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Course Reserves During Closure FAQ

The following FAQ should answer many of the questions and concerns about how the CSUN Library is providing access to course reserves while remaining closed to users, based on public health guidelines. We appreciate your understanding and patience as we do our best to help you with your library research needs.

Q: My professor told me to go to the Library reserves desk to get books to read for our class. What are reserve books and where is the desk located?

A: Reserve books are required or supplemental readings that are set aside in the Library for all students in a course to read, which may include Library books and even the course’s textbook. Therefore, these books are kept behind a service desk and only checked out for two hours at a time for use in the Library only. Normally, students can come into the Library to read, snap pictures, or scan needed pages. Unfortunately, with the Library currently closed due to COVID-19 public health guidelines from the State of CA and Los Angeles County, this in-person service is currently not available.

Q: If the Library is closed, how else can I get access to library books on reserve? What about the textbooks that the library has on reserve?

A: We are encouraging faculty to select electronic textbooks and books that students can access freely via the Library’s OneSearch system or on the Internet. Please look at this web site for suggested options, including sources for low-cost textbooks for students: Course Reserves Options while the Library is Closed.

Q: Why can’t you mail the reserve books to students like you are doing for the other books in the Library?

A: Since most students in a class need access to the same reserve book at the same time to read assigned chapters, and we usually only have one copy of each book, given the time it takes to mail books to students and have them mailed back to the Library, it could take a month or more to get the book back for the next student. Therefore, is not feasible to mail reserve books when most students in a class would not benefit.

Q: Why don’t you do “curbside pickups” like some of the public libraries are doing so students can get reserve books and only use them for two hours?

A: Even if only checked out to users for two hours at a time, due to the need to quarantine books between users for three days, most students in a class would not be able to access the same readings at the same time. FYI, this quarantine time period is based on research findings on how long the COVID-19 virus lives on books, and since there is currently no way to effectively disinfect an entire book without damaging it, we are isolating books for three days between uses as recommended by the Los Angeles County Dept. of Public Health.

Q: I know there are electronic versions of books. Why doesn’t the Library buy e-books and make them available to students from your website or from Canvas?

A: The Library has been actively doing that, and will buy e-books/e-textbooks if available, and add them to OneSearch. We also encourage faculty to submit e-book purchase requests to the Library: Reserve Request Form for faculty and students can also anonymously ask the Library to request that faculty do this through the Course Reserve Request Form for students.

Unfortunately, not all print books are available in e-book format, and in the case of the major textbook publishers, even when they have them, most do not sell e-textbooks to libraries since it cuts into their profits and the authors’ income. Here’s more information about textbook publishers and libraries: https://library.csun.edu/textbook-statement

Q: Why don’t you just scan the print books and put them up online so students can access them in Canvas?

A: Unfortunately, this would violate the Fair Use Doctrine of US Copyright law, which states that only “small amounts” of books can be scanned, which we have interpreted as approximately 10% of the book. Furthermore, faculty can ask the Library to do this by submitting an Instructional Materials Scanning form and share these scans in Canvas. However, we cannot make multiple scans of the same book chapters for multiple students or scan an entire book, even if done chapter-by-chapter on a weekly basis, without violating copyright law, so we cannot offer that service without the threat of legal action by publishers.

Q: So, if the Library can’t provide the same reserves service as always, what are students supposed to do if their professors require them to still get the same books that they cannot access or afford?

A: If it appears that your professor is unaware of the challenges the Library has providing students access to print course reserves, please let them know about this page: Course Reserves Options while the Library is Closed or students can also anonymously ask the Library to let faculty know through the Course Reserve Request Form for students. Students and faculty can also request interlibrary loan for links to specific chapters from e-books or borrow print books from other libraries for books the library has on reserve but cannot mail out.

Also, you and your professor can use Ask a Librarian services for help identifying acceptable alternatives to purchasing books.