Electronic Reserves

Electronic reserves include journal articles, sections from books, video clips, etc. Faculty can upload scans to Blackboard themselves or request scans to Blackboard from Swem Reserves. Please allow adequate time for Swem staff to scan your reserves depending on the amount of materials to be scanned. You may request electronic reserves using the Reserves Webform.

Request E-Reserves >

What are E-reserves?

Electronic Reserves range from electronically scanned paper documents to other content that originates in electronic format, such as online journal articles. Access is restricted to students registered for a particular class and are not made available on the free web. Students can access e-reserves through Blackboard or a library network that requires password authentication and enables students to download electronically and locally print the reserve material. Instructors will distribute password information to students enrolled in their courses; Swem Library will not give out passwords for protected course pages.

Faculty interested in using electronic reserves should request the materials through the web form and link to the content through their Blackboard page. For helping linking content to Blackboard courses, please contact swresv@wm.edu

E-reserves and Copyright:

Faculty are responsible for ensuring that their reserve requests are compliant with copyright law and W&M’s Policy and Guidelines for Use of Copyrighted Works. This policy indicates faculty are responsible for abiding by copyright law and explains the fair use argument. W&M Libraries are committed to complying with all applicable intellectual property laws, and expect faculty to respect copyright. It is the responsibility of the faculty member to determine if the material placed on reserve is in compliance with copyright law. The libraries have compiled a Guide on Copyright which contains resources for learning about copyright and fair use. No one should submit digital course content consisting of copyrighted material without first either obtaining the permission of the copyright owner; or determining in good faith after reasonable inquiry, and with the benefit of resources made available by W&M for these purposes, that the intended educational use of copyrighted material is covered by fair use tenets. 

The following tips apply specifically to electronic reserves:

  • Sharing a URL that goes to a document subscribed to by the library carries less burden than saving a copy of a document on Blackboard so that students can download it from our campus system. 
  • Our understanding is that digitizing an entire work from the audio/visual realm (image, CD, DVD) for hosting online in Blackboard does not qualify as fair use under copyright.  However, some copies of works can be digitized for educational use under specific circumstances if the equipment to view that copy is not readily available.  The most clear example is a VHS tape: 
    • You are allowed to digitize a VHS tape that is already in the library’s collection if: (a) no DVD or digital copy of the film is for sale in the world for a reasonable cost; AND (b) the copy will be used in Blackboard (behind a password) for a specific course; AND (c) the digital file resides on a server under the library’s control. 
    • In general, first try to obtain a streaming license or DVD copy of the film.
  • Our understanding is that digitizing a small clip (the length/amount/size of the clip is not defined by law) of a DVD may qualify as fair use if several conditions are all met:
    • Purpose:  the clip is a required reading and will be used in teaching a course that is regularly offered at the institution.
    • Access:  access is restricted (with a password) to students in that specific course (e.g. Blackboard) and access to the file is protected on a library controlled server or storage solution.
    • Amount: the clip is not a significant part or portion of the movie that would negate the need for a normal person to buy / watch a DVD or streaming version of the whole movie. 
    • Market Effect:  the DVD has been lawfully acquired by the library or faculty member.
    • DMCA Technology Restrictions:  the CSS (Content Scrambling System) of the DVD has not been bypassed or circumvented in order to make a digital copy of a clip of the DVD.

Overall, you will want to run these scenarios through the fair use checklists, such as the one offered by the University of Minnesota Libraries. Faculty are encouraged to save a copy of their completed fair use checklist for their records. If none of the above options apply, you must obtain permission to use the item. Permissions can generally be obtained from the Copyright Clearance Center or from the copyright holder (generally the publisher). Evidence of permission must be submitted to the library with your reserve request. Because these qualifications are so rigorous, you may want to try finding a streaming copy of the content first or to consult with your library liaison before agreeing to create digital clips.

Copyright tools:

See UT Austin’s Copyright Crash Course or Indiana University’s Copyright Program for copyright basics or to answer common questions about copyright issues related to e-reserves.

The Copyright Clearance Center also has published a guide titled Using Electronic Reserves: Guidelines and Best Practices for Copyright Compliance which offers best practices.  The Copyright Clearance Center has a more conservative approach to copyright.  They offer fee-based online permissions to use content from thousands of rights holders for a variety of needs including e-reserves, library reserves, interlibrary loan, document delivery, print and electronic course packs, classroom handouts, distance education, and administrative uses. 

W&M Libraries does not purchase the copyright permissions on behalf of faculty, but those requests can be directed through the Print Shop which works to obtain permissions on faculty behalf or to put together course packs for purchase by students. These course packs cannot be placed on reserve.

Create a Blackboard page

If you need a Blackboard page created for your course, please contact bbhelp@wm.edu. You will be able to select the option to allow Swem Reserves access to upload materials within your Blackboard page. You must select this option in order for us to add or change course materials.


Contact Swem Reserves at swresv@wm.edu  or 757-221-3104