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Course Reserves – Spring 2021: FAQ for faculty/instructors

How is the course reserves service changing for the upcoming spring term?

Beginning January 2021, we will shift to a self-service model for e-reserves, in which course teaching teams (faculty, lecturers, and their designates) will review fair use guidelines and upload or link to electronic content to their own course sites. If needed, the Libraries can scan portions of physical collections in line with the fair use provision of copyright law; to make a request, select “Request digital copy” from an item’s record in the catalog.

What is the Libraries rationale for no longer adding content to my course site?

Like all DLCs at MIT, the Libraries were asked to reduce our expenditures going forward. We evaluated our service portfolio for those services where we have seen significantly declining use. We observed that the preponderance of MIT course teaching teams administer the content for their courses themselves. We need to focus on the aspects of the reserves service that provides exceptional value to course teaching teams, namely assistance with difficult-to-find materials, guidance on fair use analysis, and reformatting from physical to digital formats.

Why can’t the Libraries provide fair use analysis of my course content list?

The course teaching team is best positioned to assess the needs of the class and determine when readings are appropriately pedagogically tailored, which is essential for the fair use analysis. Recent litigation indicates that an individualized assessment of the four-factor fair use test is needed for all readings. The Libraries can provide guidance for faculty making these decisions, but ultimately you know what you need for your class.

How can I learn to apply fair use guidelines to the materials I use in my course?

See our guide for instructors.

Can print textbooks be put on reserve?

The MIT Libraries cannot put print materials on reserve this spring because:

  1. The Libraries’ physical spaces remain closed.
  2. With many undergraduates learning remotely, we cannot offer print reserves equitably.
  3. The quarantine period for returned materials makes this service impractical.

The Libraries will provide electronic copies of reserves materials whenever possible, and library staff are ready to assist you in finding alternatives.

Are there additional resources available during the pandemic?

When the pandemic began, many publishers opened up additional access to resources, but for the most part, these offers have now expired and are not available for the spring semester. Content currently available is listed in our guide on expanded and free resources during the COVID-19 closure. Digital copies of some books that the Libraries own in print may be available this spring through partner programs; links to these copies will appear in the Libraries’ catalog.

Can the Libraries scan books we own in print?

Users can get digital copies of MIT-owned physical materials by clicking on “Request digital copy” next to the materials in the Libraries’ catalog. If we cannot purchase an e-copy of the item, we will scan a physical copy from our collections. If you need more than a single book chapter or journal article, you may be asked to provide additional information to assess whether we can fill your request within the bounds of copyright law. We’re generally only able to scan whole books in exceptional circumstances or when the book is in the public domain.

What if a student cannot get an electronic copy of a textbook from the Libraries?

Sometimes the fastest or only option for a student to get electronic access to a book will be to purchase it. If purchase costs are a concern, support may be available for students with financial need through Student Support Services ( or the Office of Graduate Education via their emergency fund form.

Students may request delivery of physical books from our collections through the Libraries’ catalog or Borrow Direct.

Are there alternative materials that faculty can use for their course reserves?

Yes, options include:

  • Open Educational Resources
  • Materials that we have access to, or can purchase access to, online
  • Materials we’re able to digitize from our print collections

From the Libraries’ search tools, you can link to content we already have online, request a new purchase, or request a digital copy of items we have in print. If you have any questions about access to specific materials, our liaison librarians would be happy to work with you.

Can faculty make ebooks available in their Canvas, Stellar, or LMOD site?

If there is an ebook available through the MIT Libraries, the best practice is to link to the book from the course website, and students can access it directly. Most purchased content allows for posting of single chapters into course sites as well. Faculty and their designates may request a chapter or article scan from items in the Libraries’ print collections by selecting “Request digital copy” from the catalog. Once you receive your requested scan, you may post it to your CMS page. See our Course Reserves guide for more information on uploading content to your CMS page.

Why can’t I download this ebook?

Some of the books available electronically have limitations on access either required by the publisher or in order to comply with copyright law. If you are having trouble accessing a book through HathiTrust or Internet Archive, make sure that you are logged in to your HathiTrust or Internet Archive account (this is separate from your Kerberos ID). Books on these platforms can be checked out for digital viewing and are generally not available for download.

I’ve written a book, and would like to make it more available. Can the Libraries help?

Yes! Email; we are happy to help you explore options for this.