How to use Colombo ILL

Please search the McGill Library catalogue before submitting an ILL request. If the title you need is owned by the McGill Library, you may:

  • Request that the book be retrieved for your use
  • Submit a scan request to have copies of book chapters or journal articles from the print collections delivered to your e-mail

How to use Colombo ILL

McGill students and faculty may order articles and books that are not owned by the McGill Library through the Interlibrary Loan Service (ILL) called Colombo. Creating an ILL request can be done in three different ways. For instructions, please choose one of the following methods:

Most convenient method

The most convenient method for placing an ILL request is to click or when you see these buttons in a database or in the library catalogue.
Log in using your McGill username and password. The citation information from the database or catalogue record will automatically transfer into the ILL request form.

Standard method

The standard method to place an ILL request is by searching within the Colombo ILL system.

  1. To log in to Colombo, go to and click on

  2. Choose Advanced Search

    Choose Advanced Search

  3. Type the book or journal title in quotations

    Type the title in quotes

  4. From the Current Profile menu, select Suggested Verification Sources.

    Choose current profile

  5. Click the Search button

    Search button

  6. On the results screen, click Get it.

    Click Get It!

  7. If you are requesting a book, select a Pickup Location from the menu.

    Choose a pickup location

  8. If you are requesting a journal article or book chapter, fill in the Part Details section of the request form.

  9. Click on the Request button. A confirmation message will display

    Click the Request button

Last resort method

If you do not succeed in placing your request using one of the other methods, you may and choose Create Request to fill in a blank form.

Choose Create Request

How to renew an ILL

To request a renewal, log in to Colombo and choose My Requests. Click Renew and enter your Desired Date Due.

You will receive an email that will either confirm or decline your renewal request.

Please note that the supplying library makes the final decision on the granting of renewals.

While we will do our best to accommodate all renewal requests, there may be a discrepancy between your desired due date and the due date granted.


Tracking ILL orders

Follow these steps to track the progress of your ILL requests using Colombo ILL.

  1. Choose My Requests from the left side menu.

  2. Be sure to tick the Show everything box.

  3. The status field informs you of the progress of your request.

    your request is now cancelled
    your request is now completed
    your request has been received by the Central ILL Service
    No holdings found
    the Central ILL service continues to seek potential suppliers
    the item is overdue at the supplying library which requests its return
    your request has been sent to a potential supplying library
    the item has been recalled by the supplying library. Please return it immediately
    your requested item has arrived. Check your email for pickup time and location
    your requested item has been sent back to the supplying library
    your requested item has been shipped but has not yet arrived

Troubleshooting  e-delivery

If you are having difficulties with an ILL document which was delivered to you electronically, please read the following information.

The email containing my ILL document went to my junk mail. What should I do?

In order to prevent the emails containing your ILL documents from going to your junk mail folder, you will need to add to your list of safe senders ''. Follow the instructions below for either Microsoft Outlook or the Outlook Web App depending on how you access your McGill email.

Instructions for Microsoft Outlook:

  1. Open Microsoft Outlook.
  2. In the upper left corner of the window, click on the  tab.
  3. Click on the  button, and choose  from the menu.
  4. In the Junk Email Options window, click on the  tab.
  5. Click the  button, type '' then click OK.
  6. Click Apply to save your changes.

Instructions for the Outlook Web App:

  1. Go to and log in using your McGill email and password.
  2. Click on  and choose  from the menu.
  3. On the left hand side, choose .
  4. Under Safe Senders and Recipients, type the domain name '' and click the  sign.
  5. Click  in the bottom right hand side to save your settings.

Emails sent to you from '' should no longer be sent to your junk mail folder.

Why was my document deleted?

I see the message: "Unable to retrieve document: The document has been deleted."

The document has been automatically deleted because the limited access period has expired.  In conformity with Canadian Copyright Law, your document is available for 5 days from the date first viewed.

Nothing happens when I click on the link to my document

Make sure that your web browser has JavaScript enabled. Get browser specific instructions here

You may have an active pop-up blocker. To allow a pop-up window to appear on a one-time basis, press and hold the CTRL key as you click on a link.

My web browser cannot open PDF documents. What should I do?

The Interlibrary Loan Service recommends that you use Adobe Reader to view PDF documents. You can download Adobe Reader from the Adobe website

You will find information about how to enable the Adobe Reader web browser plugin by following this link.

I see "file does not begin with %PDF..."

If you are using Acrobat Reader you need to update to Adobe Reader.

In Acrobat Reader, open the Help menu and choose "Check for updates".

Follow the instructions to download the most recent version of Adobe Reader from the Adobe site

Where do I find technical support for Adobe Reader?

Adobe Reader Support:

Here is la list of articles which might be helpful to you:

Error message "...Adobe PDF Extensions are disabled" appears?

If you are using Internet Explorer and are seeing this message while trying to open your document, the following steps should help resolve the problem :

  1. Open Internet Options in Control Panel and click the Advanced tab.
  2. Select the check box, Enable Third-Party Browser Extensions.
  3. Click OK, and then restart Internet Explorer.

If this does not resolve the problem, try the following:

  1. In Adobe Reader, open the Help menu.
  2. Click the menu item Repair Adobe Reader Installation.
  3. Choose Yes to repair the current installation of Adobe Reader.

I only see every other page of my article. Where is the rest of it?

Go to the View menu then choose Zoom to adjust the size of the image or try scrolling up, down, right and left. This may reveal the rest of the document.

The printout appears to be sliced into vertical pieces...

Problems can occur when printing a PDF file. For example, a PDF file can contain damaged content such as images or fonts that Adobe Reader cannot process during printing.

Please ensure that your version of Adobe Reader is up to date by going to the Help menu and choosing "Check for updates". Once your version of Adobe Reader has been updated, try printing your document again.

If this does not resolve the problem, choose "Print As Image" in the Adobe Reader printer settings. This bypasses many problems by sending the printer an image of your document. Note that this can cause images and fonts to look slightly rougher, especially at the edges.

  1. Open the PDF file in Adobe Reader.
  2. Open the File menu and choose Print.
  3. Click on the Advanced button.
  4. Select the Print As Image option.
  5. Click OK, and then Print.

None of the above solutions worked for me. What should I do next?

If you still have problems obtaining your document, please contact McGill Library’s Central ILL Service from Monday to Friday 8am-5pm either by telephone 514-398-4732 or by email colombo.library [at]

Information and policies

Who is eligible to use the Interlibrary Loan (ILL) service?

Interlibrary Loan service is offered exclusively to current and retired McGill professors, and to current students and staff as part of their teaching, learning, research and work activities at McGill University. Continuing Education students currently registered in a certificate or diploma program may request material related to courses in the program. Non-academic staff may request work-related materials. Library accounts must be in good standing, e.g. not blocked for any reason.


Due to financial limitations, ILL cannot accommodate requests related to hobbies and recreational interests or requests submitted on behalf of non-McGill clientele.  Needs of this nature may be met via a public library membership such as Montreal’s exceptional Grande Bibliothèque.

What types of documents can be borrowed through interlibrary loan?

There are no restrictions to the types of documents that can be requested. However, external libraries have their own policies regarding documents they will supply. External libraries may impose certain restrictions on the use of their materials (e.g. consultation in Rare Books).

Generally, external libraries do not lend the following types of documents:

  • eBooks
  • films (dvd, vhs)
  • manuscripts
  • Music recordings are rarely circulated through inter-library loan. If there is a music recording (audio or video) you need but were not able to locate either in the Library catalogue or in the streaming audio/video collection, you can submit a suggestion to the Marvin Duchow Music Library for purchase consideration.
  • newspapers in their original formats
  • original archival material
  • periodical bound volumes or individual issues
  • rare books or published before 1850
  • reference books
  • software

Interlibrary Loan requests submitted for documents that can be found in the collections of McGill Library are not forwarded to external libraries unless they are labeled as lost or missing in the library’s catalogue. 

However, requests may be submitted for the print format of books that the McGill Library has in electronic format.  Kindly mention "print format needed" in the "Special Instructions" field of the ILL web form in order to expedite a request for the print format.

How much does interlibrary loan cost?

There is no charge to users for material obtained via interlibrary loans. However due to financial limitations, the ILL service cannot accommodate requests related to hobbies and recreational interests, or requests submitted on behalf of non-McGill clientele. Needs of this nature may be met via a public library membership such as Montreal’s exceptional Grande Bibliothèque.

How long does it take for a document to arrive?

Documents that are sent from a Canadian or an American institution will generally be received within 1-2 weeks.  Documents sent from Europe can take longer.

Photocopies of journal articles, conference proceedings, or chapters of a book will generally be received within 24 hours to 1 week.

The amount of time it takes for an interlibrary loan document to arrive is variable and is affected by factors such as the complexity of the request, the rarity of the material, the location and the local policies of the lending institution (some require advance payment), the postal and courier services used.

What is the duration of the loan?

ILL documents are always due back 3 weeks from the date the document was received at McGill.

Things you must know:

The majority of institutions lend their documents for a maximum period of three weeks. For renewals, see Can I renew my loan? below.

The lending library may impose restrictions as a condition of the loan, such as in-library consultation, or no photocopying.

The McGill Library’s interlibrary loan service is obliged to respect all conditions prescribed by the lending institution for documents borrowed  on behalf of McGill faculty and students.  Failure to respect restrictions including due dates may cause the McGill Library to lose ILL borrowing privileges with a particular institution. It is therefore imperative that all library users respect the due date imposed by the lending library as indicated on the label affixed to the borrowed documents.

What are the available pick-up locations?

Here are the branch library locations on campus where you can pick up and return your documents. With each ILL request that you submit you have the possibility of selecting one of the following pick-up locations:

  • Birks Reading Room
  • Education Curriculum Resources Centre
  • Humanities & Social Sciences Library
  • Islamic Studies Library
  • Macdonald Campus Library
  • Marvin Duchow Music Library
  • Nahum Gelber Law Library
  • Osler Library of the History of Medicine
  • Schulich Library of Physical Sciences, Life Sciences, and Engineering

Can I renew my loan?

To request a renewal, log in to Colombo and choose My Requests.  Click Renew and enter your Desired Date Due.

You will receive an email that will either confirm or decline your renewal request.

Please note that the supplying library makes the final decision on the granting of renewals.

While we will do our best to accommodate all renewal requests, there may be a discrepancy between your desired due date and the due date granted.

Can I remove the label that is affixed to the cover?

Do not remove the ILL label affixed to the cover of the book. This ILL label identifies the book as belonging to another library. If the label is removed, the book may be lost or misshelved with the rest of the McGill Library collection.

What should I do if I can't return my ILL document on time?

It is essential that you return ILL materials on time.

In order to ensure McGill University Library maintains its good standing with external partner libraries, it is very important that McGill students and faculty return ILL books, scores, etc. on the due date (see affixed label).

Overdue ILL books, scores, etc. jeopardize the viability of the ILL service for all McGill users and incur significant costs and penalties for the service and individuals.

If you would like to request a renewal, please see Can I renew my loan?

If you will be away from Montreal, kindly make arrangements for ILL books to be returned by the due date.

The Central ILL Service may be reached at:
Telephone: 514-398-4732
Email: colombo.library [at]

What do I do if an ILL book is lost or damaged while in my possession?

Materials obtained via interlibrary should be handled with care.

In the unfortunate event that a book or other material borrowed for you via ILL is damaged or lost while in your possession, please contact McGill’s interlibrary Loan Service immediately. All ILL -borrowed books or other material are the property of the external library which loaned them. Therefore, ILL books that are damaged while in your possession must be returned to McGill’s Interlibrary Loan Service irrespective of their condition, even if you have paid for a replacement.

McGill users may not empower themselves to keep, destroy or dispose of any returnable materials obtained via ILL.  

Upon receiving the damaged ILL item, the external lending library will advise McGill’s Interlibrary Loan Service whether an invoice will be issued for the cost of replacement, which may include a supplementary processing charge. If an invoice is issued, the cost of replacement will be passed on to the McGill user.

Contact ILL

colombo.library [at]



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