Blessing. Definitely a blessing to our users and database vendors, but a blessing with a curse-ish aftertaste.
Everyone is familiar with the blessing part. Users get 24/7 access to their course readings, and database vendors get a more accurate picture of the amount of usage they’re getting for their license fees. (Without eReserves we’d have to print out a copy of an article and put it on paper reserve, where it would be read by a class of students, photocopied by most of them, etc. But there’d only be one hit on the vendor’s server.)
But on our campus eReserves is an easy target for all sorts of campus ills. For example, it’s common knowledge around campus that eReserves is the cause of our horrible printing problem, with reams and reams of paper filing through our printers every day. And I’m sure that classes that depend more and more on journal readings and less on text-book compilations do make for more use of eReserves and more printing. But what nobody seems to realize is that all the requests for electronic access to journals means that more and more of our journal collection is e-only. And even if we have electronic access and print access, guess which one will be used most often? And what do people do with journal articles they find online? They print them to mark up over lunch or a midnight snack.
Not only that, but there’s more and more good, authoritative, quality research available on the free web, and you can bet that students print these pages by the ream. This is especially true because printing is free on our campus, so everything from email to research to homework spills from the two printers in the reference area at the rate of 7.06 pages every minute the library is open. (The the two reference area printers account for more printing than every other printer on campus… combined.)
I’ve also seen more and more students lately who prefer to scan print journal articles slowly, page by page, and then convert the images into PDFs all so that they could print (for free) rather than photocopy (for a fee). In related news, the use of photocopiers in the library has dropped so much in recent years that our printing department is considering removing a few of the copiers from the library entirely.
So the upshot is that printing is a definite problem, but the answer isn’t as simple as, “Well, with the advent of eReserves printing went through the roof….” The information universe is changing, not just one section of it. All of it. eReserves, journal subscription, database licensing, online publishing, assignments and pedagogical approaches to information, everything.
Oh, and eReserves is also not a devious plot to keep professors from ordering text books or paying copyright fees or anything else like that. Moodle can do all that so much more easily. ;)