Implementing Controlled Digital Lending with Google Drive and Apps Script

How to Cite

Xu, Q., Lin, L., & Wu, X. (2021). Implementing Controlled Digital Lending with Google Drive and Apps Script: A Case Study at the NYU Shanghai Library. International Journal of Librarianship, 6(1), 37–54.
Received 2021-03-31
Accepted 2021-06-07
Published 2021-07-10


The unexpected outbreak of COVID-19 near the beginning of 2020 has significantly interrupted the daily operation of a wide range of academic institutions worldwide. As a result, libraries faced a challenge of providing their patrons access to physical collections while the campuses may remain closed.

Discussions on the implementation of Controlled Digital Lending (CDL) among libraries have been trending ever since. In theory, CDL enables libraries to digitize a physical item from their collections and loan the access-restricted file to one user at a time based on the “owned to loaned” ratio in the library’s collections, for a limited time. Despite all the discussions and enthusiasm about CDL, there is, however, still a lack of technical infrastructure to support individual libraries to manage their self-hosted collections. With COVID-19 still very much a presence in our lives, many libraries are more than eager to figure out the best approach to circulating materials that only exist in print form to their users in a secure and legitimate way.

This article describes the author's temporary but creative implementation of CDL amid the COVID-19 pandemic. We managed to work out a technical solution in a very short time, to lend out digital versions of library materials to users when the library is physically inaccessible to them. By collaborating with our campus IT, a Google Spreadsheet with Google Apps Scripts was developed to allow a team of Access Services Staff to do hourly loans, which is a desired function for our reserve collection. Further, when the access to a file expires, staff will be notified via email. We hope our experience can be useful for those libraries that are interested in lending their physical materials using CDL and are in urgent need for an applicable solution without a cost.


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