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Textbook Policy

  • It is not our policy to borrow textbooks or other required reading materials available for purchase in the bookstore from other campuses through Interlibrary Loan.
  • Our textbook policy is designed to protect students and their academic success.
  • Our textbook policy supports the campus value that students are responsible for purchasing their textbooks and other required texts.

Why doesn't the library purchase course required textbooks?

When a required course textbook is put on the library shelves, the common scenario is that one student who is adept at working the system manages to monopolize the textbook for the entire semester. So in effect, the library has purchased the book for one student and left everyone else to shift for themselves.  Fines and fees don't prevent monopolization because students either ignore the eventual consequences (the fine I might have to pay at the end of the semester is not as real to me as money I have to pay now to buy the textbook) or because they realize that the fines and fees will add up to less than the cost of the textbook, making it cheaper to "rent" the textbook from the library than buy it from the bookstore. 

Even if flagrant monopolization doesn't occur, the textbook is not going to be available at the times when students need it most; right before a test, the book is always checked out. Then students do poorly on the test because they weren't able to study for it. Unfortunately, when students hear that a textbook is "in the Library," they often translate this information to, "I don't need to buy the textbook because I can walk into the library at any time and put my hands on it." This encourages some students who could afford the textbook to not buy it. 

Besides the harm done to students, the other reason the UCM Library doesn't purchase required course textbooks is that the Library isn't funded to do so. The Library's charge is to provide access to information above and beyond textbooks, not the textbooks themselves. Neither the state nor UC fund libraries to provide textbooks. Several years ago, some CSU campuses made a systematic effort to purchase reserve copies of all required course textbooks. They abandoned this plan when they realized that the cost of doing so would soon exceed their entire book budget. 

What if students can't afford expensive textbooks?

The library recognizes that the high cost of textbooks can be a financial challenge for students.  However, we maintain that textbooks are part of the cost of a UC education. UCM students are repeatedly told at orientation that they need to buy their textbooks, that textbooks are their essential tools for academic success. Students who truly can't afford to buy textbooks (as opposed to students who simply would rather not) should be directed to the UCM Financial Aid Office. There are emergency resources available to help out students who are in genuine financial trouble. 

What can faculty do to combat the high cost of textbooks?

Some faculty have begun fighting back by taking advantage of online information resources (both free resources and those provided by their campus libraries) to create electronic "course readers" that are free to their students, can be accessed from any place at any time, and which cannot be monopolized. The Springer books are a great, but not unique, example of resources that can be used in this way. All told, the UC Merced Library subscribes to 22,000 full-text e-journals and some 540,000 e-books that are completely free for students to access.

If you have questions please contact Donald Barclay ,Interim University Librarian (209.201.9724).


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