For the past several years, the Instructional Support Committee (and the campus) has spent time thinking about rising textbook costs and ways we can facilitate equitable access to textbooks and course readings for students.  The new federal requirements that ask faculty members to submit textbook lists earlier have opened up new options for the Libraries to be more proactive in supporting student textbook needs.

*In early November (2017), the Libraries obtained the list of textbooks that faculty  submitted for Spring 2018 – this list included traditional commercial textbooks, scholarly monographs, and particular editions of literary texts.  We checked this list against our current holdings to see which titles we already own in print and/or electronic versions.  Based on the data we received, we own approximaterly 66%.

*We also analyzed the items we did not already own to see if we can and should  purchase them.  Our priorities when purchasing is to look for, first, a multi-user ebook version (with no use limitations); second, a single-user ebook version; and, third, a print version. For Spring 2018, we have purchased another approximately 17% of the textbooks (and we will purchase more as we get closer to the start of classes).

*All of the texts we already owned plus those that we have purchased have been or will be placed on reserve for Spring 2018.

The current list of these textbooks is available here:
 https://libweb.grinnell.edu/files/SP2018_TEXTBOOKS_PUBLIC_LIST.xlsx
 … and through the Library home page under “Related Links" (the list was updated January 23, 2018).

*That leaves approximately 17% of the textbooks for Spring 2018 that we will not be able to acquire due to a variety of factors; a major factor is that traditional commercial textbooks that issue frequent new editions are not made available in ways that allow campus-wide access.   Many of the traditional textbooks by publishers such as McGraw-Hill Education, Pearson, or Follett Education fall into this category.
 
*The philosophy behind our program:
We believe that information should be equally accessible to all of our students and that the Libraries should do all we can to make sure textbook costs do not inhibit any of our students from taking particular courses.  We see our program as a complement to the excellent work being done in Financial Aid and CRSSJ’s textbook lending library.
 
We understand that many faculty will want their students to bring required texts to class and that items on Reserve do not provide an acceptable substitute.  In those instances, students will still need to purchase individual copies of the text.  Some faculty may view a library ebook as an acceptable substitute for a print text, but this varies between faculty and across disciplines, so students should consult with their professors about whether ebook versions are acceptable in each of their courses.  
 
The Libraries believe we should place our existing print copies of texts on Reserve to make sure they are equally available to all students and are not checked out by individuals for an entire semester.  These print copies can serve as backups for students if they are in the library and need to consult a text, if they are waiting for an ordered textbook to arrive, or in cases where their personal copy is damaged or misplaced.  Multi-user ebooks, because they can be simultaneously accessed by multiple students, offer enhanced accessibility options (e.g., compatibility with screen readers for students with visual impairments), and permit access from any location, can serve as either a primary textbook or as a backup, depending upon how textbooks are used in individual courses.  We have found that many texts are used by multiple courses/faculty and that ebook versions (which allow us to place individual chapters and sections on eReserve without paying additional copyright fees) offer the Libraries a more sustainable model to serve the college community.  
 
We view the Spring 2018 semester as a pilot for this service and intend to gather input from students and faculty about how our new approach has impacted them, then refine our processes accordingly in future semesters.

Questions? Please contact Kevin Engel.
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