“This is found in the nature of things, that one never tries to avoid one difficulty without running into another, but prudence consists in being able to know the nature of the difficulties, and taking the least harmful as good.”
-Machiavelli, The Prince
“..But if you want an education, go to the library.”
Role and philosophy of reserve services
Reserve rooms and reserve collections are usually found in academic libraries and sometimes in school libraries, and are often the busiest service points in the library. The philosophy of the reserve room is to enhance the teaching process by enabling teachers and faculty to temporarily supplement library collections in support of their collections. Reserve services do this by enabling teachers to place
materials, or copies of materials, on restricted loan for a limited time period. Electronic reserve systems permit the scanning of document images into a database and their retrieval by students. These systems are becoming popular as a more effective and labor-saving means of distributing reserve readings than manual systems.
Reserve service guarantees that assigned material will be available for students to use when it is needed. The service allosws teachers to place on reserve or make available electronically, within limits, multiple copies of copyrighted materials. This assures their availability in sufficient quantity when they are needed. Reserve rooms are also used to protect high-risk items, that is, material that is likely to be mutilated or stolen if placed on the open shelves.
"It is the custom of the professors at Harvard to hand in at the library lists of books to which they intend to refer their classes during the term. These books are reserved from circulation, are covered, and a colored label is pasted on the backs, each professor having a distinctive color. The books are then arranged in an alcove, to which the students have free access .... Other libraries might adopt this plan for books in which there chanced to be some special interest, so that many people desired to consult them.”
"Special Reserves (at Harvard)," Library Journal 3 (1878): 271.
Melvil Dewey was a pioneer of many methods used in both college and university libraries. In 1887 he reported that books recommended by professors were placed behind the loan desk at Columbia: “Each professor is invited to send in lists of books which he wishes withdrawn for a time from circulation and kept in the reserve room, so that each student may be sure of the opportunity of consulting them.” Dewey goes on to describe “a long slip, (7.5 x 25 cm) five times the size” of the ordinary book card, which was used for charging “restricted reference books.” (Melvil Dewey, "Restricted Reference Books," Library Notes 2 (1887) : 216. This long card originated by Dewey is still in use today, and so is the charging method described by him more than 100 years ago.
A reserve room operates like a mini-library within the larger institution. Staff accept reserve requests from teachers and faculty, remove books from the stacks and make photocopies of or scan requested items, bind loose materials so they will withstand heavy use, purchase necessary supplies, and process and house the material in a restricted area. Staff also make sure copyright guidelines are followed, prepare bibliographic aids to facilitate access to the collection, check items in and out, administer fines and billing for overdue and lost items, remove material from reserve or prevent electronic access when it is no longer needed, and troubleshoot the equipment. In large libraries the reserve collection may contain thousands of items for hundred of courses. The items are usually divided between library-owned and teachers’ personal materials. The composition of the collection changes each term, and the maintenance of this service requests a significant library commitment of staff, time, and space.
It is important to note in this discussion that many staff members, students, and teachers question the value of reserve services. Low use of some reserve items, along with the high cost of administration, has been documented since the 1930s in numerous articles. Examples include a study at the State University of New York, which measured potential use on the basis of each student in a class reading every assigned item once. The potential use rate of SUNY was measured at 15.1 percent, meaning that almost 85 percent of assigned readings were never used. Another study at the University of Virginia found that about half of the students enrolled in courses with 10 or more items on reserve did not use any reserve materials. (John M. Cohn, "The Underutilization of Reserve Materials: A Report on One Library's Experience," LACUNY Journal 5 (n.d.): 21-25, and James Shelf, "Reserve Readings and Student Grades: Analysis of a Case Study," Library and Information Science Reports 9 (1887): 29-40.)
Customers and staff are sometimes critical about various aspects of reserve service. Students complain that material is not put on reserve fast enough, that service is poor, and waiting times too long. Teachers also protest about the time it takes to process assigned material and about the amount of work they must do before material is placed on reserve. Library staff complain about the amount of time it takes to process materials and that faculty do not give them sufficient time to process reserve items before assigning them, do not appreciate or adhere to copyright restrictions, place excessive quantities of material on reserve that students never look at, and are slow to remove items when they are no longer assigned. (Norman D. Stevens, "A Hard Look at Reserve," The Journal of Academic Librarianship 3 (May 1978): 86-87; Gerald Jahoda, et al., "Academic Library Procedures for Providing Students with Required Reading Materials," College & Research Libraries 31 (March 1970): 103-6; Lois Carrier, "Are University Reserve Collections Justified?" APLA Bulletin 30 (September 14966): 85-88.
In addition to these complaints, there are pedagogic arguments against reserve services. There is no evidence that using assigned reserve materials has no significant influence on academic performance. A study at the University of Virginia measured the correlation between over 8,000 students’ use of reserve materials and the grades they received in their courses. The study revealed only a weak connection between reserve use and grades. The study also indicated depending on reserve readings may even obstruct the educational process. Relying on reserve services to provide library materials discourages students from using the library and learning necessary library use skills. It also prevents the serendipitous discovery of information that occurs through normal library use. (Self, "Reserve Readings and Student Grades," 29-40. See also Benjamin Franklin Smith, "The Book Reserve System," Improving College and University Teaching 12 (Spring 1964): 84, and J. N. Berry, "Unreserved Book," Library Journal 90 (May 15, 1965): 2228. These arguments notwithstanding, reserve operations are present and very popular in many libraries. The following section illustrates the operations of reserve book rooms.
Arrangements and storage
Generally, reserve materials are removed from the circulating collection by library staff or teachers or, in the case of materials owned by the instructors, are delivered to the library and placed in a special room or area within the library where access is controlled. Although reserve readings were originally housed in open stacks, most libraries now have a closed stack system for reserves or a combination of open and closed stacks. The argument for closed stacks was stated convincingly by Dewey (in his inimitable simplified spelling system): “But a new vice developed itself. Sum of the students in their zeal for learning wanted it all; and, as these books were on open shelves where each helpt himself, we soon found that the books most wanted often disappeared.” Dewey, "Restricted Reference Books," 216.
Activity around the reserve area is heavy, and the location of the service should be considered carefully. The room must be easy to find and traffic to and from the area should not interfere with other library operations. Locating the reserve room outside of the library building has been tried and found wanting due to the inconvenience for users and staff. The only acceptable rationale for doing so is temporary alleviation of space problems. Because most reserve material may not be taken out of the library, it is a good idea to have photocopy machines located nearby.
The primary criterion for arranging material in the reserve area is to enable staff to locate and easily retrieve the items requested by students. Staff generally house unclassified materials and professors’ personal copies on bookshelves arranged by course number or the instructor’s name. Sometimes unclassified materials are assigned an accession number and arranged numerically. Classified materials may be grouped with other material for a course or filed separately by call number. Housing for photocopiers and other loose materials is problematic. Some libraries punch holes in photocopied materials and place them in binders, some staple the pages together and place them in cardboard boxes or manila folders, and others arrange them in file cabinets. Media, too, can be housed with the rest of the material for a course or remain in special media housing. Scanned images are indexed in the database so files for particular professors or courses can be easily retrieved, generally by professor’s name, title, author and course number.
Making reserve readings accessible requires several different steps. The first step is to persuade instructors to submit their reserve lists in a timely manner. The greatest amount of processing work, which is time consuming, comes at the beginning of the semester or academic term. To help to guarantee that staff will have enough time to prepare materials for circulation or scan them into a database, nearly all libraries request that faculty put material on reserve at least two weeks before classes begin. Nevertheless, many teachers do not submit materials until just before, or even after, they have assigned them.
Once materials are processed, access depends on students knowing what items are on reserve. Students and instructors must know which materials are removed from public access to the reserve room, and students need to know what materials are placed on reserve by their instructors.
Libraries with automated reserve systems have an answer to some of these problems. A message can be attached to any record in the online catalog indicating that the item is located in the reserve room. Many integrated online systems have reserve modules. In 1998, a report by the Council on Library Resources indicated that six of the top twelve library automation systems included a reserve module, with more in the planning stage. (Leigh Watson Healy, Library Systems: Current Development and Future Directions (Washington, DC: Council on Library and Information Resources, 1998), 18-19.) Reserve modules permit staff to list all items, including nonlibrary and scanned materials, kept on reserve. Reserve holdings may be found by searching for the teacher’s or faculty member’s name, the course name or number, the author or the title.
Nonautomated libraries must depend for access on the quality of the printed or written records developed by the reserve staff. The variable nature of reserve collections makes keeping these records up to date a challenge. Staff should mark the records for library materials placed on reserve in the public catalog to inform users of the changes, but marking every card is often impossible. Some libraries mark only the main entry card, sometimes by covering it with a plastic sleeve marked “reserve” that can be easily removed when the books are no longer on reserve (see figure). A less satisfactory but more common solution is to create printed lists of classified items placed on reserve. These lists may be either typed or handwritten sheets or card files, arranged by author, title, or call number, representing each item placed on reserve.
Comprehensive lists of items on reserve are located at the reserve desk itself for public consultation. These lists may take the form of a database accessible on a public terminal, card files, or typed or handwritten lists in three-ring binders with entries arranged by instructor’s name or course number (see image). There are two essential characteristics of these lists in whatever form they take: They must be user friendly so both customers and staff may easily identify wanted items and they must be flexible enough to permit easy updating as items are added and withdrawn throughout the term.
The policy of restricting access to reserve materials begs the question of who is and is not permitted to borrow the material. As we have seen, the reserve room’s reason for being is to guarantee access to materials for students in particular classes; this is the rationale for closed stacks and limited circulation periods. Access to a professor’s personal copies or to scanned documents is generally denied to all but those students authorized by the instructor to use the material. For personal copies this is to protect the materials. For scanned images, it is to attempt to stay within the “fair use” provisions of copyright law. However, access to library-owned materials on reserve is given to other authorized library users, although they must abide by the same use restrictions specified by the instructor. This practice is consistent with the philosophy of equitable access to information.
Despite the restrictions described above, access to traditional materials is obtained by readers coming to the reserve desk and requesting the items. Digital reserve collections, accessible via the Web, are available anywhere a student has a computer, network connection, and password. This makes digital reserve items more accessible than traditional collections and extremely important for students taking classes through distance education. These students are not readily able to come to the library, and a database of scanned images allows them to get the readings they need for their coursework. Digital reserve has great potential for facilitating distance education and should become more common as distance education offerings increase.
It is the reserve supervisor’s responsibility to monitor the demand for library materials placed on reserve. Because of their reference value or popularity, access to some books should not be restricted by placing them on reserve. If the value of placing a particular book or library item on reserve is overshadowed by the inconvenience it causes other library customers, an alternative to restricting access to the information should be found.
Teacher and faculty relations
Diplomacy with regard to teacher and faculty relations is important in all aspects of public services, but especially so in the reserve room. Teachers and faculty probably take a greater personal interest in the reserve room than in any other service, except perhaps interlibrary loan. This is because they believe reserve services play an important role in supporting their day-to-day classroom instruction. Teachers and faculty will often have the majority of their contact (and sometimes their only contact) with library personnel at the reserve desk. Consequently, they will form their opinion of the importance and value of the library from the quality of their interactions and the service they receive.
The nature of many of these encounters between reserve staff and instructors, however, is sensitive. The encounters involve requests to change policy or procedures to meet the desires of a particular instructor. The exceptions teachers typically request include processing items ahead of others, placing more items on reserve than normally allowed, substituting different loan periods than those offered, leaving items on reserve for extended periods (sometimes called “permanent reserves”), and overlooking copyright restrictions on photocopying (see “Ethical and legal considerations below). Communicating with faculty on these and other points require finesse and reserve staff must have good interpersonal skills to negotiate effectively.
Staff must be both sympathetic to a teacher’s particular needs and able to make exceptions to policy when appropriate. There may be nothing wrong with placing materials on reserve after the normal deadline or accepting more material than policy allows, if doing so does not create problems for others. Some requests, however, would compromise the efficient operations of the service or perhaps be illegal under copyright law. Staff must also be able to refuse courteously and explain the reason for the denial and, if possible, offer alternative solutions. Administrators responsible for reserve services should carefully select personnel who possess good interpersonal skills and train them to negotiate effectively with faculty and other users.
Circulation of reserve items
Whether a library uses a manual or automated system, the process of circulating reserve items is more complex than that performed at the circulation desk. There are several characteristics of reserve circulation that makes this so: the processing required to prepare items for circulation, varying loan periods and fine schedules, the number of nonlibrary and nonbook materials circulated, and the ever-changing composition of the collection.
When instructors deliver items to the reserve area, staff must first possess them for reserve circulation. Each item, whether book, photocopy, teacher’s personal copy, or other type of material, must be identified with the following information: instructor’s name, course number, circulation period, and any use limitations applicable, such as “Reserve Book Room use only” or “Library use only”.
The most common way to identify materials is to type the information for each item on two book cards, including a special long book card like that described by Dewey earlier. Staff either insert the cards into the book pocket of library books or paper-clip them to the item. Often, libraries use color-coded cards to indicate different circulation periods.
Borrowers write their names and/or identification numbers on the long card, which serves as the circulation record, while the other card remains with the item and identifies it when the item returns. An additional preparation step required for photocopies is to affix a copyright notice on them if one does not already appear (see Ethical and Legal Considerations below).
Once each item is processed, it is housed and arranged as described above, and is then ready for circulation. One distinguishing feature of the reserve collection is the number of different loan periods. Most reserve materials circulate for very brief periods, for examples, a half hour, one hour, or two hours. This is enough time to allow students to read a short document or photocopy an item.
As each item circulates, staff record the time it is due. A time-clock is sometimes used to stamp the time due on the book cards, or staff use a date stamp to record the date and write the time due on the cards. For items with longer circulation periods, for example, one, two, or seven days, date-stamping the two cards is sufficient for circulation control. Staff file the check-out cards together according to the circulation period (one-hour cards together, one-day cards together, and so on) for easy retrieval when items return. It is usual to require students to return reserve materials directly to the reserve desk to avoid any delay in their being available to other students.
When items return to the reserve desk, staff pull the check-out cards, match the cards with the items, and check for delinquency. Borrowers’ names and the times due are blocked or cancelled in some way for timely returns and they are returned to the shelves for further use. Overdue items are marked with the return time and processed for fines and billing.
With hourly circulation periods and high use, the potential for many overdue items is great. Reserve departments dislike spending the time and effort required to process overdue fines (especially if, as in many cases, the library does not get to keep the money collected). Most reserve services try to discourage overdues by publicizing heavy fine schedules, for example $1.00 per hour, $10.00 per day, and so on. Nevertheless, borrowers return many hourly check-outs late. As long as other users are not inconvenienced, reference staff often allow generous grace periods to avoid a massive billing operation. Exceptions to these grace periods occur when the overdues are flagrant or, especially, when other students are denied access to the information. Libraries also levy fines for damaged or lost materials.
Effective automated reserve book systems are not as prevalent as automated circulation systems. This is because it is difficult to program the system to handle the large number of different loan periods and item types. Nevertheless, effective reserve modules do exist and they greatly simplify reserve operations. Scanned items in online reserve systems are retrieved directly by students without intervention by library staff. The following pertains to the automated circulation of physical items.
As items are added to the reserve collection, they are again identified by course, instructor, and circulation period. Staff enter this information into the system and link it to the item’s existing bar code, or a new dumb bar code, which they attach to the item itself, or to the book card created for the item. As items circulate, staff use a light pen or optical scanner to read or wand the item bar code and the borrower’s ID into the system. The time due is stamped on the date-due slip and the transaction is complete.
Discharging the item is equally simple. The system is placed in the discharge mode and staff wand in each item’s barc code to remove the link between the patron and item, and the material is ready for reshelving. The system automatically records overdue information, calculates fines, and generates overdues and fine notices.
On most library organization charts the reserve room appears under the authority of the circulation section. Most commonly, the circulation supervisor or a paraprofessional reporting to the head of circulation supervises the service. The individual in charge of reserve most be experienced, as many problems arise requiring nature judgement, tact, and well-developed interpersonal skills.
The supervisor of reserve services does more than merely oversee an inventory control operation. Service at the reserve desk is at times the most frenetic and mechanical in the library. More than in any other public service, reserve staff are subjected to periods of stress resulting from waves of heavy user demand. The first wave is like a tsunami, rising at the beginning of each academic term when instructors flood the area with their reserve lists. These requests and the items to be processed often pile up faster than staff can handle, and there is pressure to prepare the material for circulation as soon as possible before the readings are assigned. Once the term begins, several waves of students break against the reserve desk each day as class periods end and borrowers arrive to get their assigned readings. These waves increase to tsunami proportions again at examination times, especially towards the end of the term. The administrator selects, trains, and schedules staff to accommodate the fluctuations to activity inherent in reserve services.
The supervisor is also responsible for removing unused permenant reserve materials from the collection and removing materials or the link to the virtual equivalent, which may be in violation of copyright. Because unused items unnecessarily increase the size of the collection, they may delay service. In addition, they are not available for regular library use. The supervisor may also be responsible for maintaining satisfactory study conditions in the reserve reading area, because students make it difficult to study.
Personnel selection and training
The reserve supervisor selects, trains, and supervises the work of the reserve staff, most of whom are students. The supervisor must make sure the staff have work to do during slack periods, but that other duties do not interfere with service delivery.
In selecting personnel for the reserve back room, administrators consider the unique characteristics of the service. As a first criterion, reserve staff must have good interpersonal skills. This includes the ability to always interact courteously and politely with customers. Situations arise requiring patient explanations of procedures and policies to frustrated teachers and students. Other occasions require tactful classification of the restrictions placed on the availability of materials.
As in all circulation work, the ability to perform detailed work accurately is required in reserve. Also important is the ability to work under pressure. As described above, the volume of business at the reserve desk can seem almost overwhelming at times. Employees must be able to stand the pace until the demand eventually slackens.
Punctuality is a necessity. Students must arrive on time to replace others leaving for class. Service will suffer if there are not enough personnel to staff the desk when help is needed. The ability to work nights and weekends is also necessary because the reserve book room is normally open for service whenever the library is open.
To schedule staff effectively, the administrator must be familiar with the use patterns of reserve materials. The busiest periods at the reserve desk occur several times each day when classes are dismissed and students arrive en masse to check out the readings just assigned. Another busy time is at the beginning and end of each term, when additional help is sometimes needed to handle the processing surge. The supervisor, sometimes in coordination with the circulation head, most schedule adequate staffing at these times to prevent queuing problems. Inexperienced staff are usually scheduled with experienced personnel who can assist in their training. The reserve schedule must also make provision for nights and weekends, when full-time staff may not be available to assist with busy periods. Staffing schedules must provide enough backup to guarantee service during the inevitable illnesses, vacations, and other absences. In some libraries the reserve room serves as a study hall when the library is closed, and staffing is scheduled to meet these hours.
Keeping and using statistics
Planning for good service requires the extrapolation of information from accurate statistical records of reserve book room activity. Statistics can track circulation activity by time of day and season to allow an accurate picture of use patterns and facilitate effective scheduling. Statistics can also measure how many times the different kinds of material circulate so the supervisor can project space and supply needs. Finally, a record of how often each individual item is used should be maintained. A heavily used personal item may be a candidate for purchase by the library, while library-owned books may be considered for duplicate purchase. Library materials receiving little or no use are candidates for weeding from reserve.
In an automated reserve system, the computer tabulates these statistics automatically. With a manual system, staff maintain hourly records of circulation activity. Along with the individual item data, the reserve supervisor tabulates this information to provide the appropriate planning information.
Ethical and legal considerations
The principle guaranteeing the confidentiality of circulation records is the same in reserve as in circulation. Even though the reading is required and assigned by a teacher, no one has the right to know what anyone reads without that person’s permission. Faculty wishing to find out which student have done the required reading for their class may find it difficult to understand this principle. To reveal the circulation records, however, violates the library’s responsibility to guard the intellectual freedom of the students. The question may arise whether teachers have the right to see the circulation records for personally owned items placed on reserve: the answer is that they do not. While the materials are in the custody of the library, the principle of confidentiality applies to all materials issued and controlled by the library, even if only temporarily held.
The library, may, however, furnish to the instructor information that does not violate borrower confidentiality. Statistics may, for example, be provide on the number of times an item circulated for a particular course. Information can also be furnished on the number of individual students who checked out reserve material. Any information that does not violate borrower confidentiality may be provided as a service to teachers.
The most important, and vexing, legal consideration in reserve operations is adherence to copyright law regarding photocopy requests. Instructors sometimes ask the library to make copies of various materials and place them on reserve, or they will bring in already-made copies for placement on reserve.
The 1976 Copyright Revision Act, in Title 17 of the United States Code, permits nonprofit institutions to make copies in limited numbers of copyrighted materials for educational and research use. This is known as the principle of fair use. Numerous articles have discussed the ramification of the Copyright Act and how to implement it, with no clear consensus emerging. Librarians have wrestled over such questions as: What is fair use for reserve? Can photocopied materials be used repeatedly? Is photocopied material on reserve the library’s property or does it belong to the professor? What can the library do if permission to photocopy is denied?
To assist in wrestling with these questions, the American Library Association issued, in 1982, a “Model Policy Concerning College and University Photocopying for Classroom Research and Library Use”. Section III.C addresses library reserve uses specifically:
In general, librarians may photocopy materials for reserve room use... If the
request calls for only one copy to be placed on reserve, the library may
photocopy an entire article, or an entire chapter from a book, or an entire
poem. Requests for multiple copies on reserve should meet the
- The amount of material should be reasonable in relation to the total amount of material assigned for one term of a course taking into the account the nature of the course, its subject matter and level....;
- The number of copies should be reasonable in light of the number of students enrolled, the difficulty and timing of assignments, and the number of other courses which may assign the same material...;
- The material should contain a notice of copyright...;
- The effect of photocopying the material should not be detrimental to the market for the work. (In general, the library should own at one copy of the work.)...
For example, a professor may place on reserve as a supplement to the course textbook a reasonable number of copies of articles from academic journals or chapters from trade books. A reasonable number of copies will be in most instances be less than six, but factors such as length or difficulty of the assignment, the number of enrolled students and the length of time allowed for completion of the assignment may permit more in unusual circumstances.
In addition, a faculty member may also request that multiple copies of photocopied, copyrighted material be placed on the reserve shelf if there is insufficient time to obtain permission from the copyright owner. For example, a professor may place on reserve several photocopies of an entire article from a recent issue of Time magazine or the New York Times in lieu of distributing a copy to each member of the class.” (Americian Library Association, "Model Policy Concerning College and University Photocopying for Classroom Research and Library Use, College & Research Libraries News 43 (April 1982): 127-31. Permission to reprint granted by American Library Association.)
In addition, the “Model Policy” states that the “reserve use of photocopied material in multiple courses or successive years will normally require advance permission from the owner of the copyright”. (Ibid, 130.)
The ALA’s policy is vague in a number of areas. If there is doubt, the safest course for a library is to request permission from the copyright holder or request that the faculty member do so before photocopying material for reserve. Publishers are usually generally cooperative in granting photocopying permission for reserve usage, and a study at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale demonstrated that compliance with the law was not detrimental to service (although staff spent a great deal of time writing for permission). (R. Shelton, "Adaptation: A One Year Survey of Reserve Photocopying," Journal of Academic Librarianship 6 (May 1980): 74-76.)
The legal and ethical obligation to protect copyright holders also extends to photocopies made by a faculty member and presented to the library for placement on reserve. If the number of copies or amount of material exceeds the guidelines above, staff should ask if permission has been secured from the copyright holder to make the copies. If not, staff should refuse to place the material on reserve until permission has been obtained.
Electronic reserves are seem by some as the leading edge in creating digital collections in libraries. Digitized images also take the lead in stirring already murky waters of fair use. An electronic reserve system involves scanning images of material into a database to improve student access. Questions about the applicability of fair use standards to digitized images generally revolve around the number of potential viewers of an image; the transmission of the images beyond the educational setting of the library or the classroom; and the potential for printing, downloading, or copying the images to undermine restricted access. While copyright law offers no clear and direct answers about the scope of fair use for electronic reserves, a number of different interpretations of the law may be found in the literature.
The Fair Use Guidelines for Electronic Reserve Systems, drafted by a working group of the Conference on Fair Use (CONFU) in 1996, offers some helpful guidelines that some libraries have employed. Essentially, the Guidelines recommend that libraries follow the same fair use guidelines that pertain to paper copies of copyrighted material. Images should be limited to single articles or parts of a work, and they should be copies legally obtained materials. Included with the images should be a copyright notice, and permission should be obtained for materials used repeatedly by the same instructor for the same class. Finally, access should be limited to students enrolled in the class and to library staff as ended, and access should be terminated at the end of the term. (PBS Adult Learning Satiellite Service, "Am I a Crook? Copyright Issues on the Internet," Participant Packet (April 2, 1998)) Other approaches to the copyright question have been more conservative, including seeking permission to digitize any copyrighted work. In 1999, commercial interests were pushing legislation that would restrict fair use of copyrighted works, and libraries should seek legal counsel before adopting an electronic reserve policy. (See Brett Butler, "Electronic Course Reserves and Digital Libraries: Progenitor and Prognosis," Journal of Academic Librarianship 22, no. 2 (March 1996): 124-128, for a description of a system with digital intellectual property management as an integral part, and Scott Seaman, "Copyright and Fair Use in a Electronic Reserves System," Journal of Interlibrary Loan, Document Delivery & Information Supply 7 no. 2, (1996): 19-28, for a conservative interpretation of fair use and reserve access to digital works.
Security and preservation
Because of their high use, reserve materials suffer a great deal of wear and tear. It is important for staff to handle reserve items carefully to help prolong their life and value as instructional aids. When withdrawn from reserve, books especially should have all extra inserts, paper clips, and other added materials removed. (If paper clips have rusted in place, they should be pried away from the paper, which will prevent tearing.)
Training staff in the proper techniques of handling the various materials placed on reserve will help prevent damage. Media should be stored in appropriate housing. Binders or folders help protect photocopied or other loose materials from the damage that accompanies high use. If there is time, staff may educate borrowers about ways to avoid damage while photocopying, or posters or other materials may be used to caution them. Staff should also identify materials needing preventive minor repair. Repairs should be done promptly so materials will last, both during and after their stint in reserve.
Administrators train staff to pay special attention to security and preservation of teacher-owned materials in the reserve collection. Personal materials such as books, videos, and other items may be easily stolen, so care must be taken to verify and record borrower identification information before the materials circulate. As the practice of digitizing reserve materials become more common, the concerns of reserve staff for the preservation and security of physical items will necessarily decrease.
Reserve services are viewed by many faculty and teachers as a valuable adjunct to their teaching. It provides them with a way to supplement the library collection in direct support of their classes. It also helps guarantee students access to materials that are either required reading or pertinent to their classes. Electronic reserves greatly increase access to reserve readings once a library adopts a policy that conforms to the current interpretation of copyright law, and an increase in electronic reserves is a trend expected to continue.
However, reserve services is costly to maintain and often underutilized. These arguments suggest that libraries facing personnel shortages or space limitations should consider carefully the value of continuing full reserve service before cutting more essential services and resources.