Libraries offer a host of information and other services to their customers. Not all libraries offer all these services, and libraries may also to a greater or lesser degree restrict certain (or all) services to particular customers. A good knowledge of the available library and other information services (both free and fee-based) is essential for any serious scholarly work.
InterLibrary & Document Delivery Services
Overview: Interlibrary Loan [ILL] services allow students and scholars to have access to a host of materials unavailable at their home institution, but held by one of hundreds of participating institutions worldwide. Because many libraries are focusing on customer access rather than physical ownership, ILL has become an important means of providing access to lesser used materials.
Limitations: There are limits to Interlibrary Loan. For example, because of the costs incurred by the institution, ILL is generally limited to those affiliated with that institution. Additionally, there are many materials that are less likely to circulate through ILL (media, archival materials, etc.).
Benefits: However, because of the ease of sending material electronically (in PDF format), articles or book chapters can often be delivered in days instead of the weeks or months that books or other physical items can take. And though borrowing physical items usually does take longer, many libraries have consortial borrowing agreements with other institutions that can facilitate the timely delivery of materials.
Identifying Materials for InterLibary Loan: Be sure to check your own library's holdings carefully before requesting an item or article through ILL. Once you have determined that your institution does not have the item, use Worldcat or RLIN (or RedLightGreen, the free version of RLIN) to 1) get any additional bibliographic information your ILL dept. may need to identify the item (edition, OCLC number, ISBN number, etc.); and to 2) find out which other institutions own the item. Knowing which and how many institutions own the item can give you a better sense of whether or not a loan will be possible and how long it might take -- e.g. if the item is owned by just a handful of institutions, or only by a foreign library, the chances of getting it are pretty slim.
For more information on the procedures and policies around ILL, contact your library. If you are not affiliated with an academic library, try your public library, as they also often provide InterLibrary Loan services, though usually of a more limited scope.
Overview: Document Delivery basically encompasses the delivery of any kind of documents not done through the traditional ILL channels. It usually focuses on the delivery of materials already held by the library to affiliated or unaffiliated customers (e.g. pulling books and sending them to departmental addresses, delivering items from branch libraries or off-site storage locations, pulling and photocopying, faxing, or scanning articles, book chapters, or archival materials and delivering them to customers on or off campus, etc.). Document delivery services are often fee-based, and may, thus also be available to those unaffiliated with the institution. They may also include some research services. If you are unable to get an article or copy of an archival document through ILL, it is often worthwhile to see if it might be available, for a fee, through the institution's Document Delivery services.
Reference Desks, Virtual Reference/Chat/IM & In-Depth Consultations
Nearly every academic library out there has one or more reference desks (some centered on their Slavic collections), a virtual reference system of some sort, and subject specialists that can be scheduled for in-depth reference consultations. While general reference specialists (at a standard reference desk, or manning a virtual reference service) may not know much about things Slavic, they will be well-versed in basic reference materials, complex search strategies and the other services their institutions provide, so always try contacting them as a first step.
The Slavic Reference Service at the University of Illinois is a federally funded reference and document delivery service. It is free. They provide service in-person, through email, over the phone, and through a virtual reference service (available from 9-3 Central time). They also loan out materials (usually in coordination with your institution's ILL, but other options are available). This is a fabulous service. Please use it if your local library is unable to assist you with your research needs. For more information or to use the service, go to: http://www.library.uiuc.edu/spx/srs.htm
There are a number of excellent Slavic-oriented listservs that can help with reference and research questions. Please see the Listservs subsection of the Associations page for more information.
There are many fee-based reference, research and document delivery services out there. Because of the excellent free services listed above, generally these should not be necessary for most students & scholars. Those that may be of the most use are those that deal with the delivery of materials from abroad or with research services in distant archives.