Last semester, the Academic Affairs Committee (AAC) began making changes to the Textbook Reserve Program in order to streamline the way the program works. The Textbook Reserve Program, a collaboration between the AAC and the library, works to provide students with textbooks for short-term checkout periods and is one of the library’s most popular programs.
“Copies of the title, ‘Calculus: Single and Multivariable’ were checked out over 500 times last fall. Copies of Principles of Economics were checked out 445 times and copies of ‘Chemistry: the Molecular Nature of Matter and Change’ were checked out over 380 times,” Library Specialist Connie Karlen wrote in an email, who works with Interlibrary Loans and Reserves.
These reserve titles have some of the highest demand on campus. “Those are very impressive statistics. Only equipment (laptops, calculators, etc.) have higher checkouts than textbooks,” Karlen wrote.
Due to the popularity of the program, library staff and the AAC have been collaborating to improve its efficiency, and also to make sure that more students know that the program is available to them.
“The changes that we made to the textbook reserve bill has to do with an alteration with the behind the scenes administration of the Textbook Reserve Program. Now, the AAC’s role is more focused on gathering requests from students and faculty and selecting which textbooks to purchase for the next semester,” AAC Chair Caroline Duncombe ’18 wrote in an email. “While previously it was the AAC’s Chair job to order textbooks and bring them to the library, we are gradually shifting towards the library being in charge of that administrative side for it is more efficient on both ends by taking out quite a few middle guys.”
The AAC and library are still navigating their new responsibilities within the program.
“The library and AAC/MCSG are still working through what the best process looks like. We all agree that the library has a wealth of expertise when it comes to ordering books and agree that we want to take advantage of that expertise,” Karlen wrote. “The ordering procedures are still being tweaked. We did change the delivery of textbooks. Now all newly ordered textbooks are delivered directly to the library. This enables us to get the books to our cataloging department the same day.”
Additionally, a new feature has been added to the website that permits students and professors to submit requests for textbooks themselves. Previously only professors had been able to submit requests on behalf of their students. Duncombe wrote that requests acquired through the website allow students and professors to request books outside of the official filing period to be integrated for consideration in the program.
“Now students can go to this page to check if a particular textbook is part of the program,” Karlen said. “Faculty and students can also submit requests [to the AAC] for textbooks they’d like MCSG to consider purchasing in the future.”
Overall, due to the continued popularity and longevity of the Textbook Reserve, the program’s base for textbooks is gradually getting larger.
“We are purchasing about 50 textbooks a semester on average, so the textbooks in the reserve are only going to increase,” Duncombe said. “I actually foresee a day where the AAC will come upon the problem that due to the quantity of textbooks, not many people will be making requests for new books, because we had already bought all of them. This won’t happen this year, but I could see it happening in the next three years.”
Despite this increased base for common textbooks, Duncombe reiterated that the Textbook Reserve Program’s resources aren’t inexhaustible, especially since new editions of textbooks have to be purchased every few years or so. Therefore, a new project is possible in the future; not a request page on the website or a more efficient buying practice, but an idea similar to Mac Free Swap — one that’s exclusively for books.
After a student approached the AAC about the issue, the AAC began the process of creating “a bookshelf/space on campus where students can donate textbooks that are perhaps cheaper and can’t be resold to the Highlander, in addition to being able to take whatever books are the shelf,” Duncombe said of the new project. “The idea is similar to Book Exchanges in youth hostels. I am not sure if this would work, but we want to try it out and we are actively seeking a space on campus to place this bookshelf.”