortunately for us tight-budgeted college students, the library absorbs these costs. “The entire cost of ILL is part of the library budget and is never passed along to patrons,” said Vermeychuk.


  1. Two points:
    1. To think that we wonder why Harvard is so rich.
    2. “The entire cost of ILL is part of the library budget and is never passed along to patrons.” Unless you pay no tuition, which would be true of me if I went to Harvard, this is obviously false. The per-student cost is probably rather small, and I’m sure some proportion is subsidized by the endowment, but anything that costs Swarthmore money costs every tuition-paying student money.

  2. How can the richest country in the world make money off of educating the next generation?

    Again squeeze the poor people, and make the children suffer, in most civilized countries college is subsidized by the government and the tuition is affordable.
    We are making our children suffer for the greed of the banks thanks to the mortgage crisis.

    Now think about this, you go to college and at graduation you are about 40k in debit, so you get a job, to pay back your loan, and to get health care, all you are working for is health care and to pay back your loan. So faced with this situation you are forced to choose a career that pays well, regardless of the social and moral consequences. So that social worker will become a MBA that teacher will choose to become a Lawyer etc. so instead of doing what you love you need to choose a career that will pay back your loan.
    HOW DO YOU THINK THIS Affects society as a whole? Can you say SLAVERY? Slaves to the banks, slaves to the loan company, slaves to their health insurance.
    And remember you can judge a society by how they treat their children

  3. Granted $25 for any material sent from Harvard seems a bit exorbitant, but…it is a long way from Cambridge to Swarthmore. I’m not necessarily saying the charge is right, but least the option to borrow these materials exists.

  4. …and I should add that I’m not a Swarthmore student (currently…*crossing fingers for transfer admission*), but if I had to pay even a couple hundred extra in tuition for the opportunity to borrow various materials from many of the best libraries in the country, I’d be willing to do it (and I’m paying for college on my own by working full-time while attending school full-time). I wish my current school did this.

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