How to use ILL

As of October 27, 2021, an authorized Quebec vaccine passport and accompanying McGill ID OR a Fast-Pass sticker is required to pick up physical Interlibrary Loan materials. For more information, please see:

Preliminary step:

Please search the McGill Library catalogue before submitting an ILL request to determine whether the needed item is available in e-format from the McGill Library's collections.


Submit an ILL request

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. There are three different ways to create an ILL request. 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 Request via Sofia or Request via Interlibrary Loan 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.


Track 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



Interlibrary Loan is a service offered exclusively to:

  • Current McGill students
  • McGill Continuing Education students registered in a certificate or diploma program
  • Current and retired McGill professors
  • Current McGill staff



Due to financial limitations, ILL cannot accommodate requests related to personal hobbies and recreational interests, or requests submitted on behalf of non-McGill clientele. Needs of this nature may be met via membership to your local public library, such as Montreal’s Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ) Grande Bibliothèque.


Loan period

ILL materials are always due back 6 weeks from the date they were received at McGill.

For renewals, see Can I renew my loan?

Possible loan restrictions

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


Date due label

Do not remove the date due label affixed to the cover of the book. This 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.



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 ILL materials be returned by the due date (see affixed label).

Overdue ILL materials jeopardize the viability of the ILL service for all McGill users and incur significant costs and penalties for the service and individuals.

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


Lost or damaged ILL materials

You are responsible for ILL material in your possession. Please handle them with care.

In the event that material borrowed for you via ILL is damaged or lost while in your possession, please contact McGill’s Interlibrary Loan Service immediately. ILL materials that are damaged while in your possession must be returned to McGill’s Interlibrary Loan Service irrespective of their condition.

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

If the lending library decides to issue a replacement invoice for ILL material that was lost or damaged while in your possession, this invoice will be passed onto you.

Information (FAQs)

What types of documents can be borrowed through interlibrary loan?

There are no restrictions on the types of documents that can be requested. However, external libraries generally do not lend the following types of documents:

  • entire eBooks
  • manuscripts
  • Music recordings. 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
  • standards


Can I submit an ILL request for something that is owned by the McGill Library?

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.

The print format of titles that the McGill Library owns in e-format only can be requested via ILL. Please include "print format needed" in the "Special Instructions" field of the ILL request 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 Grande Bibliothèque.

In order to make the best use of limited funds, please pick up ILL material you order and respond promptly to emails or other communications from the staff of the ILL service.


How long does it take for ILL material to arrive?

Materials sent from a Canadian or an American institution will generally be received within 1-2 weeks. Materials sent from libraries located overseas can take longer to arrive.

Copy requests will generally be filled within 24 hours to 1 week.


What are the available pick-up locations?

ILL materials may be picked up at the following 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


Can I request a renewal?

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

Your request will be forwarded to the lending library. When we receive a reply from them, we will forward it to you.

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.


Is there a limit on the number of requests I can submit?

No. However, because the loan period for ILL materials is limited, and because we cannot guarantee that the lending library will be willing to grant a renewal, please be sure to pick up your material promptly. We also recommend that you spread out the submission of ILL requests for physical items so you will have enough time to use them before the loan period expires.


Can I leave ILL material on my study carrel?

No. You are responsible for ILL materials in your possession. Please do not leave ILL materials on your study carrel.

Troubleshoot  e-delivery

If you are having difficulties accessing an ILL document sent 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.





Questions? Ask us!  Chat • Email • Text • Call            Send feedback    Report a problem

Back to top