There are many compelling reasons why university libraries are often the "copyright experts" on campus and the location of the most comprehensive information about copyright.
Most library functions derive from the copyright act such as lending materials (§109, First Sale Doctrine) to copying for their patrons and themselves (§108 exemptions) to reliance on fair use (§107) for many of their digital services like electronic reserves and digitizing special collections.
Available only to qualifying libraries, the §108 exemptions allow copying for patrons, the collection, and inter-library loan under certain conditions. These exemptions are so necessary and reasonable to library functioning and to balance the exclusive rights of the copyright holder that prior permission of the copyright holder is not required before use.
There are many circumstances not covered by the §108 library exemptions. Before resorting to the permissions process, librarians should evaluate whether fair use applies. Librarians, who understand better than most that information is not free, should not be apologetic about championing fair use in appropriate circumstances on behalf of the library and its patrons. Effective advocacy begins with knowledge of the subject matter and this is an opportunity for libraries to excel.
Most electronic resources acquired by university libraries are governed by a license that almost always includes a description of permitted and prohibited uses. These terms will prevail over any rights conferred by the copyright act so it is critical that the license negotiator have a clear and working knowledge of copyright.