Document delivery is a service offered by academic libraries that allows distance education students to access or obtain the research materials required for their studies. These services find the document and send a copy of it to the student (Calvert, 2001). Document delivery services aim to provide the same level of service to on-campus students and to off-campus students. They provide access to library materials at the student’s home institution as well as from other libraries. Document delivery services for distance students are generally part of a library’s Interlibrary Loan Department but document delivery can be a separate department. Some libraries have a division or department dedicated to serving distance students and document delivery is handled there when they exist. In the United States, regional accreditation agencies consider document delivery services to be a vital part of a distance education program. For example, the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools’ Guidelines for Distance Education emphasize that students should have access to the appropriate library resources for the field of study (2000).
More libraries are creating a department for serving distance students. In addition to document delivery, these departments provide reference services and library instruction. They develop web sites for distance students and collaborate with faculty teaching distance courses (Slade, 2000). Libraries will also form a consortium to collaborate together in helping distance students. Another trend is higher user expectations for online full-text access to documents and faster delivery of requested documents. Not everything published is available online now nor will it be in the future, but the increase in full-text access through indexes and databases creates an expectation with users that everything can be found online (Ressel & Syring, 2002). Enhanced library catalogs will display a book’s table of contents so that users can request particular pages be sent to them rather than the entire book (Jackson, 2004). Finally, new interlibrary loan management systems will give users the capability of checking the status of their requests (Ressel & Syring, 2002).