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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Campus Libraries Aim to Cut Textbook Costs

University libraries are taking it upon themselves to help alleviate the cost of course materials for their students.

For example, the University of Texas at Arlington Libraries created a new program to loan textbooks for selected courses, focusing on large-enrollment classes with a high rate of student withdrawal or failure. Sixty titles (including standards such as Campbell Biology and Mankiw’s Principles of Macroeconomics) are available for two-hour checkouts, although students must remain within the library during the checkout period. They’re allowed to copy portions of the text, however.

This program might not seem all that innovative—a number of campus libraries across North America already loan out textbooks—but the UTA library system previously didn’t offer current textbooks at all. The libraries established the program to address the problem of students trying to make it through a difficult course without the textbook because they didn’t have money to buy or rent it.

“We are committed to helping students get the resources they need to succeed academically and textbook lending is one way we hope to accomplish that,” said Rebecca Bichel, dean of libraries.

The Universityof Massachusetts at Amherst Libraries recently launched the fourth round of its Open Education Initiative to provide cash incentives to faculty for the development of free or inexpensive alternatives to regular textbooks. The alternatives can include materials created by the instructor, library resources, or open-access resources available elsewhere.

The Open Education Initiative offers grants of $1,000 to faculty teaching a course of 200 or fewer students and $2,500 to faculty teaching a larger course. To date, 30 instructors from eight Umass schools and colleges have participated. The libraries claim to have saved students upward of $1 million on their textbooks.

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