MVC Library textbook affordability support service

Introduction

Moreno Valley College (MVC) is a small community college in California’s Inland Empire. Most students are first generational college students, receive need-based financial aid (Moreno Valley College, 2020). According to a recent student survey, textbook costs weigh heavily on MVC students, with 92% of surveyed students saying that textbook costs influence their “decision to enroll and/or continue in a class either ‘somewhat’ or ‘a lot,’” and three out of every four students indicated that they would take more courses if the cost of textbooks at MVC was significantly reduced. The same survey found that only 26% of these students have all their textbook costs covered by financial aid, so a majority of students directly face the burden of high textbook costs (Moreno Valley College, 2021).

As a librarian at MVC Library I see the burdens and barriers that high textbook costs have on students firsthand, and my library has long struggled to keep up with the constant demand and new editions of textbooks, access codes, and other course materials that students need to access to succeed. Financial challenges are one of the greatest obstacle to student completion, so I believe that improving student access to course materials and helping to lower textbook costs across the college is one of the most impactful thing that the library could do to increasing equity and improve student success (Schaffhauser, 2020). The literature suggests that a multifaceted approach to combat textbook unaffordability is needed, so with these goals in mind this service plan aims to create a textbook affordability service which will: work to increase the availability of textbook resources through the library, to offer one-on-one support for students in identifying their textbooks options, and to provide support, training, and incentives to faculty to adopt open, free, or low-cost course materials (McHale, 2020 ; Schlak, 2018 ; Todorinova, 2020).

Why College Textbooks Are So Expensive by Business Insider

Goals/Objectives for the Library Textbook Affordability Service:

  1. Enhance the library’s access and offerings of course materials through its course reserve offerings, whether they are or physical and electronic, or are openly or commercially licensed.
  2. Provide students with a formal service that helps them identify their options for accessing required course materials, whether they be for for-cost or no-cost materials.
  3. Support and advocate for the adoption of open or no/low-cost course materials.
  4. Promote a more equitable and less burdensome college culture where zero (or low) cost textbooks are institutionally encouraged.

Description of Community you wish to engage:

This textbook affordability support service would be aimed at the students, instructors, and administrators of Moreno Valley College. Instructors and administration would engage with this service through direct library support, advocacy, and training for the adoptions of openly licensed or low/no-cost course materials.

College students would be supported directly through increased access to printed and digital course materials offered through the library and textbook finding service, and indirectly with lower textbook costs through the advocacy and incentives of no/low-cost materials with instructors.

Action Brief Statement:

Convince the college community that by having widespread adoptions of Open Educational Resources (OER), Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC), or Low Textbook Cost (LTC) materials they will improve student access to course materials which will improve course completion and retention, and make a more equitable institution because all students will have equal, free, and immediate access to required course materials on day one of the course.

Convince students that by utilizing the library’s textbook services and resources they will find lower cost or free access to their required course materials which will improve their academic opportunities and lessen their financial burdens because every student should have equal access to required materials and equal opportunities to succeed in their courses and programs.

Convince instructors that by adopting OERs they will be able to exercise greater control over their content to better represent their students and give students more opportunity for learning and success which will improve their course content, instruction, student success, and equity because students will be more engaged with the material that they have free and immediate access to and that they feel represented by.

Evidence and Resources to support the Library Textbook Affordability Service:

Belikov, O. M., & Bodily, R. (2016). Incentives and barriers to OER adoption: A qualitative analysis of faculty perceptions. Open Praxis, 8(3), 235–246. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1112527

Broadhurst, D. (2017). The direct library supply of individual textbooks to students: examining the value proposition. Information and Learning Science, 118(11/12), 629–641. https://doi.org/10.1108/ILS-07-2017-0072

Clinton, V., & Khan, S. (2019). Efficacy of Open Textbook Adoption on Learning Performance and Course Withdrawal Rates: A Meta-Analysis. AERA Open. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2332858419872212

Henderson, S., & Ostashewski, N. (2018). Barriers, incentives, and benefits of the open educational resources (OER) movement: An exploration into instructor perspectives. First Monday. https://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/9172

McHale, C. (2020). The life span of a print textbook: An investigation in the utility of aging textbook collections in academic libraries. Journal of Access Services, 17(1), 4–21. https://www-tandfonline-com.libaccess.sjlibrary.org/doi/full/10.1080/15367967.2019.1684825

Rokusek, S., & Cooke, R. (2019). Will Library E-Books Help Solve the Textbook Affordability Issue? Using Textbook Adoption Lists to Target Collection Development. The Reference Librarian, 60(3), 169–181. http://libaccess.sjlibrary.org/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=136521629&site=ehost-live&scope=site

Schlak, T. M., & Johnston, B. (2018). A Case Study and Analysis of a Successful and Collaborative Student-Centered Textbook Reserve Program in a Mid-Size Academic Library. Public Services Quarterly, 14(1), 22–35. http://libaccess.sjlibrary.org/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lls&AN=127676348&site=ehost-live&scope=site

Thomas. (2018). Helping Keep the Costs of Textbooks for Students Down: Two Approaches. Technical Services Quarterly, 35(3), 257–268. https://www-tandfonline-com.libaccess.sjlibrary.org/doi/full/10.1080/07317131.2018.1456844

Todorinova, L., & Wilkinson, Z. T. (2019). Closing the loop: Students, academic libraries, and textbook affordability. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 45(3), 268–277. https://www-sciencedirect-com.libaccess.sjlibrary.org/science/article/pii/S0099133319300308

Todorinova, L., & Wilkinson, Z. T. (2020). Incentivizing faculty for open educational resources (OER) adoption and open textbook authoring. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 46(6), 102220–102220. https://www-sciencedirect-com.libaccess.sjlibrary.org/science/article/pii/S009913332030111

Mission, Guidelines, and Policy related to the Library Textbook Affordability Service:

The library has an existing collection development policy, although this policy was written broadly for all materials (not just textbooks and course materials) and with the limitations of the library’s standard budget in mind. With separate grant monies to fund physical and electronic textbook purchases a separate policy would be crafted by the librarians at the college, with input from library staff and administration.

Such a policy could help the library prioritize which resources, subjects, and formats are prioritized. Priority would ideally be given to the resources that have the greatest impact on affordability for the highest number of students – for example electronic texts/resources with an unlimited user access, or for the most commonly used resources. The policy should also provide guidance on the number of copies to purchase and the loan periods for the number of copies. A physical short term “library use only” copy would ideally be kept in the library to always ensure immediate student access, but additional copies could be made for daily, weekly, or even semester checkout, depending on the number available. Collection development policies from other college libraries could be consulted to guide the creation of the policy for this service.

There is no shortage of literature and guidelines on the creation of an OER librarian position and projects aimed at encouraging and supporting faculty in the adoption of open or no/low cost materials. Such literature would need to be consulted in establishing a local policy and to help guide the work, approach, and timeline of the support side of this service.

Briefly outline how your technology or service’s grant, allocated funding, budget, available free-space, etc. will be distributed: 

Initial funding would be to enhance the library’s physical and electronic availablity of required course materials. Funds could be found locally at the school through the Student Equity and Achievement committee or through external grants (state, federal, philanthropic). Some funds could be found through the library’s budget, though these would be limited.

A $50,000 grant could fund an additional 333 textbooks (at an estimated $150 each), which would greatly enhance these offerings. Whenever available, electronic copies with unlimited user licenses would be purchased to ensure that the resource allows simultaneous access for all students. Funds could be saved with physical copies by purchasing used copies through the college bookstore and loose-leaf editions, which could be cheaply bound by district printing and graphics (for $0.25/each).

The staffing costs for the OER librarians and staff positions would be the most challenging expense to get funding for, although this could also be done through various grants to help fund these positions in (at least) the short term. Additional expenses would be any financial incentives for faculty creating, adapting, or adopting affordable course materials. Such incentives have become common and the evidence shows that they make significant impacts on both instructors and on the larger organization (Henderson, 2018 ; Todorinova, 2020). OER and ZTC grants are widely available, particularly at the state level, as California recently approved $115 million in funding for community colleges to implement ZTC degrees to help reduce textbook costs.

Other possible expenses might include training, organizational subscriptions and association fees, and printing and binding cost (for openly licensed resources to be made physically available at the library).

Action Steps & Timeline:

Implementation of this service and its objectives can be scaled up – starting with the identification and purchasing of required course materials by the library in preparation for the Winter and Spring 2022 semesters. This enhancement of physical and electronic textbook offerings would be added in conjunction and in dialog with the offering of textbook finding service for students, which would greatly inform what textbooks/materials are most immediately needed to support students in current classes. These initial steps could be supported with funding to purchase these course materials, as no additional librarian or staff would be required. Such funding could be sought in a number of ways, such as through faculty driven Student Equity and Achievement funds, although would ideally be done with involvement and support from the library’s dean and administration.

The second phase of the implementation would be to support and advocate for open, low, or no cost materials with instructors and administration, and could begin as soon as staffing is made available. Investigation and adoption of open or alternative course materials can be a time consuming, complicated, and intimidating process, and studies have shown that lack of understanding, time, and support for finding OERs are key barriers in keeping faculty from adopting such resources (Belikov, 2016 ; Todorinova, 2020). Without providing sufficient support to help faculty in this process many instructors would otherwise opt not to. To adequately support this part of the service the library would need funding to hire (or reassign) an OER librarian to support these efforts, and ideally a staff member to help in support. For such an approval administrative support would be need, even if the positions were grant funded.

Additional buy in and support from administration would be a must, so administrators would be included in this process. Administration could help to institutionalize and encourage OER/ZTC/LTC resources and to change the larger textbook culture across the college. Some examples might be to include consideration of OER/ZTC usage in the tenure process, creation of college committees focused on course material costs, or to offer reassign time for faculty writing, adapting, or adopting alternative low/no-cost course materials. Many colleges have implemented Zero Textbook Cost degrees in which entire programs have no-cost course materials, and these degrees could be studies and replicated at Moreno Valley College.

It is worth noting that these are all services that the library already provides (seeking resources with students, purchasing of electronic resources, purchasing of physical resources, and support and training for OER/ZTC/LTC adoption), although it is not an adequate, comprehensive, or advertised service, so should administrative support not be given, or if funds were limited, then the components of the service could still continue, albeit in limited capacity.

Staffing Considerations for this Technology or Service:

While this service is not new to the library, the available funding and institutionalization of this service will allow the library to create a dedicated library and part-time staff position focused on aiding student’s textbook needs and supporting instructor needs for researching and adopting affordable course materials.

The funding for these positions (or their dedicated hours) could most easily come as a temporary grant-funded position, although more ideally would be permanent positions. Alternatively, staffing of these positions could come through as short term funded special project or re-assignment from other tasks. The library would need to get creative to fill in any voids left from reassignment, but if funds are provided could be done through the hiring of part-time staff or adjuncts, or, if needed, in the reduction of other services/resources.

Training for this Technology or Service:

The OER librarian and staff would require training in open licensing, learning management systems, accessibility requirements, and textbook related legislation.

The OER librarian and staff member would in turn hold training/faculty development sessions to inform faculty and administrators of the processes and requirements of adopting openly licensed, no cost, or low cost materials to ensure constancy and that college, district or state guidelines or requirements are met (such as proper attribution, articulation, accessibility considerations, identification of zero/low cost materials in the course schedule, communication with bookstore and library).

Promotion & Marketing for this Technology or Service:

This service could be promoted internally a number of ways: through emails to students, faculty, and the larger college community, through social media (both the library’s and college’s), signage, postings and announcements on the library and college websites, presentations at college committees and meetings (student groups, academic senate, strategic planning counsel, department meetings, etc). During any outreach or presentations (and throughout the offering of the service) the library would seek feedback and input from all involved parties and make adjustments as needed.

Promotion outside the organization could be done through website and blog postings to explain and demonstrate the service, and after the project is established and data collected, through writings and presentations to various related or interested organizations and groups (for example Community College Library Consortium, Association of College and Research Libraries, etc).

Evaluation: 

If the community continues to support this textbook affordability program, then it could be expanded to provide even greater support and advocacy across the college. Expanded support could come in the way of increased funds for resources, or through increased staffing. More staffing would allow the library to expand the services to help to support other considerations of textbook affordability, such as accessibility, improved outreach, seeking and offering of OER/ZTC related grants, greater community involvement, guest speakers, more incentives for OER creations or adoptions, help in demonstrating the pedagogical freedoms that open access content allows, to share more open education possibilities, to name a few possibilities.

Since the service encourages and supports more affordable course materials in a number of ways, each of these ways would need to be assessed to properly evaluate their effectiveness. Support for students and the enhancement of physical and electronic course materials could be measured through library usage data, such as number of checkouts, views, downloaded, appointments made, which would provide a limited measure in evaluating the success of these aspects of the service. Similarly, faculty inquires, presentation attendance, number of adoptions could help measure faculty response to the service.

The larger and more difficult data to collect and measure would be the cost savings to students, which could be collected and analyzed with help from the Office of Institutional Effectiveness. This data would help assess the amount students were paying before the service began, and then to determine any cost savings as a result of courses that switched to OER/ZTC/LTC resources or through the library’s purchased reserve copies. This data could be taken even further by the Office of Institutional Effectiveness to help measure any impact that reduced textbook costs and improved access to course materials had on student success and retention of the student community, or on specific demographics. Such results have been well documented in academic literature, but would be even more powerful as locally collected and shared data. This data could be used to help continue and expand the service and to demonstrate to the college community the level of merit and impact that such a program can have on students and the larger institution (Clinton, 2019).

Why OER? by Holyoke Community College

References

Belikov, O. M., & Bodily, R. (2016). Incentives and barriers to OER adoption: A qualitative analysis of faculty perceptions. Open Praxis, 8(3), 235–246. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1112527

Clinton, V., & Khan, S. (2019). Efficacy of Open Textbook Adoption on Learning Performance and Course Withdrawal Rates: A Meta-Analysis. AERA Open. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2332858419872212

Florida Virtual Campus. (2018, December 20). Textbook affordability : What are students saying?. Retrieved from https://dlss.flvc.org/documents/210036/1314923/Infographic+-+2018+Student+Textbook+Survey.pdf/28104939-0f6b-3b07-e9c3-d8062cda7758

Henderson, S., & Ostashewski, N. (2018). Barriers, incentives, and benefits of the open educational resources (OER) movement: An exploration into instructor perspectives. First Monday. https://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/9172

McHale, C. (2020). The life span of a print textbook: An investigation in the utility of aging textbook collections in academic libraries. Journal of Access Services, 17(1), 4–21. https://www-tandfonline-com.libaccess.sjlibrary.org/doi/full/10.1080/15367967.2019.1684825

Moreno Valley College. (2020). IMLS submission. Internal document. unpublished.

Moreno Valley College. (2021). OER Student Survey. Internal document. unpublished.

Schaffhauser, D. (2020, November 11). Report: Top 4 Barriers to College Completion. Campus Technology. https://campustechnology.com/articles/2020/11/20/report-top-4-barriers-to-college-completion.aspx

Schlak, T. M., & Johnston, B. (2018). A Case Study and Analysis of a Successful and Collaborative Student-Centered Textbook Reserve Program in a Mid-Size Academic Library. Public Services Quarterly, 14(1), 22–35. http://libaccess.sjlibrary.org/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lls&AN=127676348&site=ehost-live&scope=site

SPARC. (2021, July 28) California Approves $115 Million Investment in Zero Textbook Cost Degrees and OER. Retrieved from https://sparcopen.org/news/2021/california-approves-115-million-investment-in-zero-textbook-cost-degrees/

Todorinova, L., & Wilkinson, Z. T. (2019). Closing the loop: Students, academic libraries, and textbook affordability. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 45(3), 268–277. https://www-sciencedirect-com.libaccess.sjlibrary.org/science/article/pii/S0099133319300308

Todorinova, L., & Wilkinson, Z. T. (2020). Incentivizing faculty for open educational resources (OER) adoption and open textbook authoring. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 46(6), 102220–102220. https://www-sciencedirect-com.libaccess.sjlibrary.org/science/article/pii/S009913332030111

2 comments
  1. Hi Joel,
    You did a great job on this planning assignment! You are very thorough in explaining each section. A textbook affordability support service is much needed in all colleges and universities as textbooks are very expensive. I like how you supply the figure: A $50,000 grant could fund an additional 333 textbooks (at an estimated $150 each). It shows how money allocated for textbook affordability would really affect the student population.
    Open Educational Resources (OER), Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC), or Low Textbook Cost (LTC) seem like good places to begin helping students acquire low cost books. Great post!

  2. E said:

    @jwebb202 This seems like a much needed plan at MVC. I hope it’s something that can be implemented because it would be such a boon to the students. I was shocked (and appalled) at the survey results showing students not taking a class because of the cost of textbooks! (It also made me consider my luck and privilege that I never had to make a decision about a class based on textbook cost.) I love the idea of encouraging the use of open educational resources, zero cost, or low cost textbooks and of an academic library supporting students in this way.

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