Textbook and Course Lecture Materials Collecting Guideline

Purpose of Guideline

This guideline outlines the standards and procedures Trexler Library uses for managing textbooks.

Reference to Affiliated Policy

Provisions of this guideline supplement the Trexler Library Collection Development Policy and should be used in conjunction with the standards and selection criteria specified in the policy, as well as other procedures and guidelines related to the policy.

General Guideline

With the exception of test preparation materials for graduate and professional school entrance exams, Trexler Library does not generally purchase or rent textbooks or prepared course materials for its collections. Materials collected and used by the Education Department for teaching certification coursework are not controlled by these guidelines. The supplementary information below explains current practice, alternative resources, and procedures for handling textbook requests and donations.

Supplementary Information

What is a textbook?

Sometimes the word "textbook" is used to mean any required book for a course of study. However, for the purposes of collection development, the library more narrowly defines what qualifies as a textbook. In ODLIS-the Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science, author-librarian Joan M. Reitz defines a textbook as "an edition of a book specifically intended for the use of students who are enrolled in a course of study or preparing for an examination on a subject or in an academic discipline, as distinct from the trade edition of the same title, sometimes published in conjunction with a workbook, lab manual, and/or teacher's manual."1

Works of literature, histories, and scholarly studies, among other types of texts, may be required reading for a class, but they do not qualify as "textbooks" as defined above. Thus, sometimes required texts for a course are part of the library's existing holdings because of their fit with our general collection policy, not because they are required texts for classes being taught at Muhlenberg College.

What is course lecture material?

Course lecture materials are prepared instructional materials on a particular topic. Examples of course lecture material include instructional audio or video lectures, lecture notes, or classroom materials. Documentaries are not considered course material.

Alternatives to textbook and course lecture materials

Standard reference materials

The library purchases handbooks, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and other reference sources in many subject areas which often cover the basic information provided in textbooks, whether applied or theoretical information is needed. Journal articles are available for the latest theories, methods, and interpretations.

Course Reserves

If a specific textbook is needed for a particular course, a faculty member may choose to place a personal or department copy of a textbook in course reserves. The textbook will be returned to the faculty member at the conclusion of the course. In lieu of the entire textbook, the faculty member may put a copy of only one chapter on reserve. Library staff can assist with obtaining any copyright clearance needed. It should be noted that the course reserve service aims to provide supplementary materials for instruction and education, not basic texts required for the entire length of the class.

Internet textbooks and course materials

At this writing, there are a growing number of freely available, internet-based textbooks and course materials produced by scholars for use with introductory courses. Links to these resources may be provided through Canvas. Library liaisons can assist faculty in locating appropriate materials. (Example: Textbook Revolution)

Review copies

Academic programs or departments needing textbooks for review or for other uses by department staff may request review copies directly from the publisher or acquire the needed materials with non-library departmental funds.

Details of Current Practice

Reasons for not purchasing textbooks

A 2005 survey of libraries shows that the “no purchase policy for textbooks” continues to be the standard followed by a majority of college libraries.2 The most commonly cited reasons, which also hold true for Trexler Library, follow:

  • Textbooks are most often designed to be used by students for a complete course of study and not written to serve as background or reference works. Ultimately, it is the student's responsibility to acquire the basic resources assigned in a course syllabus. When an introduction to a topic or general reference source is needed, library staff members are available to help students and faculty locate alternative sources of information.
  • Whenever feasible for the subject matter, the library strives to select materials that have long-term value and provide content that meets a variety of needs. Textbooks generally do not meet this need. Publishers regularly refresh textbooks to keep the content current and to limit sales of used books.
  • It would be a significant strain on library collection budgets and staff time to constantly purchase updated editions of textbooks for library collections, which are often updated every one to three years.

Procedure for handling exception requests

Exceptions to the no textbooks rule are rarely made. If a librarian or faculty member is considering purchasing a textbook, alternative options must first be explored. The librarian liaison will review with the faculty member the currently available resources in the library on the relevant topic, discuss alternate options, and conduct a resource search for alternate materials on the subject. Textbook purchase will be approved only after a staff librarian is sure that other resources are not available for the intended purpose. From time to time, a librarian may approve the addition of a general, introductory work to a collection, which will provide basic information to patrons. However, this introductory text may not be the specific textbook being used for a current class. It may only be a general, introductory work on a topic that would be useful to students or other patrons and chosen because alternate preferred publication forms are not available or because it is the best available source.

Interlibrary loan and textbooks

Textbooks may be requested from other libraries through interlibrary loan services, but for the reasons mentioned above, they may not be available for loan from other libraries and the request may go unfilled. It should also be noted that students often need textbooks for longer than most interlibrary loan periods allow.

Gifts and textbooks

Trexler Library regularly receives donated textbooks. A library staff member evaluates each textbook and considers it for inclusion in the collection using the same selection criteria as for a purchased item.

1 Association of College and Research Libraries. (2000). Information literacy competency standards for higher education. Retrieved January 5, 2010 from Association of College and Research Libraries website, http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/acrl/standards/informationliteracycompetency.cfm

2 Shapiro, J. J., and Hughes, S. K. (1996). Information literacy as a liberal art. Educom Review, 31 (2), 31-36. Retrieved from https://teaching.uncc.edu/sites/teaching.uncc.edu/files/media/article-books/InformationLiteracy.pdf

Reviewed 2010