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Library offers electronic access
to previously used exam papers

Imagine you're an undergraduate facing your first big exam in a new course with an unfamiliar instructor. Not knowing what to expect, you head to the library's Reserve Room to check out the exam file. There, you hope, copies of the professor's previous exams will give you a clue as to what you'll face in the morning. Alas, after your 20-minute walk to the library, you find several dozen classmates competing for the same documents. Your stress level is up, not down, and you think to yourself, "There's got to be a better way."

There is. It's called the X-File, and it contains electronic versions of more than 500 previously used exams; it is as close to you as your nearest networked computer. You can read an exam on the screen, download it to a file of your own, or print it out. The X-File is just one part of the library's electronic course reserve project, a larger, ongoing effort to digitize and network as much course reserve material as possible. The new file exists as a specific access point on the electronic course reserve home page.

Staff of Homer Babbidge Library have been constructing the site for four years, and creation of the often used X-File is an important milestone in improving services to students. Guided by the reserve services coordinator, with the help of a programmer, student employees scanned the file of paper exams then linked them to an academic department index, from which they are accessible by course name, number, and instructor. Future time spent on scanning will be minimal since faculty now send their exams to reserve in digital format wherever possible.

Library staff are also benefiting from the switch to electronic access. The labor-intensive process of creating and maintaining a multi-copy paper file has been eliminated, and repetitious checking out of exams, one of the most widely circulated materials on reserve, has been reduced.

Students are responding to the new X-File enthusiastically. They need not trek to the library, stand in line to check the exam out, then search for a copy machine. They get the information they need where and when they want it, with minimal expenditure of their valuable time. Hopefully, their stress levels are down and their exam grades are up.

For information contact Dipa Roy, reserve services coordinator, (860) 486-2307.

David Kapp

David Kapp is special assistant to the director of University Libraries.