Lindsey Gumb | Assistant professor and scholarly communications librarian, Roger Williams University
1. How have you, as a Roger Williams University librarian, professor and recent graduate, seen firsthand the financial burden of increasing textbook costs? We witness this financial burden constantly in the library. Students will call or come in and ask if we carry their textbook. Over the last two academic years (2015-16, 2016-17) we observed a dramatic increase (367 percent) in these inquiries. [Throughout the year] I have conversations with frustrated faculty who assign homework out of the textbook, but half the students don’t complete it because they can’t afford the book.
2. Why don’t college and university libraries stock textbooks in their collections? For most university libraries, the practice of “stocking textbooks” would be an unsustainable model. We would love to provide this service, but if you consider how many courses run each semester and the new editions publishers push out each year, we’d not only blow through our budget, we’d have nowhere to put them.
We do, however, offer a reserves system. Faculty can bring in their personal copy or a spare copy of the textbook and we’ll keep it on our reserves shelf for students to check out for three hours at a time.
3. As co-chair of the state’s Open Textbook Steering Committee, created by Gov. Gina M. Raimondo in September 2016, how is the program helping students better afford textbooks through the implementation of open educational resources? The governor’s challenge has helped raise much-needed awareness for affordable higher education course materials. Our steering committee has a platform to promote the use of [OERs] to faculty [that] directly impacts the amount of money students are saving on textbooks and course materials.
4. How would you gauge faculty and student interest in OERs? Faculty I work with are enthusiastic about the potential [OERs] have in not only leveling the playing field for student access to course materials but they’re also invested in leveraging these open-licensed resources to enrich their pedagogy and the learning experience.
5. What has membership in this committee provided you, and fellow librarians, professionally? Above all, membership has provided us an incredible community of practice, one in which we can call on each other to navigate these new waters together.
Emily Gowdey-Backus is a staff writer for PBN. You can follow her on Twitter @FlashGowdey or contact her via email, Gowdey-backus@PBN.com