Cornell University Library will get 20 million new books by early summer. But not in a traditional way.

Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have joined Borrow Direct, the rapid book request and delivery system that enables Cornell library users to get materials quickly from a network of partners. Their regularly circulating materials will be added to the combined catalog, bringing the total to more than 70 million.

"Through Borrow Direct, we're able to play on our peer libraries' strengths and ensure access to a tremendous number of scholarly materials. This collaboration brings tens of thousands of books to our users every year," said Anne Kenney, the Carl A. Kroch University Librarian. "This system is integral to almost all the Ivy League libraries, and all of our partners believe it to be a vital service."

Borrow Direct is popular at Cornell -- about 22,000 requests were filled for Cornell users in 2010. In a library survey, graduate students called Borrow Direct "a huge plus," and said they use it "all the time."

A greatly expedited delivery process between collaborating institutions (which also include Brown, Columbia, Dartmouth, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton and Yale) means most Borrow Direct materials can be picked up at Cornell within four working days of their request -- much faster than traditional interlibrary loans. Books and printed music are loaned for six weeks at a time, most with an option for another six-week renewal.

The service began more than a decade ago, and Cornell's library joined in 2003. New systems implemented within the last year allow for complete integration with the regular library catalog using a NetID.

Gwen Glazer is a staff writer at Cornell University Library.