Faculty discuss textbook cost, new options

On Wednesday April 11, Milne Library hosted a faculty luncheon to discuss textbook distribution and cost on campus. Faculty members and library staff discussed ideas about student access to course materials and how to improve services in the future.  

Campus Auxiliary Services Director Mark Scott said the main purpose of the meeting was to “[establish] a campus-wide integrated strategy.” Scott’s presentation included a summary of the types of textbooks that students are currently buying from the campus bookstore.

Based on Scott’s presentation, 70 percent of students are buying new textbooks, 23 percent are buying used, 6 to 7 percent are renting and 0 to 1 percent are using the digital copies. According to Scott, these numbers have caused some confusion because “new textbooks are going to be generally twice the cost of rental.”

Scott said he questions why more students aren’t renting books when a “whopping” 40 percent of textbooks at the campus store are available for rent.

“One in four students are using the course reserve program,” said Information Services Librarian Justina Elmore. The program allows students to rent textbooks from the library for a period of four hours free of charge.

“A growing number of students are requesting that we buy more textbooks,” said Elmore.

According to IDS Librarian Tim Bowersox, about 15 percent of students use IDS to request textbooks and 85 percent request books and media through IDS that are not related to course material. Fourteen percent of these requests are filled from Milne, while roughly 70 percent of requests are filled by interlibrary loans.

“Students sometimes keep books until they’re charged, which is not a good situation for anyone,” said Bowersox. “When books aren’t returned on time, it puts our library in a bad light, which might reflect on our reliability.”

Collection Development Librarian Kate Pitcher introduced a new open education strategy at the luncheon. Pitcher said open education is “course material available to students that is written by experts, made available online for free access, downloading and use by anyone.” Pitcher said she believes that the implementation of open education would drastically drive down costs for students.

Kim Hoffman, coordinator of instruction and reference services at Milne, said she suggests the innovative method of “teaching your students how to fish.”

Having taught a reference sources and services course using this approach, Hoffman said that it’s important to tailor course material to the professor’s needs. Instead of requiring the students to go out and buy a textbook, Hoffman provided the students with the information databases that they would need to search for course material by themselves.

Hoffman said she found this method to be extremely successful – students’ researching abilities improved, and the readings were more narrowly focused on what they needed to know from class to class.