Textbooks in the Library

I work in a college library, and I was wondering if any other academic librarians experience this situation too. This is the first week of the semester, which means it's the annual parade of students coming to the library trying to find their textbooks for free.

Don't get me wrong - I sympathize with the high cost of textbooks. I was a college student myself only a few years ago. But these students are always so *surprised* when I tell them that we rarely carry textbooks, or if we do, we only have one copy, and somebody else already beat them to it. Do they really think that we are going to buy 30 copies of every textbook used in the school and then loan them out for an entire semester? It would eat up our whole budget and then we'd have no money left for other books that the students would need for researching their projects and assignments.

I admit it, I'm whining. I know that some of these students are probably in difficult financial situations, and therefore are truly desperate to save money in any way possible. But it still annoys me when, for the tenth time that day, a student comes to the desk, holds his syllabus in front of me and asks, "Do you have this book?"

But I am always friendly to all students. At this point I go into my routine. I smile and tell the student that we generally don't carry textbooks, but I'll check the catalog for the title just in case. Oh sorry, it looks like we don't have it.

I do agree that the high cost of textbooks is unfair, but libraries just aren't in a position to eat that cost for the students. What is the solution? Maybe something like this or this.


We even have students coming in asking to be shown to the textbook room… I tell them that if we do have their textbook, it would be by chance and not by design.The saddest inquiries are the ones when the students come in and ask to check out their text book the night before their final exam in the subject. One student began screaming at me and telling me that I would be the reason he was going to fail his class. We actually had his textbook (a miracle in itself) but it was checked out to another patron at the time. It also had several other holds on it for other patrons so he would have been fifth in line for it when it came in.

I used to work at an academic library and we'd get it too. Those kids don't know. How would they? They come in thinking there's a book called "Comparing and Contrasting Stuff You Have To Write Your Paper About, Dude."There is no solution. That's not nihilism talking. There's no economically viable solution, as you stated. The desk staff will just have to catch a bunch of flak from time to time.

Hehe, yeah I sometimes have students come in and ask "Where do you keep the textbooks?"I just got a phone call today from a student:Student: I was wondering if the library has a copy of my English textbook.Me: Well, we don't usually carry textbooks, but I can check the catalog and see if we might have it. What's the title?Student: [Pause] Oh. I don't know what the title is. I'll have to check and call you back.She called back later, and of course we didn't have it. She seemed very surprised that we didn't already know the names of all the textbooks that all the classes were using.

Don't feel the need to limit yourself to only Academic Libraries. I just had a patron ask today if we had a particular text book for a class they'll be taking. And, they are equally shocked when we don't carry them either. She said that she was going to check her college library. My tongues hurts from biting down on it.

However, every once in a while, a student's ingenuity will surprise me. One in particular impressed me with how she picked out her topic for a research paper. She went up to the reshelving are, looked at the books other students had returned, picked her subject from the checked in titles that were on those shelves, got all the books that the previous student had picked out and then checked them out herself to take home and do her paper with.

The publishers charge way more than they should. They should a)cut costs by publishing paper editions and using less expensive paper and binding methods and b)charge less...pass on the savings to college bookstores, students, libraries, etc.

There has to be some effective way to get the message across to textbook publishers that they cannot continue to expect payment of the extravagant amount of money they've been asking for texts. I have heard of lots of professors who have students use xeroxed chapters, chapbooks, trade books and other alternatives to texts in response to the problem.

If colleges got together maybe they could make some effective noise about this issue and make an impact on the industry.

Ran across this website in an article from the New York Times.