MnLINK – Your Gateway to Interlibrary Loan !

The MnLINK Gateway is your portal to a rich collection of resources.  With a valid library card, you can request materials from participating libraries in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.  Thousands of people now enjoy the benefits of interlibrary loan, but many may not understand how this service works.  Let’s address some of the questions that have been submitted to ECRL staff:

“I can’t log in.  Is something wrong with MnLINK?”

The database may be down for maintenance or experiencing a temporary technical problem.  Try again later or ask library staff for assistance.   Your library card must be current and valid.  Library staff can help you resolve card or registration problems.

“Can I request materials that are owned here?”

We do not interlibrary loan materials that are in the ECRL collection.  Instead, you should check Evergreen (the ECRL catalog) and place holds on materials there.  There is a link to Evergreen on our homepage (

“Why wasn’t my MnLINK request filled?”

Most popular materials (bestsellers, DVDs) are in constant demand with long waiting lists.  Other items may be lost, damaged, or non-circulating.  If an item is unavailable, for whatever reason, your request will not be filled.  It’s best to wait a week or so before placing another one (libraries are not required to fill requests for their materials).  ECRL staff are happy to accept suggestions — if we don’t own an item that you’re interested in, we may purchase it for the ECRL collection!

“How many items can I request through MnLINK?”

You can have 20 active (pending or received) requests at any one time.

“I tried to request an item through MnLINK and received a strange message.  Why didn’t my request go through?”

You may be at your 20-item limit, there may be a problem with your library card, or your fines may exceed $5.00.  Please contact library staff for assistance.

“Can I request materials from libraries in other states?”

Yes!  Materials in many North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin libraries can be requested through MnLINK.  You must login and change the “Current Profile” field to “ELM – Worldcat (shared)” for access to these library collections.   Some libraries, archives, and historical societies do not participate in MnLINK.  Contact ECRL staff for access to collections at the state historical societies in North and South Dakota, for example.

“What happens if I damage or lose an interlibrary loan item?”

Accidents happen, of course, but you are responsible for returning materials by the due date and in the condition in which they were sent.  If an item is lost or damaged, the lending library will send us a bill;  that amount (no more, no less) is then placed on your ECRL library card.  The amount can be significant, depending on the item and the lending library’s policies.

“What materials are available through interlibrary loan?

Books, DVDs, music CDs, videos, audiobooks, microfilm, photocopies, magazine articles, maps, and (limited) reference material.  At present, eBook and eAudio materials cannot be requested through interlibrary loan.   ECRL has a growing collection of eBook and eAudio titles; you’ll find links on our homepage (  And we welcome your suggestions!

Bob Gray
Reference and Interlibrary Loan Librarian


How to Use MnLINK Like a Pro

With MnLINK, you can request books, music, and videos from any library in the state. You’ll be surprised what you can find, for free.

Basic Use

To request materials with MnLINK:

  1. Search the ECRL Catalog first, to see if we have the item in our own collection.
  2. If not, visit MnLINK.
  3. Type in your search keywords. For example: Wuthering Heights or Le Rouge et le Noir or Toy Story. Use quotes if you want to search for a specific phrase, for example “Science and Pseudoscience in Clinical Psychology”. Then click the Search button.
  4. MnLINK will take a minute to show your results. Scroll the results until you see the item you want. Click Details.
  5. At the bottom of the Details page, check if one of the copies is available. If all copies say something like “Date Due: ____”, go back to your search results and find another copy of the item, and click Details.
  6. If a copy is available on the Details page, click Get It.
  7. Sign in with your library barcode, then click Request via ILL.
  8. On the next screen, choose your Pickup Location. Then click Submit.
  9. That’s all! ECRL will contact you when the item is ready for pickup. You can now do another search if you want.

7 Cool MnLINK Tricks

But that’s not all MnLINK can do. Here are a few more tips:

  1. View and cancel requests.

    When signed in (click Sign In on the left of the MnLINK page), click My Requests under My Account. Change Records per page to 20, then click Search. This is a list of your current MnLINK requests. Click Cancel to cancel any request.

  2. Use advanced search.

    Sometimes a basic MnLINK search returns too many results. To narrow your search, click Advanced Search. Here, you can search for a specific author, title, publisher, ISBN, or other field. You can also specify a publishing date (“nothing older than 1995”), a format (“only DVDs”), a language (“nothing but English or Spanish”), and a reading level (“juvenile only”). Select your options, then click Search.

  3. Search libraries in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin, too!

    Did you know we get some free item loans from North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin? You can search their databases from MnLINK, too. On the basic search page, change Current profile from All Catalogs for MnLINK Gateway [shared] to ELM – WorldCat [shared].

    Here are some titles I’ve found in out-of-state libraries but not in Minnesota:

    Getting Rich in Your Underwear by Peter Hupalo

    Self Help Stuff That Works by Adam Khan

    Lifemaps: a step-by step method for simplifying 101 of life’s most overwhelming projects by Michael Antoniak

    Maybe right, maybe wrong by Dan Barker

    Searching all Minnesota libraries greatly expands the resources that are freely available to you. Searching 3 more states expands your resources even more!

    Of course, there are limitations. Libraries in other states restrict what they do and don’t share.

    Also, searching WorldCat shows results from OCLC libraries. But since ECRL is not an OCLC library if you make a request from an OCLC library outside Minnesota, there will be a service charge.

    In fact, getting free loans from outside the state is somewhat unusual, and depends on the good graces of the lending libraroes.

    But it might be worth a try.

  4. Save items for later.

    You may want to save an item you find to request it later. Or maybe you’ve reached your limit (20 requests) and have to wait to request it. When you find an item you want to request later, just click Save. You can pull up your list of saved items by clicking Saved List under My Account.

    You can also save a particular search. On any search results page, click Save Search in the upper-right of the screen. View them later by clicking Saved Searches under My Account.

  5. Change how search results are sorted.

    On any search results page, click Sort Options under Results. To choose what you want to sort by, click next to Index. Type in a number next to Number of records to Sort, and click the Sort button.

  6. Filter search results.

    If you get to many search results, you can filter out what you don’t want. From the search results page, click Filter Options under Results. Now you can choose to filter by publishing date, format, language, or reading level.

  7. Get help.

    On any page, click Help under My Account to get instructions for using the page you’re on. You can also browse the help pages to learn about other features of MnLINK.

Summing Up

MnLINK is a great resource available to ECRL patrons. You can often find rare and expensive items, and request them for free from almost any library in the 4-state region. Enjoy!

If you like MnLINK, be sure to thank MINITEX for providing it.

Luke Muehlhauser, Computer Technical Aide