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Textbook collections: Required of our students, unwelcome in our academic library?
Charleston Conference (2017)
  • Leanne Olson, Western University
What happens when library policies and philosophies of the past run counter to user desires of the present?

At Western University (Ontario, Canada) we have an official collections policy to avoid collecting textbooks, as they fall outside of the carefully librarian-driven, research-heavy philosophies that drive our acquisitions process. However, in every survey to students and faculty, we find requests for textbooks on reserve and praise for the books we already have.

In response, I conducted a statistical analysis of textbooks and our collections: we already provided access to nearly 40% of required course texts (despite our policies), and these were by far the most highly used materials in the library. I applied a cost per use analysis and mapped required course texts against similar books by call number range and fund code to discover they outperformed “regular” books significantly. I used this data to present to library management and prove that there is a role for systematic textbook collection in the university library.

This presentation involved significant audience participation, through discussion questions and sharing about textbook use at their own libraries, different programs for textbook acquisition, and attitudes toward textbooks and the role of the academic library. 

I have also shared the source code for an applet I designed in R (statistical programming language), which is posted on GitHub for individual librarians to use and modify:
  • collection analysis,
  • textbooks,
  • collection development
Publication Date
November 8, 2017
Charleston, South Carolina
Citation Information
Leanne Olson. "Textbook collections: Required of our students, unwelcome in our academic library?" Charleston Conference (2017)
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