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E-Reserves: Coming to a Library Near You
by John McGehee

Most JMU faculty and students have had experience using library course reserves. Course reserves are a long standing practice in libraries whereby a faculty member can place material (often a book, article, video, or music score) in the library for shared use by students in a particular class. Course reserves allow students to share a broad range of readings or other materials without having to individually purchase the item. It is a heavily used service with hundreds of faculty and thousands of students using reserves annually.

Yet, course reserves can have problems. Students often find that items are checked out an unavailable for two hours or more. Occasionally, a reading will have pages torn or removed. The service is not practical for distance learning students and is not available when the library is closed. In the electronic age, paper reserves can seem like an anachronism: slow and cumbersome.

In response to these problems, the JMU Libraries have been adopting a new model for providing course reserve service: electronic reserves or e-reserves. Instead of placing a paper copy of an article in the library, faculty can bring articles to the library to be scanned, processed, and placed on the web. This allows 24 hour access to reserve materials from any Internet-connected computer. E-reserves are not limited to article copies. Book chapters, music--just about any material that can be digitized--can be placed on e-reserve.

Copyright is managed for e-reserves in much the same way as traditional reserves service. Just as faculty cannot photocopy an entire book, neither can they scan a whole book for e-reserves. All items are reviewed for compliance with copyright and fair use provisions.

E-reserves service at JMU began a couple of years ago in the Music Library with Project Orpheus. Through Project Orpheus, Music Library staff take sound recordings (primarily music CDs) and create Internet compatible sound files out of individual musical pieces. The music files are then streamed to students over the Internet and are managed by the same course reserves system in which paper documents are managed.

Shortly after the creation of Project Orpheus the CISAT Library began a pilot project offering e-reserves to selected CISAT faculty. In the fall of 2002, the service was opened to all CISAT faculty. CISAT e-reserves consists primarily of articles, book chapters, and other documents. Materials are scanned, converted into Adobe Acrobat® .PDF files, placed on the web, and entered into the library’s course reserves system. 

In 2003, the library began planning for campus-wide e-reserves service. In August 2004, Carrier Library began a small e-reserves pilot with selected faculty on the main campus. The goal is to expand the pilot to full implementation by the spring semester.

All active course reserves, including e-reserves, are accessed through LEO, the library catalog.  In the case of e-reserves, a link in the LEO record leads to the digitized course material.

While this is an exciting new service for the library, it may also prove to be one whose importance is already beginning to diminish. The emergence of Blackboard for course management allows faculty to make digitized readings available to all students in a class without library involvement. In fact, faculty can use scanning hardware and software in the Center for Instructional Technologies (CIT), located in the basement of Carrier Library, to create digital documents from paper. Blackboard and e-reserves can also be used in tandem, as faculty can link to their list of course reserve materials in the library catalog from their Blackboard site.

This exciting new technology notwithstanding, traditional reserves will continue to play a role in the JMU Libraries for the foreseeable future. Restrictions against scanning entire works will require that faculty place books on reserve. The Media Resources Center is currently experimenting with streaming digital video (see the article in this issue) but still will manage reserve collections of DVDs and VHS tapes. Some art or other image collections may not be appropriate for scanning. Nevertheless, e-reserves is coming soon to all of JMU. We hope that you will find it a convenient enhancement to existing library services.

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