Textbook costs were a popular topic at the NCLA Biennial Conference this year. Since this concern affects so many aspects of Access Services, I was particularly interested in seeing how other academic libraries have tried to help their students and faculty deal with the high cost of textbooks.

At the beginning of every semester in Interlibrary Loan we get a barrage of requests from our students and other libraries to borrow and lend textbooks. Having used ILL for textbooks in grad school myself, I can sympathize. In Course Reserves, we have instructors tell us that they are using readings in place of costly textbooks. At the Circulation Desk we are trying to determine the best balance between providing costly, highly-used textbooks and not buying “required readings” that end up not being circulated.

At the Conference, Johnson & Wales presented a poster session on their textbook program. They keep about 150 textbooks on a shelf where students can access them without assistance. Most of the books are donated and are non-circulating. I spoke to Justin Herman, a reference librarian at Johnson & Wales and he said that only a very few had gone missing. He also pointed out that there was a 71% increase in library usage in the last few years and they attribute some of that increase to the textbook program.

I also attended the presentation by UNC-Greensboro on open educational resource (OER) textbooks as reported by Susan. A good list of OER projects was included and will provide interesting further research.

UNC-Charlotte’s library presented a session on collection management that included information about their ebook program for textbooks. They enter into licensing agreements with publishers with stipulations including unlimited access, freedom of digital rights management (DRM) and retention of archival rights. I’m interested in exploring the costs involved and how that compares with copyright permissions in Course Reserves.

Further research into these textbook ideas could help us guide our students and faculty to quality resources that may help mitigate the cost issues.