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Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have decided to enter the mix.

In a historic move, both Boston-area schools announced plans last week to join the Borrow Direct inter-library loan program. For Harvard, the decision comes after nearly a decade as the only Ivy League institution not involved in the exchange.

Borrow Direct currently gives Penn students access to roughly 30 million volumes through the libraries of Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Princeton and Yale universities, as well as Dartmouth College. Along with Columbia and Yale, Penn helped launch the program in 2001 after two years of research.

When fully integrated, the addition of the Harvard and MIT libraries to Borrow Direct will increase the number of volumes available to Penn students by about 20 million, bringing the total to 50 million.

Peter Collins, assistant project manager for Borrow Direct at Penn, said that changes in technology, as well as a recent restructuring of Harvard’s library system, helped enable the consortium to incorporate both schools.

“The software that we were using had been created in the mid-90s, and for a while it wasn’t feasible to add additional colleges,” Collins explained. “Today, we’re in a place where we can accommodate a lot more collaboration.”

Collins, who works closely with the library staff of other Ivy League institutions on Borrow Direct, said that the integration of resources will likely begin this summer.

Last April, Harvard — which owns the largest academic library system in the world — began a pilot partnership with MIT that allowed undergraduates to check out volumes from either school.

MIT Library spokeswoman Heather Denny said that such collaborations are “in line with the entrepreneurial spirit that MIT brings to the table.”

“We may not have as large of a collection as some other institutions, but I think that our specialized collections in the sciences and engineering can offer a lot,” Denny said. “We’ve had success in our exchange with Harvard … and we’re hoping that success carries over in our partnership with Borrow Direct.”

Executive Director of the Harvard Library Helen Shenton said in a statement to the Harvard Gazette that the school’s participation in Borrow Direct is “a significant step in collaboration” for the school.

“We are delighted to be joining forces with our peers in order to provide a better, deeper and richer service for all of our patrons,” she said. “Borrow Direct strongly reflects the aspirations that guide the new Harvard Library.”

For Penn undergraduates, news of the expansion was a welcome development.

“If what we’re about is the dissemination and creation of knowledge, then I definitely see this as helping everybody involved,” College freshman Mark Pantano said.

Last semester, Pantano wrote a term paper for his freshman seminar in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations on the Aga Khan Award for Architecture — an international prize that recognizes top achievements in Islamic design and architecture.

Though Pantano used Borrow Direct resources from schools like Cornell and Dartmouth for the paper, he said that it “could have been interesting and exciting if [he] had been able to access the libraries at Harvard and MIT” because both schools “offer specific programs on the Aga Khan.”

“All of the participating libraries have something unique to offer,” Collins said. “These changes are going to exponentially expand the number of resources that are available to Penn students.”

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