ALA Unit/Subunit: ALCTS
Meeting Type: Program
Cost: Included with full conference registration.
Academic librarians at all types of institutions are being asked to demonstrate how their libraries support student success. At a time when many students struggle to pay for textbooks, studies have shown that students who lack access to their textbooks fail or withdraw from their courses at higher rates. This presentation describes a textbook lending program which has evolved since 2010 from a small, unfunded service to a robust program that accounted for over 56 percent of the Libraries’ circulation of print materials in 2016. In 2010, librarians began selecting textbooks to support high-enrollment classes for freshman and sophomore students – those who represent the greatest retention risk at our university. The Libraries’ textbook program expanded to include e-textbooks. We also lead the campus in encouraging adoption of low- or no-cost textbooks as part of an Open Educational Resources (OER) initiative, providing faculty workshops and grants to raise awareness and support OER adoption. We calculate student savings from OER and e-textbooks, as these can replace student textbook purchases. Over time, e-textbooks and OER are expected to reduce demand for our physical textbook lending service. During the transition, however, innovative textbook selection strategies support student success by providing textbooks for high-impact classes: lower-division classes with high enrollment and high rates of students who withdraw or receive grades of D or F.
The University enrolls nearly 30,000 students. It is designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution, and Hispanic students make up over 50 percent of the student body. The current freshman class is 55% Hispanic, and more than 60 percent of students are minorities. 46 percent are first-generation college students, and nearly that many are economically disadvantaged (Pell-eligible). Given the institutional context and the Libraries’ experience with heavy circulation of faculty-owned textbooks on Reserves, we thought a textbook purchasing program could support student success. After an initial expenditure of $15,000 in 2010, annual textbook expenditures averaged approximately $23,000 through 2012. Since that time, the textbook allocation gradually increased to $70,000 in 2017.
Growth of Textbook Circulation
In contrast to the downward trend of physical material circulation, the Libraries' textbook circulation has increased by 46 percent to nearly 100,000 circulations annually, while the circulation of print materials in the general collection declined by 38 percent. Comparing these figures shows that our textbook expenditures, a small segment of the budget for print materials, is responsible for an increasing percentage of print circulation.
Process, Data, and Metrics
We implemented a number of process improvements to carry out this effort. Collaborating with the campus bookstore, we gained access to their database of semester textbook assignments and prices. Now, automated matching between the library holdings and the bookstore’s database of current textbook titles allows us to identify textbooks in a timely manner prior to the start of each semester. Our staff can search a local database for course and textbook listings, reducing the amount of time spent sifting through scattered sources of textbook information.
To determine the criteria for our high-impact courses, we analyzed course enrollment and course level data, grades, and textbook cost information. We applied the criteria to the master list of courses and identified high-impact textbook candidates, then calculated costs. Although it is convenient and useful to work from campus data, it is possible to define and apply high-impact textbook criteria using some basic guidelines. Institutions can define criteria and scope textbook purchasing programs to whichever amounts can be set aside for textbooks. Using data to selectively purchase materials – regardless whether other materials or textbooks – helps illustrate an institution’s return on investment.
Armed with new data, we now conduct analyses that reveal information about the university’s textbook assignments and costs. In addition to e-textbook and OER cost offset, we calculate average textbook costs per student, per academic department, and per college. We identify textbook assignment trends and compile enrollment data. All of these help inform discussions with faculty and campus leaders as we explore OER options to relieve the cost burden of textbooks for students.
Textbook programs aren’t without their challenges. Student demand for copies can be high, and they may expect all courses’ textbooks to be available in the library for checkout. Textbooks frequently change editions, and faculty in different sections of the same course may assign different editions. Scoping a program using set criteria can help keep textbook collection maintenance manageable. Effective marketing and communication with university partners is crucial to helping spread the right word. Our LibQual+TM comments consistently show far more positive comments about the textbook program than negative comments.
The high rate of textbook circulation shows that students value having access to these materials. The usage data indicates a compelling need and provides justification to allocate collections funds for these high-use materials. The use of textbooks on Reserve brings many students into the library, allowing us to acquaint them with the wider range of services that support student success. Although we cannot purchase textbooks for all classes, purchasing books for high-impact classes is a strategic collections initiative that supports student academic success.
Co-sponsored by ALCTS Scholarly Communication Interest Group