Q. Do SAIS courses have course packs?


As far as we (library staff) know, no SAIS courses have printed course packs.  Why?   This FAQ may help explain...

What is a course pack?

A course pack is a collection of required course readings that have been duplicated, bound, and made available for sale.  It may or may not include all required readings for the course.

Who decides whether or not a course pack is created for a given course?

Each faculty member decides whether or not to create a course pack.

How does the faculty member know how to go about having a course pack prepared?

Approximately three months prior to each semester, the Library sends each faculty member a memo describing the procedure to follow if s/he would like to have a course pack prepared and made available for sale to the students in his/her class.  This information also appears in an online library guide for SAIS faculty.

Who creates and sells the course packs?

A faculty member wanting to create a course pack works with Academic Affairs to arrange for shipment of readings to MBS Direct, the School’s online bookstore.  MBS Direct contracts out the creation of course packs to XanEdu, a nation-wide course pack provider, and handles the sales. 

Why are there so few (or no) course packs at SAIS?

  • Copyright laws.  The Office of the Johns Hopkins University Counsel has informed the School that adherence to copyright law in connection with the production of course packs is mandatory.   Many readings (e.g., entire books or portions of books exceeding 15%) are not eligible for inclusion in a course pack.
  • Time constraints. Because the process of requesting copyright permission is labor-intensive, a legally-created course pack requires the faculty member to submit a complete list of readings, and in many cases the hard copy of the readings, at least 8 weeks before classes start.
  • Cost to students. Because of royalty fees and the costs of labor for securing copyright permission and making copies, the final cost of a legally-produced course pack is typically 35 cents per page.
  • Curriculum. Unlike undergraduate courses, or graduate courses in some other disciplines, many SAIS courses have reading lists totaling thousands of pages. In such cases, a legally-created course pack would be both prohibitively expensive and unwieldy if printed out. 
  • Electronic Reserves. The expansion of the Library’s electronic reserves service has been accompanied by a decline in the number of course packs at SAIS. Other schools report a similar trend: given a choice of electronic reserves or a course pack, most faculty are choosing electronic reserves. All but a handful of SAIS courses have required readings on electronic reserves each semester. 

How do electronic reserves deliver added value (over course packs) for students?

  • Fewer time constraints. Although the copyright issues are the same, electronic reserves are not subject to the same time constraints as a course pack.  While a course pack requires the faculty member to submit a list of readings weeks in advance of the semester, the Library can begin assembling e-reserves at any time, even after the start of a semester. Furthermore, while a faculty member must initiate a course pack, the Library initiates the placement of required readings on electronic reserves.
  • 24/7 availability on secure JHU servers, on-campus or off-campus. Electronic reserves are available to any student enrolled in the class.  A course pack can, of course, be available all the time to the student who purchases it as well, but only if the student carries it with him/her at all times. Students also have the option of downloading their e-reserves individually or as one zip file, which can be stored on their personal computers.
  • Lower cost.  Electronic reserves can be accessed for free at any computer.  
  • Electronic formats for academic materials are proliferating and offer more flexibility. When legally possible, SAIS Library can post full-text PDFs, some quite lengthy, or links to full-text ebooks. While print works still appear on virtually every reading list, the publishing trend is toward development and delivery of electronic formats; the response to this has been overwhelmingly favorable from SAIS users.


    • Last Updated Dec 11, 2018
    • Views 209
    • Answered By Stephen Sears

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