Faculty FAQ

If you have any additional questions, please contact the Butler Reserves supervisor.

Am I submitting my list to the correct library?

Butler Reserves primarily supports humanities courses taught by Columbia College and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

  • Courses offered by Barnard College should have course reserves at Barnard's Wollman Library. To submit reserve lists for Barnard courses, contact Barnard Reserves.
  • Lehman Library provides course reserves services for the School of International & Public Affairs, the School of Social Work and for graduate-level courses in the Social Sciences, except Business & Economics. Butler Reserves accepts course reserves in 3000-level and below Political Science and Anthropology, but all other areas should contact Lehman Reserves.
  • Avery Library supports undergraduate and graduate courses in Art History and Architecture, but Art Humanities reserves are located at Butler Reserves. Contact Avery Reserves for more information.
  • Science courses reserves are supported by the appropriate science library.

NOTE: Course lists may not be duplicated at multiple libraries!

When do I have to have my Reserve list submitted?

  • Fall: August 1st
  • Spring: December 1st
  • Summer: mid-April

These deadlines may seem unrealistic, or even arbitrary, but that is not the case. We receive approximately 230 lists each semester for Fall and Spring. Given the time it takes for the Reserves Department to process each list in turn, to check for availability in the library, to submit orders, to wait for orders to be fulfilled, and to have each book catalogued once it arrives...a lot of lead time is required!

Faculty members who wait until the last two weeks before semesters begin to submit their reserve lists are unlikely to have reserve materials available for their students in time for their classes.

How much information do you need for each book requested?

In order to ensure the fastest and most efficient processing of your lists, we require the author, full title, publisher, and publishing date.

  • Author and title: this is the minimum required data. PLEASE be careful when you submit this: incomplete or incorrect bibliographical information can cause delays in locating your books, or failure to locate them at all.
  • Publication data: if the book has a vague or non-specific title (e.g. Collected Works, Aristotle), then adding publication information will greatly speed our acquisition of the appropriate book. If it is at all possible for you to provide at least a year of publication, that would be extremely helpful.
  • Edition/translation: if you want a specific edition of a work, or a specific translation, please indicate this by checking the appropriate box in the rightmost column of the request form. If you provide edition or translation information and do not check this box, we will assume that we can substitute another edition.
  • Call-number: You are not required to give us the call-number information, although doing so would be enormously helpful. If you do choose to do so, however, we ask that you indicate whether the call numbers are from Milstein or Butler Stacks, and that you give preference to call numbers found in Milstein.

How long will my books stay on Reserve once my list is submitted?

Volumes once placed on Reserve remain in the collection for a year. The Reserves department deprocesses all books from the Spring semester a year previous, so that we may make room for new arrivals.

If I place a title on Reserve, will that take it out of circulation completely?

The Reserves Department tries to pull all reserve materials from the Milstein Family College Library. This collection is made primarily of titles tailored to the undergraduate curriculum. The majority of these titles may also be found in the general stacks in Butler Library.

We in the Reserves Department try not to take copies from Butler Stacks if we can help it, because we know that that collection serves the research needs of faculty and graduate students. When a title is placed on reserve for a graduate class, however, we may be forced to take the Butler Stacks copy. Another situation that may cause us to take a Butler Stacks copy out of circulation is if a title is needed that is out of print and not available through secondhand book vendors.

What if the title isn't in Butler?

The Reserves Department will make every effort to make sure it can place the requested books on Reserve. If you have looked in CLIO for the book and not found it, does that mean you shouldn't place it on Reserve? Not necessarily! If the book is in another library, such as Barnard, Lehman, or East Asian, the Reserves Department will ask the owning library for the loan of that book. (This does not apply to Avery books, because that is a non-circulating collection.)

If we cannot locate the book in the Columbia University Libraries, we will try to purchase the book. If it is not in print, the Acquisitions Department will try to find the book through a host of online secondhand-book dealers. If that avenue proves fruitless, we will contact the faculty member and let them know the book will be unavailable for Reserves.

What if you can't locate the book I need for Reserves?

If a book is out-of-print and not in the library, faculty are not without options. They may submit a personal copy of the book, which will be stamped with the appropriate Reserve markings and put on limited circulation. If the portion of the book you want your students to read is small - a chapter or two, or an article - you might consider photocopying the material from a personal copy, or from a copy owned by another library, and submitting it to us for e-reserves.

May I take out copies from other libraries and bring them to Reserves?

If the titles you need are in other libraries, please allow us to ask for them to be transferred to Reserves. The owning library might need to place the book on its own course reserves. In addition, each library has the authority to check in books from their own collections only: if you bring us a book checked out to yourself, we cannot check it in to place it on reserve.

How many copies of each title will you place on reserve?

The Reserve Department's rule of thumb is one copy per each 20 students in a class, with a minimum of 2 copies for undergraduate courses. In the case of some low-enrollment graduate level courses, we may put only a single copy on Reserve. Our shelf space is extremely constrained, which leads us to establish these limits.

How many items may I place on Reserve?

Once again, because of space considerations, we do need to enforce these limitations. For each course, faculty are allowed 25 books AND 25 e-reserves. We may make exceptions in cases where there are no folders or no books, but there should be no expectation that we will.

How do I place articles on Reserve?

Electronic reserves services consist of linking to licensed electronic content (e-journal articles, ebooks, streaming media). Whenever possible we will link to online resources.  The libraries will not scan or upload any scanned materials for use in courses.  After you have done a fair use analysis you may scan and upload a .pdf to CourseWorks/Canvas. For help uploading files to CourseWorks/Canvas please see the Center for Teaching and Learning’s list of tools and support. For a list of free scanners in the libraries, click here.

What if I want to create a course-pack?

Faculty may wish to place more articles on Reserve than are allowed by the limitations of space mentioned above. They may wish to consider the advantages of creating course-packs: spiral-bound collections of readings that count as a single reserve entry. These may generally be put together by any copy-shop, but because the shop will seek copyright approvals, this can be expensive. The Reserves Department will accept donated course-packs from interested faculty.

May I check the status of my reserve lists?

The Reserve database was once available only in crumbling binders on the Reserves circulation desk, where only one person at a time could consult it. Now, anyone with Web access can check Reserve lists from their own terminal. Faculty may check the status of lists for the current semester by going to the online Butler Reserves Database and clicking either on Professor's Name or Course Number. The database may also be searched by Author or Title.

At present, only information for the semester currently on-going may be searched on-line. (We are hoping that in the future faculty may, for example, search their upcoming Fall lists during the Summer semester.)

In the list for each class, faculty may see how many copies are available, when and how many copies have been ordered, what titles are out of print, or what titles are available on reserve at other Columbia Libraries.

May I take videos from the Butler Media Collection and screen them for my class?

The Butler Media Collection is divided into two categories.

Butler Media Research Collection: consists primarily of feature films in DVD and VHS format.  The latter can now be requested from Offsite.

  • Faculty with borrowing privileges at Columbia University Libraries and affiliated institutions can check out up to two films from this collection

  • Titles listed as Butler Media Res circulate only to faculty for class screenings and review. Requests should be submitted one week in advance and are checked out for 7-day

Butler Media Circulating Collection: comprises a portion of the DVD collection.

  • Circulates to students and faculty/officers with borrowing privileges.

  • Loan period for Faculty/Officers: 7-day

If the requested film is from the Butler Media Res collection, only those with semester-loan privileges (i.e., faculty, officers and PhD candidates) will be allowed to check out the item. If faculty send a TA, the student should have a Deputy Borrowing Card, available from the Library Information Office.

I want students to be able to review a film for class. How do I make sure the film is available?

  • Films owned by the Butler Media Collection can be placed on course reserve lists. See CLIO for copy information.

  • Requests for new title purchases for the non-circulating Research collection should be submitted at least 4-6 weeks prior to the start of the semester to Nancy E. Friedland, Media Services and Film Studies Librarian

In addition, faculty may deposit personal copies of commercially-obtained videorecordings or DVDs for placement on Butler Reserves. Contact the Butler Reserves Department for more information.