by Cris Ferguson (Director of Technical Services, Murray State University Libraries)
This issue of Against the Grain is devoted to the many and varied ways in which academic libraries are supporting institutional curricula. As tuition, the prices of textbooks, and student out of pocket costs continue to rise, libraries are pressed to think both creatively and strategically about how they can best meet the demands of their users, faculty and students alike. Bringing together case studies from a variety of academic institutions, the articles in this issue highlight how libraries are working with their constituents to best support their curricular and class needs. Solutions implemented include buying and making available print and/or electronic textbooks, encouraging the adoption of Open Educational Resources (OER) in place of traditional course materials, providing educational grants to faculty members who are producing or using OER content, and sometimes a combination of more than one of these tactics.
This is a careful balancing act, though. At a time when budgets are shrinking, pressure is on for libraries to make the most effective use of both their holdings budgets and their limited staff time. The first article in this issue, “One Monographs Bucket,” by Kelly Smith highlights an initiative at Eastern Kentucky University (EKU), where the EKU library eliminated all departmental allocations from its library acquisitions budget and created a single monographic bucket to better support the institutional curriculum. Some of the results included an increase in budgetary flexibility and improved efficiency.
Many library collection development policies used to preclude the acquisition of textbooks — primarily because textbooks change so often that keeping up to date with the editions being used requires a significant budgetary investment on the part of the library. In addition, a single print copy of a textbook can only serve a single library user at a time. However, more and more libraries, like Brigham Young University-Hawaii, are revisiting this decision in light of high student textbook costs. In “Textbooks on Reserve — Seven Years and Going Strong,” Becky DeMartini, Marynelle Chew, and Michael Aldrich discuss the success of BYUH’s growing print textbook reserve collection.
While recognizing that providing textbooks has not historically been a part of the library’s mission, Eastern Michigan University (EMU) has also begun to reconsider its approach to the acquisition of textbook content. Kate Pittsley-Sousa outlines EMU’s Library Textbook Affordability Initiative in her article “Expanding Options — Promoting the Adoption of Reasonably Priced Texts that are Also Available as Library eBooks,” which, among other approaches, encourages the adoption of reasonably priced titles that could be available for purchase as library eBooks. This enables students that may not be able to afford to purchase their own copy of a textbook to rely on the eBook owned by the library.
In the November 2016 issue of Against the Grain, Christa Bailey and Ann Agee introduced ATG readers to San Jose State University’s (SJSU) Affordable Learning Solutions (ALS) program. Now, two years later, SJSU is back to provide an update on the AL$ program. Christa Bailey and Adriana Poo explain in “TEAMing Up with Faculty: A New Tactic in the Textbook Battle” how SJSU began offering professional development funds to faculty to encourage them to adopt OER for use in the classroom as part of a new initiative called Teaching with Engaging and Affordable Materials (TEAM).
The University of North Carolina Greensboro (UNCG) is taking a slightly different strategy with its Digital Partners program. In “Digital Partners — An Incremental Approach to Supporting Digital Scholarship on Your Campus,” Tim Bucknall explains that through the Digital Partners program, instead of granting financial incentives, the UNCG Libraries awards grants of library staff expertise and time, which support pressing and creative faculty digital scholarship concepts.
In “Creating and Marketing Textbook/OER Programs,” Laura Pascual outlines the University of South Florida’s multi-faceted approach to providing access to course materials, which includes several of the tactics mentioned in other articles in this issue.
The important takeaway from this issue is that the ways in which libraries are supporting their institutional curricula are as many and varied as the institutions themselves and there are no right answers. The important part is to start taking steps. As Pascual states, “each local initiative contributes to challenging the traditional textbook model.”