The increased use of e-Reserves and online reading materials has become a major debate topic on campus this year as students find their print quotas, which are supposed to last for the entire academic year, depleting much faster than expected.
E-Reserve use has steadily increased from 309 courses in the 2002-03 year to 407 courses in the 2007-08 year, Collette Mak, head of Resources Access and Delivery at the Hesburgh Library, said. In in the Fall 2008 semester alone, almost 300 courses were making use of e-Reserves and other online bases for material such as Concourse, she said.
While some see the increased use of online-based work to be an unnecessary burden on students and professors, others see the expanding system as useful and practical.
“We fulfill a service for the professors,” Mak, who oversees the e-reserves, said.
“The most important thing we do is to actively search to see if the articles are being reproduced under the Fair Use Policy. If not, then the library pays for the publishing fees in order to reproduce the documents,” she said.
Although the increase in printing might seem wasteful, Mak said the larger scale use of University printers in fact is a part of the University’s efforts to “go green.”
“The expansion of e-Reserves has also furthered Notre Dame’s mission towards sustainability,” she said. “All the pages of all the course packets were going to be printed whether students read them or not, and it was environmentally unsound to print course packets that not all students would be reading fully. Now what is being printed is what students have read, and that will save a lot of paper in the long run.”
The amount of paper that still needs to be printed, however, still has many students concerned.
“My print quota is at about $70 right now,” said senior Jessica Technow, “It seems to be depleting a lot more quickly this year as compared to this time last year.”
She attributes her depleted quota to the increase in online materials in all of her classes.
“As it stands right now, I guess I’m okay, but as my print quota gets closer to zero I’ll have more of a negative reaction,” she said. “I definitely think that increasing the print quota would be a good way to take care of the issue.”
Professors, on the other hand, see the increased use of e-Reserves as a sign of the times.
“Things are tough on everyone right now,” political science professor Tara Lavallee said. “When I first started teaching at Notre Dame, I was able to assign course packets that ran for about $10 apiece. Now with the copyright infringement laws and the huge increase in course packet costs, they’re just no longer a viable teaching tool. I have to put up the material on the Internet now.”
Lavallee also said the best possible solution is for students to simply read the materials in PDF form, avoiding the need to print the pages out.
“However, there are simply some things that need to be printed out, mostly PowerPoints for my classes,” she said. “PowerPoints are the best forms of information for students these days, but they aren’t very printer friendly. If I don’t put material in PowerPoint, people complain about it being tough to read. If I do, people complain about printing costs. It’s a catch-22.”
“Putting reading materials online has really helped out with my classes,” history professor D’Arcy Boulton said. “Over time, most of the books I used in my courses were taken out of print. I used to solve the problem by putting the relevant readings in course packets, but when they started costing a student $60 and up, online materials became an excellent substitute.”
Boulton said an increase in print quotas has been a possibility for students who seek it.
“I’ve discovered that if students petition their professors to increase the print quota due to increased course loads, and if the professor agrees with it, then the professors can get [the Office of Information and Technologies] to increase the students’ print quotas.”
Regardless of opinions on the increased use of e-Reserves, the issue will only get more pertinent as students see their print quotas continue to decrease.
“It’s sort of ironic, really,” Mak said, “Back before the advent of e-Reserves, students were clamoring for online printable materials because the price of course packets was killing them. It seems we’ve come full circle now.”