Course reserves system debuts

course packets
Photo by Yale Daily News.

Laptops may soon fully replace course packets in Yale classrooms.

This summer, the University Library launched a new course reserves system that enables professors to post readings online and set aside library books more easily. Students in the 334 classes using the new system this fall can access a “Course Reserves” tab on the left side of applicable Classesv2 course pages, which both links to online articles and scanned readings and lists books on reserve at the library. Though some professors said the new system reflects a gradual shift from print sources such as course packets and textbooks to the Internet, librarians said the library’s ability to make materials free for students online will remain somewhat limited by copyright laws and expenses.

Until this year, the course reserves system was not streamlined, librarians said. Professors submitted paper forms to the library to request print reserves, which are books taken out of normal library circulation and held on reserve at the library for student use, and e-reserves, which are readings made available online. The library used its catalog system, Orbis, to keep track of print reserves but it had to use a temporary “home-brewed” system for e-reserves, said Tom Bruno, associate director for resource sharing and reserves.

The new system manages both print reserves and e-reserves and will integrate with Yale’s online academic platform, Classesv2.

“Our hope is that, by putting [course reserves] into Classesv2 and allowing a combined electronic and print list in the same place, folks would see it as a big improvement,” said Brad Warren, director of access services for Sterling Memorial Library and Bass Library.

Under the new system, professors can search through an archive of their course reserve requests over the past five years and easily renew a request, Bruno said. The system can also provide professors with real-time updates on the status of reserved materials and automatically check whether links to e-reserves on websites like JSTOR are broken, he said.

Bruno said the new system will also facilitate the creation of more e-reserves, as professors can use the library’s Scan and Deliver service, which was launched last year, to transfer library materials to the web.

“We know that a lot of the faculty are doing a lot of the scanning work on their own, and what we’re trying to do by embedding course reserves inside of Classesv2 is get them to take advantage of [the Library] as a resource so they don’t have to worry about scanning the items and posting them online,” Bruno said.

Managing copyright responsibilities will also be simpler, he said.

“We’re able to track our copyright responsibilities a lot more systematically and manage them for the entire University in a way that was extremely labor intensive in the past,” Bruno said. “As far as copyright is concerned, this is going to be a very useful tool for keeping us in compliance.”

History professor Paul Freedman said he has used the new course reserves system to make reading for his class available for free online instead of compiling a course packet that students can buy from local printing shops such as TYCO or Docuprint. But he added that he does not foresee a complete shift to online texts in the near future, since many students prefer to read physical texts or buy a print book.

Mike Iannuzzi, owner and president of TYCO Copying and Printing on Elm Street, estimated a 50 percent reduction in classes ordering course packets in the past five years, which he attributed to professors opting to make readings available online. But Iannuzzi said this statistic has leveled off recently, as professors have decided which medium works best for their individual courses.

As of Tuesday, 122 classes had assigned course packets through TYCO this fall.

Carla Mills, senior fellows coordinator for the Jackson Institute of Global Affairs, said she thinks that some elements of the new system still require fine-tuning. Mills said it took time to familiarize herself with the details of the new system, adding that she hopes faculty support staff are consulted as the program continues to work out its kinks.

The new program was developed using endowment funds that were specifically set aside for course reserves in the late 1800s, according to Warren.

Comments