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COVID-19 Library Updates: Updates Blog

Course Reserves Not Available for Fall

by Kathleen Pickens on 2020-08-11T11:25:00-04:00 | Comments

Why We Can't Lend Textbooks This Fall

We consider our Course Reserves one of the most valuable services we offer to students. Whether they are waiting for financial aid to come in, simply can't afford to purchase a required text, or just want to catch up on some reading between classes--the textbooks that faculty give us to share with their students help drive student success. By limiting borrowing to 2 hours of in-library use, students have (had) a pretty fair chance to get what they need.

However, for student safety, print items must now be quarantined for four (4) days upon return. This takes away the fairness, dependability, and value of the service. Rather than repeatedly disappoint students by not having the materials available that they were depending upon, it is more prudent to not set an expectation that they can use the service as a replacement for purchasing the text. For more information on library quarantine recommendations, please see the REALM (REopening Archives, Libraries & Museums)Project's Test 2, under the Resources tab: REALM Project.

Why We Can't Just Share Electronic Versions

Due to copyright restrictions, the library is unable to scan/share more than a small percentage of a book which, again, does not create or provide an equitable service (not that we have the staffing to do even a portion of that scanning!).

So, why don't we just buy an electronic version? Our colleagues at the University of Guelph explained the challenges facing ALL libraries, not just theirs & ours, better than we ever could. With their permission, the text below is copied from their library website, with minor modifications.

Approximately 85% of existing course textbooks are simply unavailable to libraries in any other format than print. Textbook publishers have built their profit models around selling e-textbooks directly to students. Despite this, we also know that the cost of textbooks and other course materials represent a major financial hurdle for our students.

Despite the library’s commitment to make copies of required textbooks and course materials available to assist those students who are unable to purchase their own, the following publishers will not allow us to purchase an e-textbook version of their publications:

  • Pearson
  • Cengage
  • Houghton
  • McGraw Hill
  • Oxford University Press Canada (Textbook Division)
  • Elsevier imprints (especially in health science) such as:
    • Elsevier Health Science
    • Mosby
    • Saunders
  • Most publishers of current, popular fiction & nonfiction

This means that in courses that have adopted textbooks by these publishers, students who do not purchase the textbook will not have any alternative access to the textbook content.

Ways instructors may explore and identify viable textbook alternatives, include:

  • Using an existing e-book in the relevant subject area from the library’s e-book collection. There are many academic e-books that aren’t considered textbooks, and may therefore already be available from the library's e-book collections.
  • Adopting an open educational resource (OER). OERs are freely available educational materials that are openly licensed to allow for re-use and modification by instructors. Visit our OER library guide at for more information & to search for materials.
  • Creating an online course pack in Blackboard by:
    • Posting individual book chapters or excerpts, within copyright guidelines.
    • Linking to content from the library’s other existing collections of electronic resources, such as journal articles or streaming videos from Films on Demand.

We hope you understand that this is not a problem facing our library, or our college students; all academic libraries, regardless of budget or staffing, are facing the same issues of quarantining materials and availability of electronic substitutes. It just is what it is right now...

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