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Fact Sheet


DOCLINE is the National Library of Medicine's automated interlibrary loan (ILL) request routing and referral system. The purpose of the system is to provide improved document delivery service among libraries in the National Network of Libraries of Medicine® (NN/LM®) by linking journal holdings to efficiently route the requests to potential lending libraries on behalf of the borrower.

Requests can be created, routed, received, and filled in this system. DOCLINE participants can also check the status of requests for which they are either the borrower or lender. The online manual, available through the system, assists the user with the steps needed to accomplish these functions.

Participation in DOCLINE

DOCLINE serves over 2,250 U.S., Canadian, and Mexican medical libraries at no cost. Some selected national and major medical libraries in other countries also have DOCLINE access. Health sciences libraries and libraries at institutions with a health sciences mission are eligible to apply for access to the DOCLINE system. Libraries may join DOCLINE as part of their affiliation with the NN/LM as either a full member or affiliate member. See DOCLINE Eligibility Guidelines for a full description. All potential U.S. DOCLINE libraries must contact their Regional Medical Library (RML) to determine their level of eligibility and apply for participation. The toll free phone number for all eight regions is: 410-706-4173. The RML will establish records for new DOCLINE users, assign them login codes and passwords, and assist them through the application process.

Libraries in Canada should contact the NRC's National Science Library.

Libraries in other parts of the world should send an email to: custserv@nlm.nih.gov to inquire about DOCLINE participation. Please include information about the nature of your institution, the size of your collection, who you serve and whether you are willing to serve patrons outside of your institution or country.

Description of DOCLINE System

DOCLINE consists of three main modules: 1) Institutions - participant institutional information, including address, contact names, interlibrary loan services, NN/LM membership information, and routing tables; 2) SERHOLD® (Serial Holdings) - journal holdings information; and, 3) Requests - the functions of Borrow, Lend and Status/Cancel.


All DOCLINE participants maintain their own records in the Institutions module of DOCLINE. An institution record represents the description of one library, including the institutional name and address, interlibrary loan policy data, and routing information. If an institution has more than one library associated with it, each will have a separate institution record. Each institution record is assigned a LIBID (Library Identifier) that is used throughout the system.

Libraries establish routing tables in Institutions based on the collections of journal holdings reported in the Serial Holdings module, and according to their own local routing patterns. Requests are routed only to libraries which are included in the stored routing table of the borrower and which are identified as holders of the requested material. The system automatically balances the workload among potential lenders. Requesters also have the option to select one preferred lender for each request. If that lender does not fill the request, automatic routing then occurs.


To create an interlibrary loan request, the borrowing library selects from a menu of four request options to begin the ordering process: 1) Unique Key: If a user already has a PubMed Unique Identifier (PMID), an NLM unique identifier, an OCLC number or ISSN, they may select the "Unique Key" feature and begin a request there; 2) PubMed®: User orders directly from PubMed and sends order to DOCLINE; 3) LocatorPlus: User orders non-MEDLINE titles using NLM's online catalog; or 4) Manual: If the user has searched and cannot locate a title in PubMed or LocatorPlus, users may manually enter bibliographic data to request an item. All requests are automatically sent to a library which owns the requested material, except Manual requests which are sent to a user defined list of libraries. Each request can be edited quickly to add information for lenders, change default information or correct errors before releasing the request to the system for routing to a potential lending library.

Lenders receive and print their requests daily at their local workstations. After a request is either filled or not filled, the lender updates the record so the borrower is informed of its status. DOCLINE also manages the length of time a potential lender may hold onto a request before responding through a series of "time-triggered" actions. The system provides warnings to lenders if requests are pending and no action has been taken. DOCLINE users may check the status of their requests both as a borrower and lender.

DOCLINE Serial Holdings

Data collected and stored in the Serial Holdings module of DOCLINE provides the information used by DOCLINE's automatic routing feature. Serial Holdings contains over 1.4 million journal holdings for over 3,000 libraries. Libraries may add, edit or delete holdings records at any time. Since DOCLINE uses holdings records for routing, libraries may only add journal holdings for those titles for which they can provide interlibrary loan. DOCLINE routing depends on the accuracy of holdings records in the Serial Holdings module.

Loansome Doc®

Individual users of NLM's PubMed do not have access to DOCLINE, but they can make use of its services by ordering documents through Loansome Doc, a document ordering service. Loansome Doc is an easy and effective way for DOCLINE libraries to serve their users by providing them an online request feature for PubMed citations. All Loansome Doc users ordering documents must identify a DOCLINE library or libraries willing to serve them (referred to as their Ordering Library). The user performs a PubMed search, reviews the citations retrieved, and identifies specific articles to request from their library. Requests from Loansome Doc users are sent to their library in DOCLINE so the library has a single point of service.

Management Information

Each DOCLINE member library receives quarterly summary reports on its activity as a lender and as a borrower. These reports are available online. Reports in greater depth including, for example, collection development data, are produced annually.


The Electronic Fund Transfer System (EFTS) is a billing system used by medical libraries in the U.S. and Canada. Participants establish an account with the University of Connecticut Health Center. Lenders upload billing data for DOCLINE or other transactions. Their accounts are credited and Borrowers' accounts are debited. Lenders pay a three percent (3%) fee of the amount collected. EFTS has virtually eliminated the need to create invoices and write checks for reimbursement for interlibrary loans and document delivery between participants. Among the advantages are monthly detailed transaction based reports, the ability to handle variable charges and the ability to handle non-DOCLINE transactions. NLM participates in the EFTS for billing DOCLINE libraries for NLM-supplied documents.

Service Desk

For assistance with using DOCLINE or for questions about the system, please use our 'Contact Us' web form and click on the link that best fits your inquiry, or you may send an email to: custserv@nlm.nih.gov or call DOCLINE Support at 1-888-FINDNLM (346-3656).

Training and Documentation

DOCLINE is easy to learn without formal training; however, many RML's do offer training sessions.  DOCLINE Help is available online. In addition, all DOCLINE participants are encouraged to subscribe to NLM's electronic mail discussion list, DOCLINE-L, through which important announcements are made, including new features or scheduled downtime. Instructions for subscribing to DOCLINE-L are available at: //www.nlm.nih.gov/docline/newdocline_l.html. Additional information about DOCLINE may be found on NLM's DOCLINE System page at: //www.nlm.nih.gov/docline/.


DOCLINE is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with the exception of scheduled downtime for system maintenance.

For further information concerning DOCLINE please contact:

Collection Access Section
National Library of Medicine
8600 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, MD 20894
(301) 496-5511
Email: custserv@nlm.nih.gov

For general information on NLM services, contact:

National Library of Medicine
Customer Service
8600 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, MD 20894
Telephone: 1-888-FINDNLM (1-888-346-3656)
email: //www.nlm.nih.gov/contacts/contact.html
NLM Customer Service Form at Contact NLM

A complete list of NLM Fact Sheets is available at:

(alphabetical list) http://www.nlm.nih.gov/pubs/factsheets/factsheets.html

(subject list): http://www.nlm.nih.gov/pubs/factsheets/factsubj.html

Or write to:

Office of Communications and Public Liaison
National Library of Medicine
8600 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, Maryland 20894

Phone: (301) 496-6308
Fax: (301) 496-4450
email: publicinfo@nlm.nih.gov