Document Type


Publication Date


Presented at:

2014 MLA Academic Libraries Conference in Lansing, MI.


The issue of course textbooks continues to be a challenge in higher education. For students the primary concern is the skyrocketing costs: spending several hundred dollars for required textbooks per semester at a time when tuition and fees continue to rise. Consequently, students are borrowing, renting or simply forgoing purchasing textbooks to alleviate some of the financial burden. For those students who are unable to purchase textbooks, are they still receiving the same high quality education? Although faculty members empathize with students’ frustrations concerning textbook prices, they may not be aware of the alternative resources and services offered by the library that can assist them in meeting the same learning objectives as publisher textbooks.

The University Libraries at Western Michigan University launched two Library initiatives in the Fall of 2013. First, the Libraries formed a Textbook Pilot Project Task Force that recommended purchasing textbooks for targeted high enrollment courses at the 1000 and 2000 undergraduate level and place them on library course reserves for students. Usage data and faculty responses up to this point indicate this project has been successful and continues for the Spring 2014 semester. Secondly, it became apparent that the Libraries must go beyond purchasing textbooks and began initiating an awareness campaign to educate the faculty about alternatives to textbooks. Alternatives include both University Libraries resources such as course reserves and e-books, as well as the Open Educational Resources (OER) movement of providing access to open source high quality educational materials. Library liaisons and staff are encouraged to work with faculty to utilize these library tools and services to provide students with similar content that meet the curriculum objectives. Ultimately, our goal is to help students succeed and make college more affordable by maximizing the resources and services of the University Libraries.