SIG Spotlight: Lars Leon, University of Kansas


Lars Leon, SIG Committee Member at Large

I energize on logistics, engagement, data, service, travel, and more. So in the late 1980s when the KU Libraries combined Acquisitions and Interlibrary Loan (v 1.0) I saw “the future”. There was/is so much room for logistics, collaboration, and more. The ability to work with so many really cool people to help make all our patrons happy led me to continue working as a full-time staff member while finishing my KU B.A. in Business Administration.  After a few years I then obtained my MLS from the School of Library and Information Management at Emporia State University. I was then very happy when I was selected to become the Interlibrary Loan Librarian in 1998 at KU. The increasing levels of responsibility in the KU Libraries, with research and service expectations, have afforded me opportunities to contribute at the local, state, regional, national, and international level.

My “practical” work experience through the years have run the gamut of handling all aspects of resource sharing through management. These practical work experiences have intertwined with my research interests which have spanned from individual to group best practices; using data to make informed decisions, understanding how our patrons value our services, and more.

In January 2014 the KU Libraries merged Acquisitions and Resource Sharing again (v 2.0) after having been with Access Service for a number of years. This new combination has only just begun but provides fresh opportunities for creatively think about how we do what we do. I continue to help half-time with aspects of our newly combined unit. The other half of my work-life I spend with our organizational development. We are working on everything from facilitation, project management, software training, effective group work, enabling supervisor success, emotional intelligence, mindfulness, and much more.

I am inspired by the collaborative leadership provided by the ILL Special Interest Group. We have a caring community although at times we can get stuck in our local ruts so having a catalyst like this group really helps. From our group best practices work I collaborated with others on ~ An individual library practicing best practices does okay. A lender and a borrower both practicing is better. What’s best though is when a group of libraries commit to and share those practices. Interlibrary Loan is amazing because of the people involved and their commitment to each other. I look forward to working with others in the ILL Special Interest Group to take our collective services to even higher levels through shared learning.

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Thoughts on creating & retiring from the ILL SIG

Two years ago, I had a crazy idea to start a group by and for interlibrary loan folks. Why?

Because I was new to the area and needed some connections. Because I wanted to meet other interlibrary loan folks. Because I saw a need for community that wasn’t being met. Because there is great value in working together. That’s what prompted me to start this group, and that’s why this group works so well. The leaders, contributors, and participants all hold this value and uphold it as a core principle of doing interlibrary loan work.

The Interlibrary Loan Special Interest Group was founded:

  • to provide a free exchange of ideas and best practices
  • to encourage collegiality and mentorship
  • to provide free and local training opportunities
  • to provide professional development opportunities for library staff
  • to foster collaboration within the local community

Interlibrary loan work can be isolating. It is often done by one person or a small team at each library, and it is often not understood well by other library colleagues. Training and professional development opportunities are scarce, require travel, lack appropriate funding, and take you away from work that just piles up when you’re gone. That’s why establishing a community for interlibrary loan folks in the Kansas/Missouri geographic area was so important. It could break down those feelings of isolation and allow for easier access to (and greater distribution of) knowledge, mentorship, and expertise in the region.

We don’t all get funding to go to training or to conferences, but some of us do and we can bring that back to our friends and share the information. It doesn’t have to be “survival of the fittest” out there; we don’t have to feel bad about not knowing about the latest innovation or trying to figure out how to solve workflow problem all on our own. It doesn’t have to be that way. People are more likely to reach out to a group of people they actually know and like rather than to call tech support. It’s the same way we get recommendations for a good plumber from our neighbors. You want to source people you trust for information? Well, here we are, neighbor.

This group would be nothing without the people who helped make it what it is. Kari, a leader with impeccable grace and contagious enthusiasm. Ellie, a creator and a doer with utmost talent and natural wit. Jan, a brilliant innovator and warm heart with unmatched empathy, compassion, and understanding for library users and colleagues alike. Kari. Ellie. Jan. An amazing trio of women, whose dedication and passion to interlibrary loan (and the library profession) are without question. Karen, who was there early on and helped us shape our ideas into words. Kirsten, who offered valuable perspective. Kate, whose practicality, honesty, expertise, and determination made her a refreshing and welcome addition. Gabby, a champion for all this group holds dear and an example of what engagement among library staff can look like. This group. My colleagues. My friends.

Getting to know one another, not as OCLC symbols or stops on the same courier, but as people allows you to move mountains for your patrons. It’s the thing that allows you to say “yes” instead of “no” and put a smile on a patron’s face. When I have a student who is dying for a renewal on a book they’ve already renewed once, it’s an easy win to make a phone call to one of my colleagues and know they’ll do more than just consider my plea for two more weeks. When I have a faculty member with an obscure citation, it brings value to my position to be able to say, “I know someone there who will be willing to look through several volumes of this journal to find the right article.” I call in favors because it’s what I can do to bring more value to the already valued ILL service. And my colleagues call in favors to me as well, and I happily help them make it happen for their patrons too. Even in the age of technology, it’s the little neighborly things that make all the difference.  We need more “yes” in the world.

When I emceed the ILL SIG UnConference in August 2015, I knew I could crack jokes about ILL that everyone would get. There’s so much comfort found in a room full of people who laugh together at the struggle that is convincing partner libraries to update their address fields in OCLC constant data so that address labels print correctly. At the same time, we share some struggles, and that event, I hope, showed us that we don’t always know the answer and we’re all just doing the best we can with the information we have. I also hope that the magic of being in the same room with others who share your struggles is something this group will be able to re-create at least annually. There is so much to be learned from face-to-face interactions and small side conversations, from shaking hands with someone from the library who always loses your paperwork or removes the book bands you don’t want removed. Maybe they don’t know. Maybe it’s not them; maybe it’s the mail room staff. Learn about their workflow and have them learn yours. Empathize deeply. Then work together to resolve problems.

After the work I’ve put into building the SIG, I now step down to let some extremely capable leaders shape this group into what it needs to become for the present and future. I have three wishes for this group:

  1. To keep to its core mission.
  2. To sustain itself and become a solid, reliable, and integral entity for all ILL practitioners in the region.
  3. To continue to grow and gather followers who actively participate in events (virtual and in-person), interact with this blog, and post in the Facebook group.

If there is one thing I want others to learn from my experience, it’s that you can’t wait around for the thing you need to suddenly appear in your lap. You can’t wait for someone else to do the work to make it happen. It’s up to you. Find the motivation and do it. You don’t have to be a supervisor or a librarian with a degree to do something important. If there is something out there to improve the quality of your work life, and you’re not getting it, find it. Make it. Do it. Find like-minded people. Do it together. Don’t be a stick in the mud or a curmudgeon. You are as happy as you want to be at work. If you hate it, get out. It’s that simple. If you want to like it, but it’s lacking/stressful/gives you anxiety, find some friends and make it better for yourself.

There is great value in working together. Always remember that.

With ILL love,

Jen Salvo-Eaton
Head of Resource Sharing at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Libraries
Founder of the Interlibrary Loan Special Interest Group
Chair, 2013-2014
Chair Emeritus, 2014-2015

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You’d fit right in! We’re accepting committee applications.


The new ILL Special Interest Group is off the ground, and we’re forming the committee for next year. This is a great way to get involved and get to know other ILL practitioners. We need you to make all the pieces fit. Open positions are: Member-­at-­Large #1, Member-­at-­Large #2, and the Vice­-chairperson.

Committee membership is open to any library employee. All experience levels are welcome to apply. Just fill out the application here.

To submit: Send your completed form to

Deadline: Monday, October 5, 2015

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ILL SIG Committee – What it’s like to be a member


Internet access, speakers/headphones, and a little bit of your time. That is all that it takes to be a part of the ILL SIG committee. (Although a microphone would also be super useful!) As we all might know, Interlibrary Loan provides for an endless need to learn from each other. This is what ILL SIG would like to accomplish, which we couldn’t do without the support of our committee– people from all over the region.

I work in the ILL Department at the University of Missouri – Kansas City. I joined SIG several months ago, because it was an opportunity for me to talk with other ILL people that I “work” with on an almost daily basis. I would feel very isolated at times because I worked from my computer all day, not really connecting with my peers. In actuality, I was working with these people, because they were on the other side of the requests I process. What a great connection SIG has made for me!

Since the beginning of the year, we focused most of our meeting time on the unConference, which was so very exciting. People from all over the region came to my university to discuss interlibrary loan topics with each other. Having never planned a conference before, I was amazed at how much I and my colleagues on the committee accomplished. Now with such a great turnout, I’m curious to see what’s next for us…. Workshops? Webinars? New members? Whatever it is, I look forward to being a part of what we will accomplish in the next year.

– Gabrielle Tuttle, University of Missouri Kansas City

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Big News! Check out our new name and new logo.

Our big news is that we’re an independent group with a new name and a new logo!  The Mid-America Library Alliance, MALA supported our group as we got our feet on the ground. We want to thank MALA for helping introduce our group to ILL practitioners. We’re an independent group now, the ILL Special Interest Group. What hasn’t changed is our goal to inspire a free exchange of ideas between Interlibrary Loan practitioners. Please think about joining our committee. Applications are here.

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A Successful unConference!

We were so happy to see almost seventy people turn out for our first unConference. Thank you so much for attending! The Miller Nichols Library and Learning Center on the UMKC campus was a lovely setting for an enthusiastic exchange of ILL ideas. You can take a look at the notes from breakout sessions here. Feel free to add your ideas.

If you attended, please fill out a quick survey here. We want to keep improving our events.

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Join the ILL Special Interest Group Committee

Come joininterlibrary-loan us!  The ILL Special Interest Group is looking for new members.  This is your chance to interact with ILL staff, take a leadership role, and make a difference in the ILL community.  Plus, it’s darn fun!

Do you meet the following qualifications?

  • You have a vested interest in interlibrary loan, resource sharing, and/or document delivery. This means you may or may not do these activities as primary job duties, but you do have a substantial connection with these activities in your job.
  • You are able to attend and participate in online meetings, and events or activities of the Committee. At times you will be asked to work between meetings and events via e-mail.

If so, we have the following positions open:

  • Vice-chairperson (3 year term)
  • Member-at-Large (2 year term)

More descriptions about the positions are available on the application form.  The deadline to apply is October 5, 2015.   All you have to do is download this application: ILLSIGApplication2015, fill it out and email it to us.  We hope to hear from you soon.

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