Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

Reserve Textbooks: To Buy, or Not to Buy?

Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

Reserve Textbooks: To Buy, or Not to Buy?

Article excerpt

Introduction - The Existing Situation

Grossmont College Library has had a policy since its inception of not buying textbooks for quite a few reasons.

First among them was simply that we have always had a very limited book budget, so textbooks were ruled out. Our book budget until the last couple of years had been under $1,000 and we relied on augmentations, such as block grants, to add to it each year. With such uncertainty, we were not comfortable using a portion of the budget for textbooks.

Second, we were following the precedents set by most college libraries, so we did not consider ourselves unusual in any way. Very few libraries, as far as we could tell, actually bought texts for reserves. Most relied on faculty donations.

Third, as community college librarians, we often found ourselves referring to our undergraduate experiences. Since we attended college with the notion that textbooks were the financial responsibility of students, we all dutifully bought our textbooks and never relied on the library to provide them.

Fourth, if we did buy them for students, technical services staff would have to process them - and there would undoubtedly be short time frames. We had a limited technical services staff before, with the advent of the economic recession it is now even more limited. So we were concerned about the staffing time that would be required by adding the processing of these materials to their workload.

Fifth, space problems were another issue: where would we put the vast number of textbooks that we might be getting? Our designated reserves space was already pretty full.

And finally, other myriad reasons also factored in, as Pollitz, Christie and Middleton (2009) state "... competition with the private sector, violation of the university's contract with a textbook vendor, and pressure from the campus bookstore."

A Re-Examination

An article in American Libraries, in the "On My Mind" section, called "The Case for Textbooks," caused us to take a first look at re-considering our policy. In this short article, McDonald and Burke (2010) cited Ranganathan's "Five Laws of Library Science," and convinced our librarians that textbooks should be considered for purchase. They very successfully related buying textbooks to four of the five laws. Here's a summary of the three that impressed us:

* Books are for use.

* They make the case that many texts are available anyway - through interlibrary loan or on their regular shelves. So why stand in the way of potential users by making textbooks harder to obtain?

* Every book its reader.

* These quickly "obsolete" materials probably see more check-outs than most books on regular shelves.

* Save the time of the reader.

* Students sometimes need a temporary text until they can get theirs. If we can get them texts until then, it will surely save time!

We also agreed with this statement of theirs: "What libraries restricted in an earlier age, such as fiction, would seem ludicrous today. Let us seek new ways to serve our patrons and provide them with the resources they need" (2010). Times change, and we need to change with them. Libraries should not be carefully guarded warehouses anymore - they need to respond quickly and efficiently to serve their users by supplying needed information.

After that first look at the philosophical underpinnings, we then took a look at the realities of today's world.

First, there is evidence that print book collection use and reference desk statistics have dropped since the advent of the Internet.

As Anderson (2011) says of circulation statistics: "... use of academic libraries' physical collections--especially of printed books--is dropping. It's been a topic of discussion for years, and statistics bear out the conventional wisdom: the 2007-08 statistical report of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) indicates a 26% drop in initial circulations for its member libraries since 1991, while the National Center for Education Statistics' 2006 report on academic library data reports 144. …

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