- Jul 2019
Reporting on a study at Queensborough Community College, also in the CUNY system, Sheila Beck notes that the library’s reserve textbook collection is “heavily used,” however, staffing and other concerns have prompted librarians to consider “less labor intensive and less costly alternatives.“ Beyond textbook reserves, academic librarians can help students to locate required course readings in other ways: older editions of their required textbook, pre- or post-prints of articles in institutional repositories, articles or other texts in databases subscribed to by the library, or readings that may be in the public domain or otherwise available on the open web.
The basic economics of this system would indicate (especially as classes become larger and larger) that more careful consideration of choice, economics, accessibility, availability, etc. on a larger institutional level creates larger marginal gains for those in the class. If a staff librarian, teacher, or someone else within the system does the leg-work up front and does it well, then the dozens or even hundreds of students in the course don't need to spend (read: waste) their own time re-inventing the proverbial textbook wheel once they're in the class.
Portions of the situation here make me wonder if we might pull a page from Dr. Peter Pronovost's playbook in the health care space and create a simple checklist of what to do when planning for textbooks and readings. Checklists that include things like:
- will the texts actually be used?
- will they be primary to the subject or are they supplementary?
- What are their prices?
- Are alternate materials available?
- Are older editions available?
- are public domain or open web versions available?
- are there copies in the library? reserves? pirated versions? pre/post prints?
Once such a checklist is available, institutions should require that it be available along with syllabi and other course listings.