Skip Navigation Bar

Fact Sheet
Interlibrary Loan

Access | Request Methods | Request Requirements | Delivery & Returns | Clinical Emergencies | Charges | Billing | Contact Us

Most of the general and historical collection of the National Library of Medicine (NLM) is available through interlibrary loan to any library. NLM provides copies of journal articles and loans books, audiovisuals and microforms. NLM should be considered "the library of last resort" for materials that are not available from local or regional libraries.

NLM's interlibrary loan services are available only to libraries. Individuals who need access to biomedical literature should make a request through a local library or register with a Loansome Doc® library that agrees to provide articles to them. See also more information on free biomedical literature resources from NLM and other sources.


U.S. Medical Libraries 

  • The Regional Medical Library (RML) in your area will answer interlibrary loan-related questions and assist with obtaining DOCLINE access. To reach the RML, phone 1-800-338-RMLS (7657) or visit the NN/LM® Web page.

U.S. Non-Medical Libraries

  • Non-medical libraries that have a recurring need for biomedical information should contact their RML to discuss how they may be best served. To reach your RML, phone 1-800-338-RMLS (7657) or visit the NN/LM® web page.
  • Non-medical libraries that do not have an ongoing need may send requests to NLM after first determining that the material is not available locally or regionally.

Canadian Libraries

  • Medical libraries in Canada who are DOCLINE participants should send requests via DOCLINE. Medical libraries that are not DOCLINE participants should contact the Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information (CISTI) for information on eligibility.
  • Non-medical libraries or libraries without DOCLINE access should request materials from Canadian medical libraries or from CISTI.

Other Non-U.S. Libraries

  • A small number of libraries outside the U.S. have access to DOCLINE and will accept requests from other libraries or individuals via Loansome Doc®. During registration, you can search for non-U.S. libraries providing document delivery internationally.
  • Libraries that cannot identify a DOCLINE library willing to serve them may send requests directly to NLM for items not available in their country.  Requests must follow requirements stated in this document.
  • Material in original form is not loaned outside of the U.S.
  • See more information on biomedical literature resources for libraries outside the U.S.


DOCLINE is the preferred method of routing requests to NLM. For information about joining DOCLINE, please refer to the eligibility guidelines or contact your Regional Medical Library (RML).

DOCLINE Participants

Borrowers should ensure the NLM checkbox is selected in the Delivery and Routing portion of their requests.  Additional information on submitting requests via DOCLINE can be found in the DOCLINE FAQs or DOCLINE Online Help

Non-DOCLINE Participants

Non-DOCLINE libraries who have established a borrowing relationship with NLM may submit requests via NLM's ILL Request Form.  NLM no longer accepts e-mailed, faxed, or mailed ILL requests.  If your library has never submitted an ILL request to NLM before, please consult the Access to NLM's Collection section of this Fact Sheet and contact NLM for more information.


Requests sent to NLM must comply with the following requirements and with the provisions of the National Interlibrary Loan Code of the American Library Association (ALA).

All non-DOCLINE requesters must:

  • Submit requests via NLM's ILL Request Form
  • Include a statement confirming compliance with either the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976 (CCL) or the Copyright Guidelines (CCG)
  • Request each item or item segment (chapter, part of issue, volume, etc.) separately
  • Verify citations in NLM publications or databases (including PubMed or LocatorPlus) and include all available information such as Call Number, NLM Unique ID, PMID, and ISSN or ISBN Number
  • Include complete citation
  • Include the name of the person who authorized the request
  • Include institution's library identification (LIBID); institutions submitting interlibrary loan requests for the first time must contact NLM to obtain a LIBID


  • The loan period for original material, microfilm and audiovisuals is two months (60 days).
  • Items cannot be renewed.
  • Overdue items:  a single overdue notice will be issued 1 day after due date.  Invoices will be issued 21 days after due date for materials which have not been returned.
  • Replacement charges for lost materials are $375 for each audiovisual and $225 for each book. In lieu of payment for the material, NLM will accept a replacement copy.
  • Interlibrary loan service will not be provided to libraries with delinquent accounts.


Delivery: Most requests received at NLM are processed within 24 hours.


  • NLM will deliver copied material by Ariel, fax, email, web, and U.S. mail.  E-mail and post-to-web are the quickest and most reliable forms of delivery.
  • The borrowing library must notify NLM within seven days following submission if a photocopy request has not been filled. To report a problem with ILL requests filled by NLM, please use our ILL Customer Service form or the Contact Library feature in DOCLINE.


  • Original materials are sent by courier service to ensure their safety.  NLM pays delivery charges for outgoing loans.

Cancellations: Due to the large daily volume of ILL requests, it is not possible for NLM to cancel a request once it is received.

Returns: NLM suggests that returned materials be insured or registered and return receipt service used. Note: post-1913 monographs, post-1969 audiovisuals* and microfilm should be returned to the Collection Access Section. Pre-1914 monographs and pre-1970 audiovisuals* should be returned to the History of Medicine Division

The borrowing library agrees to:

  • Pay return shipping charges
  • Be responsible for loaned material from the time of receipt until the item is returned and received at NLM
  • Replace or pay for materials lost
  • Cover repair costs for damaged materials or replacement costs for any irreparably damaged items.


During the hours that NLM is open, Clinical Emergency (Urgent Patient Care) requests will be filled within two hours. If NLM is unable to fill the request, notification will be sent within two hours. Clinical emergency requests are available via Fax, Ariel, Email and Post-to-Web delivery. Please note that only requests needed for emergency patient care qualify for this service.

  • DOCLINE participants should route Clinical Emergency (Urgent Patient Care) requests using the NLM LIBID: MDULMF. Select 'Fax', 'Ariel', 'Email (PDF)', or 'Web (PDF)' as the NLM Delivery method, and leave the Need By Date blank.


(Effective January 2012)

U.S. Libraries

Delivery MethodCharge
Surface Mail, Ariel, Email, Web, and Pickup  $9.00
Fax  $12.00

Canadian and other non-U.S. libraries

Delivery MethodCharge
Surface Mail  $11.00
Fax  $14.00
Ariel, Email, and Web  $9.00

U.S. Federal Libraries

For federal libraries that fully participate in DOCLINE, interlibrary loans are free of charge up to 1,000 requests per fiscal year.  Federal library charges apply once the 1,000 limit has been reached.  Federal libraries that do NOT participate in DOCLINE are charged the following rates for every request.

Delivery MethodCharge
Surface Mail, Ariel, Email, Web, and Pickup  $4.00
Fax  $7.00


NLM issues its invoices quarterly. NLM prefers to charge customers through the Electronic Fund Transfer System (EFTS). As needed, NLM can issue invoices to libraries through the National Technical Information System (NTIS).
Libraries are advised to keep a copy of each request form. The request number will appear on the detailed transaction reports provided by EFTS and NTIS and will be needed to interpret the charges.
Electronic Fund Transfer System (EFTS)
EFTS is a transaction-based electronic billing system developed by the University of Connecticut Health Center for ILL and document delivery charges. NLM participates in the EFTS for billing DOCLINE libraries for NLM-supplied documents. 
All DOCLINE libraries are encouraged to join.  EFTS reduces the need to create invoices and to process reimbursement checks for interlibrary loans between participants. EFTS also provides monthly detailed transaction reports, the ability to handle differential charges (such as additional rush or fax charges), the ability to vary charges to members of special groups, and the ability to handle non-DOCLINE transactions.
National Technical Information Service (NTIS)
Libraries must establish a deposit account with NTIS to facilitate payment. After establishing an account, the libraries should make a deposit (U.S. currency) sufficient to cover their expected ILL expenses.
Invoices are issued quarterly by NTIS, 5301 Shawnee Road, Alexandria, VA 22312 and are payable to “U.S. Department of Commerce.”

Note: Interlibrary loan service will not be provided to libraries with delinquent accounts.


Many of the photographs or slides of portraits, prints, charts, and other pictorial works in the collection may be viewed in the Images from the History of Medicine (IHM) ( See more information about ordering copies from this database.
Interlibrary loan policy and charges also apply to audiovisual materials. An exception is made for laser discs -- this format is not circulated. For questions about borrowing audiovisual* material produced before 1969, contact the History of Medicine Division.

*All 16 mm audiovisual films are serviced by the History of Medicine Division.



(For journal material published after 1870, monograph material published after 1913 and audiovisual material produced after 1969):

National Library of Medicine
LIBID: MDUNLM (Regular) or
LIBID: MDULMF (Clinical Emergency)
8600 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, Maryland 20894
Telephone: (301) 496-5511
Fax: (301) 496-2809
Contact Us:



(For journal material published before 1871, monograph material published before 1914 and audiovisual material produced before 1969)

National Library of Medicine
8600 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, Maryland 20894
Telephone: (301) 496-5405
Fax: (301) 402-0872
Contact Us:

A complete list of NLM Fact Sheets is available at:
(alphabetical list)
(subject list):

Or write to:

Office of Communications and Public Liaison
National Library of Medicine
8600 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, Maryland 20894

Phone: (301) 496-6308
Fax: (301) 496-4450

For general information on the Library's computerized information services:

National Library of Medicine
Customer Service
8600 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, MD 20894

TELEPHONE:   1-888-FINDNLM (1-888-346-3656)