Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

Why is RACER going away?

For more than 20 years, the Ontario Council of University Libraries (OCUL) has been coordinating the sharing of physical resources between the province’s academic libraries through RACER, a shared interlibrary loan service delivered by Scholars Portal. In mid-2024, the software RACER is built on will reach its end of life. OCUL is committed to supporting coordinated resource sharing, however, Scholars Portal will sunset RACER in spring 2024 due to this software discontinuance.

The interlibrary loan landscape is very different now than it was when RACER launched in 2003. Most universities across Ontario can easily request from one another through the Omni network, and UofT’s LibrarySearch can also connect to Omni libraries. You can still get all the material you need–you will just need to submit your requests in a different place.

How does RACER work?

RACER (Rapid Access to Collections by Electronic Requesting) is an interlibrary loan (ILL) service that lets Ontario university staff, faculty, and students request material not available at their own institution. When you search RACER, you are searching many library catalogues at once. If you request an item that the system can match with a location, your request will be sent to that location’s ILL department automatically. If you request an item that’s more difficult to find, your own school’s ILL department will try to track it down first in Ontario, then in Canada, and then at schools around the world. RACER is managed by Scholars Portal, a service of the Ontario Council of University Libraries.

Who can use RACER?

As a Scholars Portal service, RACER is available to students, faculty, and staff at most Ontario universities (some universities are now accepting ILL requests only through Omni or LibrarySearch). Some institutions also extend usage to alumni, usually for a fee. If you’re not sure if you qualify, contact your local ILL department.

How do I register for an account?

Registration procedures vary from school to school. Consult your school’s page for information on registration.

What should I do if I forget my password?

You will need to contact your local ILL department to have your password reset.

What is the best way to search RACER?

Most users will find the Advanced Search more useful than the Basic. You can search using very specific criteria if you are looking for a known item, or simply enter subject heading terms to look at a large collection of relevant resources.

When searching for articles, remember that you want to search for the title of the journal, rather than the title of the article. Volume, issue, and article details should be filled in on the request form after you’ve found the right journal.

Do I have to search RACER?

No. If you have all the details of the item you’re looking for, you can simply fill out a blank request form. Searching RACER may save time as, if the item is found, your request form will be pre-populated with the information from your search result.

Can I search RACER without an account?

Yes! You can use the “Guest Access” button to search RACER. You will not be able to place any requests while on Guest Access mode.

How much does it cost to borrow using RACER?

The cost of borrowing through RACER is heavily subsidized by your university. In most cases, there is no charge for borrowing a book from another Canadian university. Consult your local ILL policies for details. Your interlibrary loan department will usually contact you and confirm that you are willing to pay any charges beyond the stated amount.

If your item is overdue or has been recalled, you will be charged according to your library’s policies.

If an item is lost or damaged, the lending library may charge you the full cost of the item, plus a processing fee.

There may also be a fee for failing to pick up requested items.

What can not be borrowed?

In general, it can be very difficult to obtain full issues of journals, rare books, books kept in a school’s reference department, or CDs. Note that there are also restrictions on the number of pages that may be copied. For more information, contact your local ILL department.

Requesting Items

Do I need to know where an item is to request it?

You do not need to know where an item is available in order to request it. If you include an ISBN or ISSN in your request form, RACER can automatically locate schools that have the item and request it for you. If you do not have an ISBN or ISSN, your local interlibrary loan staff will try to find a copy of the item using the information provided.

Even if you only search specific catalogues, or if your request form is pre-populated by a record from a particular school, your item will be requested from locations based on the rota order RACER creates. For more information on the rota, see below (“How long will it take for my material to come?”).

How long will it take for my material to come?

The short answer is: This depends on where your material is coming from and how easy it is for potential lending libraries to send it out. If another school in Ontario gets your request and finds your item easily, it may arrive at your institution in a matter of days.

The more thorough answer requires a bit of an explanation of how RACER works: To ensure fairness in workload across schools, a list of lending locations, called a rota, is automatically generated when you make a request. This means that your item may come from fairly far away (but RACER will always look within Ontario first). If the first lending location on the list cannot find your item or is not able to lend it to you, RACER will automatically send your request to the next library on the rota. RACER will send the request to up to ten locations, but only one at a time. In most cases, items are available and shipped from the first or second location, but if your item is difficult to find, it may take a while for RACER to work its way through the rota.

If RACER can’t find any lending locations for your item, no rota will be generated. In this case, your school’s interlibrary loan department will try to locate the material for you through other means. Make sure you’ve considered the “Item Not Needed After” box on the request form. A book being shipped from overseas might be all right if you’re working on long term research project, but not if you have a paper due next week!

Your item will take longer to come if:

  • You have put anything in the Special Instructions box on the request form (for instance, because you need a particular edition)
  • Your request form is missing important information (missing ISBNs or ISSNs will slow down your request)
  • Your item needs special attention from the ILL department (i.e. mircofiche that needs to be photocopied)

Depending on the ILL policies and procedures of both the lending institution and your own, a copy may be faster than a loan.

How long can I keep my borrowed material?

Loan periods are determined by the lending institution, and are usually 5-6 weeks. Users that do not return borrowed material by their due date risk losing ILL privileges, and jeopardize their school’s good standing among ILL colleagues. Copies do not need to be returned.

Note that the lending library may recall an item at any time. If you still require the item, simply place a new request through RACER.

Can I request something I can’t find in a search?

If you’ve searched RACER and still can’t find the item you’re looking for, select “Blank Request Form” from the left-hand menu and fill in as many details as you can. Your local ILL department will do its best to try to find the item. Make sure your Item Not Needed After date is accurate; if the date listed is in the very near future, staff will be less likely to search for your item overseas, as it may take a while to arrive.

How do I cancel a request?

Most schools allow you to cancel a request if the item has not yet been shipped. To do this, log in to RACER and go to My Requests in the left-hand menu bar. Items that can be cancelled will have a Cancel button next to their Details. Once an item has shipped it may not be possible to cancel the request. If you no longer need an item and are unable to cancel it through RACER, contact your local ILL department. Note that there may be a fee if you do not pick up requested items.

Why was my request cancelled?

If you request an item that is available at your own institution, your request will be cancelled. Your request may also be cancelled if the Item Not Needed After date has passed, or if no lending location is available. You should always receive an explanatory email when your request is cancelled, but if you need more information, contact your local ILL department.