ACRL New England Chapter
Department or Program
Information and Library Services
The rising cost of textbooks is a growing concern among students, faculty, and administrators at institutions across the country. According to the College Board, the average student spends approximately $1,200 per year on textbooks and supplies. This price point can be a roadblock for many students and can potentially change the course of their academic pursuits. Certain disciplines have higher material costs, which can impact student retention and success in those fields.
Reserve programs are a common occurrence in academic libraries, however variable and non-standard. Historically, few libraries purchase textbooks for reserves given their high cost and frequent edition revisions. This presentation will discuss how one small liberal arts college implemented a total reserves policy, acquiring all required course texts for every class with no additional funding to the library. The library started this program in response to student concerns over textbook affordability and equity of access. It has allowed for new partnerships on campus beginning with the College Store and progressing to the Office of Advancement. The continued success of the program has raised awareness on campus to the invisible costs of education and sparked new conversations and initiatives on textbook affordability and open educational resources.
Several departments within the library worked together to set up the initial program and create a sustainable model of both budgets and staffing. Our collaborations with other departments on campus strengthened communication to and from faculty and developed new opportunities and audiences for fundraising. Demonstrated success from high circulation and positive student feedback have shown the library to be a leader on campus.
Participants will come away with an understanding of the upfront and maintenance costs associated with implementing such a program; how to find avenues for collaboration and fundraising; and what equity looks like in an academic library.
Wilfong, Krystie; Bell, Christina; and Omohundro, Zane, "The Price Isn't Right: How Libraries Can Overcome the Invisible Cost of Education" (2019). ILS Scholarship. 7.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.