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FAQ about Interlibrary Loans (ILL) & Article/Chapter Scan & Deliver service

About the service


Who can use Concordia's ILL service?

All Concordia faculty (including retired faculty), staff and students (undergraduate and graduate) can use the Interlibrary Loans service. Alumni, Continuing Education students, BCI users, and other members of the external community cannot use Interlibrary Loans. If you are from the external community and you need to obtain an item from another library, try contacting your local public library's Interlibrary Loans service. If you're uncertain what class of borrower you are or what privileges you have, check our list of borrower types on the Library information for... page.

How do I access Colombo?
  • Your Concordia netname and password are required to access Colombo.
  • Access the service using the "Log into Colombo" button on the service's homepage.
  • Bookmarking tip: bookmark the service's homepage for future access, NOT the actual login page.
What am I allowed to do with material I receive through ILL?

Material received through ILL is protected by the Canadian copyright law and may only be used for the purpose of private study or research. Any other use may require the authorization of the copyright holder. (R.S.C. 1985, c. C-42, Sect. 30.2 or 30.21). Violation of copyright may result in civil and criminal proceedings. For further information on copyright please see Concordia University’s Policy on Copyright Compliance and Concordia Library’s Copyright Guide.

How long does it take to get books or journal articles?

Please note that because of the current Covid-19 situation, the turnaround time for filling ILL requests will be longer than normal.

The time taken to fill requests can vary considerably. Some materials might be acquired within 2 days, others may take 2 months. We borrow from libraries within Montreal and around the world, so it's very difficult to guarantee delivery times. However, books generally take at least 1 week to arrive after a request is submitted, and most articles take 24-48 hours to arrive.

If you do not need the item after a certain date, be sure to indicate this on the COLOMBO request form, but please note that indicating a date will not rush your request but will cause it to be cancelled following the date you provide.

Is there a charge for the ILL service?

Most ILL materials are free, including books, media materials and photocopies of journal articles.

There are some exceptions, for example, when lending libraries cannot supply an original document, but instead supply a photocopy. In such cases, the ILL Office charges the full amount of the supplier’s invoice, including currency exchange. These charges usually apply to photocopies of entire reports and/or theses, as well as for microfiche and microfilm reproductions. In case of such a charge, the ILL office will contact you before proceeding with a request.

Fees have to be paid (by credit card) online, through your Library account.

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What can be requested


Can I place an ILL request for an ebook?

Unfortunately, the Interlibrary Loans department cannot fulfill requests for an entire ebook. We can try to obtain the print version or request a specific chapter at best. Licensing restrictions prohibit the sharing and disseminating of ebooks between institutions. Concordia University faculty, students and staff members may request the Library consider buying an ebook using the suggest-a-purchase form.

Can I request a thesis?

Full-text theses may be available online. Check the Library's guide on How to find dissertations, theses and research papers for a list of sources providing fulltext access to theses.

If the dissertation or thesis you need is not available in full text, you can request it through ILL. Every effort is made to obtain a thesis or dissertation free of charge from another library or educational institution. When that is not possible, we can order a copy of American and some Canadian theses directly from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, however, there is often a charge. We will contact you to confirm the price before proceeding with the order.

Can I request media material?

Some libraries do not lend media material, however, we encourage you to make your request and we will do our best to obtain the item.

Is there anything that cannot be borrowed through ILL?

Interlibrary loans is a service whose primary goal is to obtain research material Concordia Library does not own, therefore material that is part of the Concordia Library collection, including textbooks in the Course Reserves collection, cannot be borrowed.

Should you find that a book you need is hard to access (ex: book on reserve), you can suggest that an additional copy be purchased for the collection.

We encourage you to check the Library's Discovery Search, before placing a request in Colombo. If you are requesting something that the Library catalogue says we have in the Library but you have confirmed it is not available (it is recommended you seek help at one of our service points), please make a note of this in your request.

Otherwise, most requests interlibrary loans receives can be borrowed from other libraries. However, you should be aware that most libraries will not lend:

  • Entire volumes or issues of periodicals
  • Entire ebooks
  • Reference material
  • Rare books or original manuscripts
  • Newspapers or other bulky materials in their original format

You will be contacted by e-mail if we cannot obtain the material you requested.

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Monitoring, picking-up and returning requests


Can I cancel my request?

Yes, it is possible to cancel requests. Once you have logged into Colombo click on "My Requests", identify the request you want to cancel, then look for a button that says "cancel".

To see cancelled requests check off "Show everything" upon accessing "My Requests". The following message should appear in the request: "Request no longer required". Note that the option to cancel will not appear if your request has already been shipped (i.e. sent to Concordia University Libraries by the lending institution).

How will I know when my request is ready?

When your item is ready for pickup, we will send you an email. If you need to update your email address see the Library's Email information page.

How can I check the status of my request?

Your COLOMBO record will indicate the status of each request you've made. See our page on Monitoring Your Requests. If you would like more specific information about your request, please contact the Interlibrary Loans office by email ( Note that if we can't find a library to supply the item you requested, or if there is any other problem with your request, we will send you an email. If you need to update your email address see the Library's Email information page.

Where do I pick up and drop off my ILL materials?

When placing an ILL request, you can select either the Vanier Library or the Webster Library as your pickup location.

ILL material (ex: books) will be ready for pickup at the Vanier Library 72 hours after receipt of an ILL email notification, excluding weekends. You may pickup your item(s) at the Circulation Services desk during opening hours.

For the Webster Library, you may pickup your item(s) from the Loans & Returns desk on the main floor of the Library (LB2) during opening hours.

ILL material borrowed from another institution should be returned at book drops on either campus (on LB-1 or outside the Vanier Library Building).

Most requests for copies of articles or parts of works will now come to you via email. The email will contain a link/URL. Clicking on the URL will lead to a webpage with a copyright statement. You will be asked to confirm that you have understood the legal uses of the document before proceeding to your document. After viewing the document once, it will remain available via the URL for 5 business days.

I requested an article and the email notification says I need to pick it up at the library, why am I not receiving an electronic copy?

Not all articles can be delivered electronically. In some cases, due to licensing or copyright restrictions, lending libraries may only allow for print copies of an article to be delivered to a requester. In these cases, articles will need to be picked up at the Webster or Vanier Library.

My pickup location is Vanier Library. Why do I have to wait 72 hours to get my item?

All Interlibrary Loans material is received at the downtown ILL office, and processed there. Items that are for pickup at the Vanier Library are sent via Inter-Campus mail, thus the delay of 72 hours. If you get a notice on Friday saying your item is ready for pickup at Vanier Library in 72 hours, wait until at least Wednesday before picking it up at Vanier; you may want to call the Vanier Library at (514) 848-2424 ex. 7791 to be sure your item has arrived.

I requested Vanier as a pickup location but when I submitted my request COLOMBO said the pickup location was Webster. What can I do?

When you finish making a request in COLOMBO, on the confirmation screen under "Request Details" it will show your pickup location as Webster Library - the system will do this even if you have selected Vanier Library as your pickup location. This is a system setting that cannot be changed.

pickup location

When you receive your e-mail notice telling you your item is ready to be picked up, it will have the correct pickup location (either Webster or Vanier Library).

I need this book for longer than the period indicated, what can I do?

The lending library establishes the conditions under which borrowed material may be loaned. Concordia Interlibrary Loans staff agreed to borrow the item under those conditions and users are expected to adhere to the conditions of the loan, whether they are faculty or students. Sometimes this may mean that your item must be used within the library, or cannot be renewed.

When you pick up your book or media item, it will come with a yellow slip which has a due date at the top. It will also indicate whether or not you can renew the item. If it says "No renewals" then you can't renew (no exceptions), and if you need the book for a longer period, you will have to re-order it using COLOMBO. If it does not say "No renewals" then you can contact the Webster Library Interlibrary Loans Office by email ( at least three days before the item is due to ask them to renew it for you. Please note that only one renewal is allowed per item.

Your item must be returned or renewed by the due date given, if not, your Interlibrary Loan privileges may be suspended.

Note: Your item may be renewed automatically a few days before its due date. If that happens you will receive an email notification.

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I cannot login to Colombo - What do I do?

The following are some circumstances which may cause you to be barred from access to Colombo:

  • You may be trying to login from the wrong webpage. Access is from the "Log into Colombo" button on the Service's homepage.
  • You have outstanding fines.
  • Your library record is expired.
  • You have not returned by the due date an item you borrowed via interlibrary loans.
  • You do not have an email address in your My Library Account.
  • You have not enabled cookies in your Internet browser (ex: Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, Safari). Cookies must be enabled for the authentication to function.
  • You are a new student, faculty or staff. Insure you have a Concordia University ID card, and that the barcode number from the card appears in your library record.
  • You are not a Concordia University faculty, student or staff.

Please contact the Circulation Desk at Vanier or Webster Libraries for help resolving any issues with your library record.

Why am I seeing the message "Some fields were not supplied or were invalid" when I try to submit my request?

You did not fill out all required elements of the form or you may have manually entered a date in the "Not needed after" field - note that you must use the calendar in COLOMBO to fill in the date.

I searched for my item using the advanced search in Colombo, but didn't find it, why?

COLOMBO only searches a certain number of libraries - staff in Interlibrary Loans have access to many more library catalogues where they can search for your item. If you can't find your item in COLOMBO, use the Create Request button (on the left-hand menu in COLOMBO, see below):

creat request

This opens a blank request form that you can fill in and submit.

For journal article requests - be aware that individual journal articles are not indexed in COLOMBO, so you can't use it to find an article. Instead search for the title of the journal in quotes (ex: "ASHRAE Journal"), and if you find it, click the "Get It!" button. Be sure to fill in the information about that particular article (in the "Part Details" section of the form). Or you can use the Create Request button.

Just because you don't find something in COLOMBO doesn't mean that the ILL office can't get it for you. Use the "Create Request" button to fill out a blank form and we will do our best to locate your requested item.

I'm getting a "Timeout" error message, what do I do?

The most common technical problem encountered when using COLOMBO from your home computer is a "Timeout error message":

timeout error

This error message seems to be related to your browser's Cookies and/or privacy settings. To solve the problem, please try one or both of the following:

  1. Clear out your web browser's temporary internet file and cookie file
    • In Internet Explorer, from the Tools menu, choose Internet Options. Click both the "Delete Cookies" and "Delete Files" buttons.
    • If you use a different browser, please consult its documentation or Help files on how to clear cookies and cache.
  2. Temporarily lower your browser's privacy settings*
    • In Internet Explorer, from the "Tools" menu, choose "Internet Options". Click on the "Privacy" tab, and put the setting to "low".
  3. After completing the steps in #1 and 2, above, close any browser windows that are open.
  4. Open a fresh web browser window and go to the COLOMBO sign-in page
  5. Sign in with your library barcode and PIN and begin a new search.

*Note: you can return your internet browser's privacy settings back to the previous level after you have submitted your COLOMBO request.

If you are still experiencing problems after this process, please contact the ILL Office.

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Electronic Delivery: Viewing and printing requests


Adapted with permission from the California Digital Library and McGill Library (August 20, 2013)

Why was my document deleted?

When trying to access your document, the message “Unable to retrieve document: The document has been deleted” will appear 5 working days following the date you first viewed the document. This is in conformity with the Canadian Copyright Act.

Why is nothing happening when I click on the link to my document?
  1. Make sure that your web browser has JavaScript enabled. Get browser specific instructions here.
  2. 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.
I only see every other page of my article? Where are the missing pages?

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.

What do I do if 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. Here are the steps:

  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.

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Electronic Delivery: Adobe Reader and PDFs


Adapted with permission from the California Digital Library and McGill Library (August 20, 2013)

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

To access your document you will need Adobe Reader.

You will find information about how to enable the Adobe Reader web browser plugin here.

What do I do if I see the message “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?

See the Adobe Reader Support page.

The following is a list of pages which may also be helpful:

What do I do if I get the error message “one or more Adobe PDF Extensions are disabled” when I open a PDF?

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 the 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.

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Where to get more help

Please contact the Interlibrary Loans Office.

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Updated: Friday 7 January 2022
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