Many students just aren’t able to afford textbooks.
With a regular semester class only being about four months long and a winter or summer session being about four or eight weeks, priorities sometimes need to be evaluated on whether it’s worth spending money on a book that isn’t going to be used again. Often, a textbook is only needed for tests or for a couple of assignments.
Although the library offers a limited amount of reserved textbooks available for a two hour check out, there should be online versions of textbooks that students can access at any time.
Just like the school databases being accessible off campus, if online copies were made available, students who are in need of the textbook at home during the weekend could check out the book despite the library being closed.
To ensure that students aren’t holding onto the textbooks, the time limit doesn’t have to be raised either. The library can have an automated system that returns the textbook into the system or passes it on to the next student who is on hold.
Speaking of holds, occasionally when a student goes to the reserve desk they find that the book they needed isn’t available anymore. Students don’t have time to keep checking to see if the book is back. There should be something like a virtual line that students can place themselves on as the next person who gets to check out the book.
If the library can’t offer online textbooks, then they should have more than two physical copies and there should be a way for students to check them out for 24 hours. A small fee, perhaps $2, can be charged for those who want to keep them out for longer.
This would make it easier on students who face the burden of having to rush to the library after their class is over to return the book before the time limit is up. That would also mean that students can actually take them further than outside the library.
According to Inside Higher Ed, the money students are spending is decreasing, not because the prices of textbooks are but because they’re either choosing not to buy them or they’re using different options.
“This year, 32 percent of students reported using free course materials, compared with 25 percent last year and 19 percent in 2016, according to the NACS data. Just under 60 percent said their professors had provided them with the free materials. About 17 percent of students admitted to perhaps illegally downloading course materials from torrent or peer-to-peer sharing sites, quite possibly in breach of copyright restrictions, though students were not asked to specify.”
Since not all publishers have online versions of their texts available, instructors should think about finding ones that do have that option. Otherwise, they should get on board with using Open Educational Resources (OER). Many teachers have already implemented these into their courses and so should others.
If the library does start offering online copies, another $10 can be added to the other fees that students have to pay every semester, such as the ASO or health services one, so that they can access them.