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University Libraries to launch a textbook reserve pilot program

December 11, 2017

The University Libraries are seeking help in making costly textbooks more accessible to NIU students. The NIU Libraries’ Textbook Affordability Task Force is calling on faculty and instructors to place copies of their course texts on reserve at the library and to help in selecting high-demand, high-cost textbooks to add to the Libraries’ permanent collection.

According to College Board, between 2002 and 2013, the price of college textbooks has risen 82 percent, with the average student spending over $1,200 on books and supplies annually. This financial burden is causing some students to skip buying some or all of their required textbooks, which, in turn, is hindering their success in the classroom.

“There is a direct connection between the cost of required course materials and student success,” said Leanne VandeCreek, NIU Libraries’ acting associate dean for Public Services. “The 2017 Wakefield Study indicates that 85 percent of students delay or avoid purchasing course materials, with 91 percent of those students citing cost as the primary reason for doing so. And 50 percent of those students say their grades were negatively impacted by their decision to delay or avoid those purchases.”

Faculty and instructors can help ease the burden of high textbook prices by placing their personal and desk copies on reserve at the library. NIU Libraries’ Circulation Supervisor and Textbook Taskforce chair, Dr. DeeAnna Phares, is championing the push to make more desk copies available to students. As a former instructor in the Department of English, Phares regularly sought out desk copies for reserves.

“Virtually all academic publishers are willing to send an instructor at least one free desk copy,” said Phares. “For a high-enrollment class, such as PSYC 102 or STAT 208, they will usually send even more than one, if you ask. It will take you a few of minutes to provide all of the necessary information to the publisher when submitting a request, but that is time well spent—and your students will be grateful for your efforts on their behalf.”

In addition to providing access to desk copies, faculty and instructors can submit a request for NIU Libraries to purchase one or more copies to add to the permanent collection. This textbook purchasing pilot program is accepting requests through Friday, Dec. 22.

As VandeCreek says, “University libraries, bookstore managers, teaching departments, faculty and campus leaders all across the country are coming together to talk about alternative models, and steps we can take right now to make course materials more affordable. We simply have to do better for our students if we want them to stay, and to be successful.”

More information on textbook affordability, course reserves and detailed instructions on how to request desk copies of textbooks is available on the NIU Libraries’ website.