MeLCat Frequently Asked Questions

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  1. What is the MeLCat project?
  2. MeLCat is the statewide union catalog and resource sharing project to share materials among all types of libraries in Michigan, regardless of the local circulation system they use. 

  3. Who is in MeLCat?
    Please see our MeLCat Participants page.
  4. What are the benefits of MeLCat for Michigan residents?
    • One stop shopping to find materials owned by all types of libraries statewide
    • Ability to identify who owns valuable local history materials not available otherwise
    • Request materials online, if their home library is a MeLCat participant
    • Pick up materials at their home library
    • Check on their requests online

  5. How does MeLCat help libraries serve their patrons better?
    • Give your patrons access to millions of titles not available in your library. At one point in time, the Vernon District Public Library had a sign on their library that said, "6 million books available here! Come inside to find out how."  Vernon District Library is a Class I public library that is housed in a former service station. They don't really have room for 6 million books, but MeLCat gives them access to that many!
    • Provide your patrons with remote access any time and any place

  6. Who can use MeLCat?
    MeLCat is for patrons in good standing of participating libraries. Any Michigan resident whose library is part of the system and has no blocks on their patron record may make requests.

  7. How can my library participate in MeLCat?
    Please see our page on MeLCat Participation for specific information. Any Michigan library is welcome to become part of MeLCat.

  8. How much does it cost to participate in MeLCat?
    Please see our page on MeLCat Costs.

  9. Can my library participate in MeLCat if we have dial-up access to the Internet?
    In a word, no. High speed internet access is required. You also need a static, dedicated IP address before joining MeLCat.

  10. Does my library need to have a z39.50 server to participate?
    No, MeLCat does not require a z39.50 server to participate. Libraries may access the MeLCat database via z39.50.

  11. What equipment is necessary to be in MeLCat?
    Library staff use computer workstations to process MeLCat requests. For libraries using Innovative Interfaces as their local system, additional software will be installed on their Innovative server. For libraries using a local system other than Innovative, there is client software that will be installed on staff workstations during the implementation process. Please see our page on staff workstations to review the technical requirements for those workstations.

  12. Do I still need my local system if I join MeLCat?
    Yes. The statewide catalog is not a replacement for your local system (ILS). You still need your local online catalog for your patron database, circulation, cataloging, acquisitions, and links to your vendors' and institutions' computer systems.

  13. Are my catalog records good enough for MeLCat?
    Please see the MeLCat Best Practices.

  14. What are the MeLCat borrowing and lending rules?
    Please see MeLCat Resource Sharing Policies.

  15. Will regional shared catalogs be replaced by MeLCat?
    Regional shared catalogs may provide local system functions, such as a patron database, circulation functions, and possibly cataloging and acquisitions. MeLCat is not a replacement for local systems. Regional shared catalogs that do not provide local system functions will determine whether they are still needed after their participating libraries join MeLCat. The decision is up to each shared system.

  16. If I join MeLCat, won't all my materials be checked out to other libraries when my patrons want to use them?
    It's important to remember when you join MeLCat you're giving your patrons access to millions of titles, in addition to what you already offer. And, if something is checked out at your library your patron could get that title from another MeLCat library rather than wait until it comes back. The experience of the current MeLCat libraries is that patrons use the system, regardless of how small or large their own collections are.

  17. Does MeLCat check if the item my patron wants is available at my library?
    Yes, if your library's local system can export circulation status with its MARC records. If it can't, the answer is no. If your system can export circulation status and MeLCat shows the item as available, the system will tell your patron to get the item from their home library.

  18. What if my patrons lose books from other MeLCat libraries?
    MeLCat uses standard national Interlibrary Loan policy where the borrowing library is responsible for the item from the time the request is made. If your patron loses another library's item, you are responsible for reimbursing the owning library. You will learn more about this when you become part of MeLCat.

  19. Will I be able to review my patrons' requests before they go to another library?
    MeLCat is a patron-initiated resource sharing system where requests go directly to the owning library. ILL studies show that non-mediated requesting is the most cost effective. It's also the fastest for the patrons.

  20. Do we have to lend everything in our library in order to participate?
    No. While we encourage generous lending, it is up to each individual library which items they are willing to lend, beyond their main circulating collection. On joining MeLCat, libraries agree to abide by the MeLCat Resource Sharing Policies. Be sure to read the policies in full.

  21. What about reciprocal borrowing?
    MeLCat has a function for reciprocal borrowing called Visiting Patron. If Library A and Library B both choose to participate in Visiting Patron, then a patron from Library A can go to Library B, take a book off the shelf and present their own library card to the circulation staff at Library B. When Library B checks the book out to the patron, the system treats it as a MeLCat request.

  22. What is NCIP?
    The NISO (National Information Standards Organization) Circulation Interchange Protocol. We are using Version 1. NCIP is a national standard that defines a protocol for sending circulation-related messages between integrated library systems.  There are 2 separate aspects to MeLCat's NCIP implementation: the transmission of item-related circulation messages (e.g., check out, check in) and patron authentication messages.

  23. How does it relate to MeLCat?
    Libraries with local automation systems other than Innovative Interfaces, Inc. use the DCB (Direct Consortial Borrowing) software to participate in MeLCat. The item-related aspect of NCIP functionality allows DCB libraries to participate in MeLCat without having to perform certain circulation tasks on both their local system and the DCB system. The tasks need only be done on the DCB system, which will then send messages to update the local system. The patron authentication-related aspect eliminates the need for libraries to provide copies of patron records to the DCB server. Note the DCB libraries using NCIP will still be required to provide bibliographic and holdings data for loading to the DCB server.

  24. My vendor says they have NCIP functionality.  What now?
    NCIP comes in several flavors, or profiles. MeLCat software uses the DCB Profile 3.  Innovative Interfaces has published the relevant profile information on the NCIP Implementation Group site.  In order to be certain that all the relevant messages are received and appropriately acted upon, interoperability testing must be scheduled between your vendor and Innovative Interfaces. Upon request, MeLCat staff will forward the necessary contact information.

  25. What should I ask my local system vendor about NCIP?
    • When do you expect to do interoperability testing and implement NCIP?
    • When do you intend to implement NCIP Direct Consortial Borrowing (DCB) Profile 3?
    • Have you reviewed the relevant profile information on the NCIP Implementation Group site?
    • Is there a charge for the NCIP module or functionality? What if we already have SIP?

  26. How can a participating MeLCat library give input on policies and best practices?
    The Library of Michigan convenes a MeLCat Advisory Committee to advise the State Librarian and MeLCat Implementation staff on policies for the statewide catalog and resource-sharing system.

  27. How is MeLCat funded??
    The project is made possible by grant funds from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), administered by the State of Michigan through the Library of Michigan. Additional funding provided by the State of Michigan. Individual libraries are responsible for paying for participation in the statewide delivery service.

  28. Who do I contact for more information?
    Library staff may contact MeLCat staff at, or 800-530-9019 ext 403. Patrons should contact their local library with any MeLCat questions.