Monday, December 22, 2008

Texbooks in the Library

I am still frustrated with finding way that issues, problems can be tracked within our library. I just thought of starting a personal blog with some of the issues I see, just so there is some sort of time line, but I realized I already have a library blog going, I could post here about these issues.

Here are a few e-mails from the fall 2008 semester on the issue of textbooks in the library. I am sure we will run into this problem again come January, but for now, I don't think any of us have the time or energy to expend on this, but I think this issue should still be kept in some sort of queue:

>>> Maira Bundza 9/29/2008 >>>

I am still getting textbook questions, where the book is not available at the bookstore. It seems to me that this year this has been more of a problem than other years. Are we in on some sort of discussion between faculty the bookstores and the libraries about textbooks? I understand that it can be difficult to order the correct amount of books, if the number of students is unknown. I am so thankful for those rare classes that do ask the library to purchase a copy of their text and put it on reserve, so the students can at least prepare for their classes. I believe it was Wayne State (someone I talked to recently) that as a rule purchases all the text books needed for undergrad classes and puts them on reserve. (I'm trying to imagine the space that takes up, but then again they had a pretty big space behind the circulation desk.) I know that is not our policy and I understand the reasons, I am just saying I got the sense that it was a bigger problem this year than previous years (that is why I am copying Maria, maybe it's just me), and if there is any way in which we could make life less frustrating to students...

>>> Maria Perez-Stable 9/30/2008 >>>
No, Maira, it's not just you. I hear the same thing (the bookstore is out of books) and I just cringe. To me this is an indication of something not right at our university. I don't recall this happening in my own student days. At the last ACRL I saw a poster session (and maybe it was from Wayne State) where they got a pool of funds and bought some of the textbooks from some of the lower-level lecture classes to put on reserve.

I actually DID find the poster session and have sent the librarian an email. Let's see if she responds. Yes, I do think CD would be the place to start the discussion.

>>> Barbara Cockrell 9/30/2008 >>>
We can discuss this at to tomorrow's CD meeting if you like. I cant say I am very keen on the idea. Apart from budgeting for this need the major issue would be the organization/administration of it. If someone at Central Reference is willing to take responsibility for identifying the classes and books that we would supply that might help convince me. I do not feel that I have the time to take this on at present and I do not want to be responsible for determining which classes are selected and which are not. Its not realistic to think we would purchase all the textbooks that are required each semester - you only have to look at the number of books in the bookstore to realize what an undertaking that is. The other problem with textbooks is that they change pretty much every year not significantly but enough to warrant publishers coming out with a new edition so that they keep their profits healthy so we would constantly be having to update editions etc. Then there is the whole business of managing the reserves. It would definitely represent some serious work and a change in what we have seen as our role here. However we can certainly talk it over and see what other members of the committee think.

>>> Terence Hudson 09/30/08 >>> - from the bookstore
Sorry you guys are being put in the middle of these situations. If you walk down our textbook aisles you'll see that we are far from out of textbooks. Without knowing the particulars concerning which books they are looking for, I can't give you exact reasons for our outages. It could be any number of reasons, such as the number of students enrolled in the course surpassed the number of books requested, or another instructor is using the same book but did not place an order.

We are not the only source for textbooks here at WMU. The private off campus bookstore and any number of online sources compete with us for sales. Knowing this, we do not order 100% of the books needed for many classes. If we did, our shelves would be bulging with even more leftover textbooks right now. That would not be an appropriate use of university funds. Its a real balancing act with every single title we carry, of not buying too many books and yet not running
out. We try to error on the side of the customer but do get caught short sometimes. To help students get copies of out of stock books, we do place special orders that arrive in 3-5 days in most instances.