There isn’t always something in higher education that unites students, faculty and staff – but textbooks is one of those things that does. No matter how diverse the community and no matter how divergent the views, we can all agree that textbooks are too expensive and present a burden to students already stretched thin by tuition and worried by the prospects of post-graduate debt.
Where we have less common ground is workable solutions. That’s why I’m glad that the TLT Group has initiated some conversations about textbooks so that we can share information and ideas that could lead to better strategies for giving students access to the learning materials they need for academic success. Faculty and students may wonder why their campus librarians care about the textbook dilemma. Librarians don’t assign or use textbooks – but students often expect the campus library to have copies of their texts. Practically speaking, it’s just not possible for academic libraries (except those with unlimited funding) to acquire costly textbooks, especially textbooks that are soon replaced by new additions. It’s imperative that the librarians build resource collections that reflect and support the curriculum, research and learning,
Beyond that I advocate that academic librarians should be campus leaders to work towards solutions. The solution is not to have the library buy more textbooks. Rather, it is to change our thinking and behaviors about the ways we accumulate and deliver learning materials. I’ve been exploring these issues for nearly two years and have advocated for change at my institution where the library supports faculty who want to ditch their expensive textbook for free or low-cost alternatives. If you are interested in learning more about my views on textbooks, visit these links:
Curricular Resource Strategy Part One
Curricular Resource Strategy Part Two
Taming the Textbook Market
I will look forward to future conversations on these topics that are organized by the TLT Group. There is no single solution to the textbook conundrum. Faculty need a diverse set of strategies that can work across the disciplines. There will always likely be a need for print textbooks – some courses work best with them. The TLT Group can help us explore the multiple options for new alternatives to traditional textbooks, and help us learn how we can best leverage technology for smart solutions. I hope you’ll join in our next online discussion about these topics.
Steven J. Bell
Associate University Librarian for Research and Instructional Services
Temple University Libraries
Paley Library (017-00)
1210 Polett Walk
Philadelphia, PA 19122-6088
Photo that appears to be of 3 clear globules unsupported, titled "We are floating in Space...." by "Psycho Delia" Liz on November 3, 2009 in Formby, England, GB
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