Textbook reserve program in the early stages

By Thomas Albano and Julia Corrigan

A pilot version of the new Textbook Reserve Program, incorporated at the start of this semester, is one of the big changes made to the libraries on both of Rider’s campuses.

The Textbook Reserve Program, first created by President Gregory Dell’Omo during his time at Robert Morris University, will make textbooks for freshman-level courses accessible to students on both the Lawrenceville and Westminster campuses. The purpose of the Textbook Reserve Program, according to Dell’Omo, is to reduce students’ costs for required materials while also increasing access to books needed for student success.

“This program is a positive step to reduce out-of-pocket expenses for students,” said Dell’Omo. “My hope is that this pilot will become a robust and fully implemented service.”

Students can bring their Rider ID cards to a librarian at the circulation desk. From there, students can use one of more than 100 books available for use in one of the reserve sections at the Moore Library on the Lawrenceville campus or the Talbott Library at Westminster. While the textbooks can be signed out for two hours and used by the student within the library, checking out a textbook is not allowed.

The program established some ground rules for the textbooks, however. Lab manuals and notebooks are excluded, as well as trade books, play scripts and some novels.

“We set about buying all the textbooks we thought would be useful but it turns out we can’t really predict that,” said Dean of University Libraries F. William Chickering. “There are so many different instructors with so many different textbooks. Already we have gone back and bought half of a dozen additional texts.”

All faculty members have been encouraged to donate books they don’t need to the libraries and to claim all desk copies that are due. This, according to Chickering, will help to make more textbooks available to students.

However, the textbook program has not been as popular as predicted so far.

“Since the start of the program, we have had only 49 circulations of textbooks,” said Chickering. “My fear of people standing in line at the scanner and copy machine, and unhappy because they couldn’t have access, have proven unfounded so far.”

According to Chickering, the most popular textbook has only been used eight times.

“It has been a success for the students who have used the textbooks, but it has not gotten as wide of an audience as we anticipated,” he said.

He feels that students still value having their own copies of textbooks to use whenever they want.

“If you have a complicated schedule, it might be hard to share a textbook with a friend. It might be hard to get the library as well if you’re a commuting student, because your day gets eaten up,” said Chickering. “One way you can make life a little easier for yourself is actually owning your own materials.”

Chickering said he understands that many professors feel it is important for students to buy their own textbooks and bring them to class. Some faculty members do not appreciate the new program and say it was done without consultation.

“During my time at Rider, although we are all sensitive to the issue of textbook costs, I don’t recall any forum where this has been discussed,” said professor of sociology Dr. James Dickinson. “Alternatives to a textbook reserve system might include asking faculty to seriously look for lower-cost materials, or establishing some kind of per-course maximum expenditure, taking into account the nature of the course and the state of textbook competition in that area. I have made an effort this semester to select what I think is a pretty reasonably priced textbook for my courses.”

There have also been other new features in the libraries, including eight new group study rooms, meaning there are 14 study rooms total.

“We had six [group study rooms] but they have not been really adequate,” said Chickering. “The opportunity to shift some of the collections and have these eight new rooms constructed will be a wonderful thing for students. In this age of education, group process is increasingly important.”

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