MLA Position Statements and FAQs
Print Reserve Collections FAQ
This document on print reserve collections is intended as a guide to assist librarians in their practice. It is based on the ideas and interpretations of the authors in their capacity as librarians and does not purport to be a legal statement or to serve as legal advice. Because of the nature of the subject matter, in which legal rights and liabilities often are dependent upon the specific facts and circumstances involved, readers are encouraged to consult with competent legal counsel as appropriate.
The document deals with the library practice of creating copies and placing, without specific permission, excerpts from copyrighted works in the library's collection in a "reserve" collection for student reference and use as an extension of classroom instruction. Since neither the Copyright Law itself nor the Guidelines for Classroom Copying deal specifically with library reserves, the information below is based on the Library Reserve Guidelines, from the Model Policy Concerning College and University Photocopying for Classroom, Research, and Library Reserve Use (American Library Association, March 1982).
In general, copying for library reserves is governed by the Fair Use provisions of the 1976 Copyright Law (17 United States Code, Section 101 et seq.) Section 107, which specifies that such copying must consider four factors:
Yes, on the first page of the portion copied from each work.
Usually yes, if the article or chapter is a "reasonable" amount of material "in relation to the total amount of material assigned for one term of a course," or if only one copy is placed on reserve for the entire class.
Can the library place a copy of the same item on reserve for more than one consecutive class term without violating the law?
Usually no, not without permission of the copyright owner.
Does the library need to get permission from the copyright owner to place a copyrighted work on reserve, knowing students will make their own personal copies?
No, the library guidelines accompanying the law protect libraries from liability for the unmonitored copying practices of individual students or others, as long as a copyright notice is posted on or near public photocopy machines.
The number of copies should be reasonable in light of the number of students enrolled (perhaps 1/4 to 1/3 the number of students in the class), the difficulty of the assignment, and the time the students have to complete the assignment. If the decision to place the copies on reserve is spontaneous, with too little time to get permission from the copyright owner, more copies may be placed on reserve than usual.
As a general practice, the library should own at least one copy of the work. However, on occasion the library may place on reserve a photocopy provided by a faculty member or obtained via interlibrary loan.
Can library reserves ever take the place of purchased textbooks or course packs, on which royalties would be paid to the copyright owner?
No, the amount of photocopied material placed on reserve should be a reasonably small portion of the total amount of material assigned for a course.
Prepared January 1997 by
For more information, contact Mary Langman, 312.419.9094 x27.
Medical Library Association
Last Updated: 2007 July 13