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Juan Flores

UC Merced Newsroom- Grant Saves Students Thousands of Dollars in Textbook Costs

Thu, March 10, 2022 4:15 PM

**Below is the narrative of the complete news story written by Juan Flores, UC Merced

Grant Saves Students Thousands of Dollars in Textbook Costs

Published March 10, 2022

Juan Flores, UC Merced- UC Merced Newsroom

Higher education and high textbook prices usually go hand in hand, but hundreds of UC Merced students have been able to keep more money in their pockets thanks to a grant program.

The Zero-Cost Course Materials Grant, coordinated by the UC Merced Library and the Center for Engaged Teaching and Learning, allocated $30,000 in awards over a three-year period to faculty and instructors who replaced required commercial textbooks or other materials with freely available materials or library electronic resources. The Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost also provided $2,000 to fund two additional courses.

The pilot program is projected to save over $276,000 in textbook costs before wrapping up at the end of this semester.

"This is the first grant program at UC Merced that encourages faculty adoption of no-cost materials," said Elizabeth Salmon, a research services librarian at the UC Merced Library. "Our goal was to increase awareness of these materials and prevent adverse student learning outcomes that are associated with high textbook costs."

According to estimated figures from the University of California, textbooks and supplies are responsible for more than 9% of tuition and 3% of the total cost of attending a UC in 2022-23. Growing costs of other expenses can also impact a student's bottom line.

The coronavirus pandemic affected students as well. In a survey carried out by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), 5,000 students at 82 colleges and universities were asked about textbook costs and habits. Of those surveyed, 65% reported skipping buying a textbook because of the cost in 2020, with 90% of the students concerned that not purchasing materials would negatively impact their grade.

17 Courses Supported

In their grant program applications, instructors described how they planned to redesign their courses after replacing the commercial textbooks. Each selected recipient was awarded a grant of $1,000 or $1,500 to cover a variety of costs, including professional development and teaching equipment.

Grants were allotted to a total of 17 courses between spring 2019 and spring 2022 in all three schools. More than 2,500 students were enrolled in at least one course supported by the grants.

Econ Perspective

Multiple faculty members at UC Merced took advantage of the grant program, including economics Teaching Professor Jason Lee, who was becoming "increasingly concerned about the spiraling cost of textbooks."

Before he learned about the grant, students in Lee's Introduction to Economics (ECON 001) course could buy the new textbook for approximately $265 or the used version at $197. Some students, however, were forgoing the textbook altogether.

"I was concerned that due to the high cost of the textbook, students were simply not buying or renting the required course materials, resulting in lower performance in the classroom," said Lee. "I saw the Zero-Cost Course Materials Grant program as a great way to seek an alternative that would allow students to access the course materials at a significantly reduced cost."

While not without imperfections, the open-source textbook was free and closely matched the material Lee used in his class. He believes that as these open-source textbooks gain wider adoption, the quality will continue to improve.

Student Input

In anonymous course evaluations, Lee's students wrote that they appreciated the cost-free materials.

Students in other courses had similar feelings. Fourth-year student Heidy Gomez Barrios said a couple of her classes utilized digital materials, which helped her and her classmates save money.

"I know a lot of students were relieved they didn't have to buy a textbook," she said.

Gomez Barrios is part of the California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG). Since 2004, it has been campaigning for textbook affordability by researching freely available materials and the textbook market. The group's club at UC Merced is working to attract more students to become involved and make change, including garnering more support for open-source textbook programs across the UC system.

"We are striving to get more student and faculty support to show the UC Regents that funding for programs like these is needed," she explained. "So far, we have more than 2,000 petitions from students and more than 380 faculty signoffs to show support."

Looking to the Future

Over the past few years, textbook prices have started to stagnate and even decrease a bit, said Salmon, which could be in response to conversations about affordability and open educational resources. Even though the grant is coming to an end at UC Merced, advocates continue to hold out hope.

"There have been some discussions taking place on the systemwide level, so it is possible programs like this may be funded in the future," said Salmon. "At the end of the day, any movement toward making course materials more affordable is a benefit to students."

Juan Flores

Media Contact

Public Information Officer

Office: (562) 201-7317


UC Merced Newsroom: After 18-Month Closure Amid COVID-19 Pandemic, UC Merced Library Reopening Its Doors

Thu, August 12, 2021 11:30 AM

The UC Merced Library will reopen its doors on August 16th, 2021 after an 18-month closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In light of being physically, closed, the UC Merced Library continued to provide services and resources, grow its archival collections, and upgrade to UC Library Search- a shared UC-wide library catalog. Read the UC Merced Newsroom article by Juan Flores, UC Merced Public Information Officer and UC Merced Alumnus, class of 2009. The full article is also posted below.

Photo of the exterior of the UC Merced Library

The UC Merced Library will reopen on Monday, Aug. 16. Photo by Veronica Adrover.

After 18-Month Closure Amid COVID-19 Pandemic, UC Merced Library Reopening Its Doors

By Juan Flores, UC Merced
August 12, 2021


Since opening its doors in August 2005, the UC Merced Library has served as the hub of the campus. That all changed when the coronavirus pandemic hit and the building was forced to close in March 2020. Now, the library is gearing up to reopen its doors on Aug. 16 and welcome back members of the university and community.

As has been the case since UC Merced opened, adapting to fluid and ever-changing situations on campus is a must. From using fire exits to access buildings to having lectures in the California Room, Bobcats have quickly learned to roll with the punches. That was certainly the case when the pandemic started, and the library shifted to an entirely digital operation.

"I think one of the reasons we were able to move to this remote and digital model so easily is we've always been very adaptable," said Eric Scott, associate university librarian for library operations. "That's always been our mentality. That's always been our organizational attitude."

Photo of UC Merced Library fourth floor seating / chairs

The UC Merced Library has had its doors closed to visitors for 18 months. Photo by Veronica Adrover.

The library building was closed to visitors for 18 months, books couldn't be handled after being returned, and the courier service between the UCs was shut down for some time. Still, staff members were working from home and behind the scenes to ensure services such as curbside pickup, as well as residential delivery for faculty and graduate students, were available.

"Our goal at the library really was to be able to provide as stable of a service as we could," said Ross Anastos, library services manager. "The dedication, hard work and motivation of every single person on staff, including the student assistants, is the only way that what we did was possible."

"Throughout the pandemic, we've tried really hard to the extent that we could to get materials for people," said Joe Ameen, head of access services. "We tried to make as many of our resources available in electronic formats as we could."

The library already had a large amount of information resources in digital form before the pandemic. Moreover, Hathi Trust, a consortium that digitizes library materials held at universities across the United States, provided Emergency Temporary Access Service to the UC's copyrighted materials for online viewing, Ameen said.

Library goes above and beyond

Amid the pandemic, the library also became a haven for some irreplaceable archives. In September 2020, the Castle Fire burned toward Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks' headquarters. At the time, the archives there contained documents related to the 130-year history of Sequoia and its founding, photographs and negatives, plant samples of every known species and much more.

The archives' curator at the parks contacted the library for help. Within days, work got underway to transport the archives to the library for safekeeping.

New way to search unveiled

Even during the pandemic, the library's tools have been evolving. A new way to search for information resources at UC Merced and across the UC system, UC Library Search, officially went online July 27. At UC Merced, it replaces Melvyl, and it's now also the sole system used to manage and access collections across all 10 campuses, the California Digital Library and two regional storage facilities.

UC Library Search is much more than a sleeker-looking system. The catalog's goal is to make searching for information resources more efficient and streamlined while avoiding duplicate entries and results.

"We can create improvements in how the searches work so we can institute them across the whole system, so it's going to give better searches for end-users as time goes on," said Donald Barclay, deputy university librarian. "End-users are going to find more flexibility and more ability to be specific."

Library staff members will also benefit from the new catalog. They will have a greater ability to analyze how collections are used, helping to make decisions about which information resources may need to be purchased in the future. Furthermore, the UC system reports that the shared system costs 40% less than 10 campuses carrying out infrastructure improvements separately.

Photo of the exterior of the UC Merced Library Lantern building

The UC Merced Library has been the hub of the campus since it opened in 2005. Photo by Veronica Adrover.

The initial discussions for the new systemwide Integrated Library System (ILS) got underway back in 2017, and implementation was carried out by members from all 10 UC campuses during the pandemic. It was no easy task. Staff transferred more than 100 million records from the old systems to UC Library Search.

"This was a big project, and several hundred people worked on it to varying degrees. A lot of people at UC Merced worked really hard on it, including Tom Bustos, the library's director of library technology," said Barclay, who was on the committee overseeing the project.

While library staff reiterate that the new search system is simple to use, students, faculty, staff and community members may still have questions. Barclay said instructional materials and resources are being developed. In the meantime, anyone with questions is encouraged to use the "Ask A Librarian" feature on the library's website; the chat service is available 24/7. Questions can also be asked via phone, email and Zoom videoconferencing.

Patience is a virtue

Returning to campus is exciting but could prove to be stressful as well, especially after having attended classes virtually for more than a year. Library staff are asking for patience as the university community reunites in person. About 25 student assistants made up library services, but that number went down to five once the library closed. Now, some 20 new student workers are being trained on the new system, but they, along with the rest of the library staff, are available to help and answer any questions.

Scott said staff members will wear facial coverings and follow the UC's directives on COVID-19 protocols. Visitors will notice that collaborative workrooms are closed, but that's because they are being renovated.

The UC Merced Library will be open on a modified schedule starting Aug. 16, and its hours will expand on Aug. 25.

Fall semester hours:

Aug. 16–24
Monday to Friday: 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Weekend: Closed
Lantern, first floor: open 24/7

Aug. 25–Dec. 17
Sunday: noon – 8 p.m.
Monday: 7 a.m. – midnight
Tuesday: 7 a.m. – midnight
Wednesday: 7 a.m. – midnight
Thursday: 7 a.m. – midnight
Friday: 7 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Saturday: closed
Lantern, first floor: open 24/7

Monday, Sept. 6: closed in observance of Labor Day
Thursday, Nov. 11: closed in observance of Veterans Day
Wednesday, Nov. 24: open 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Thursday, Nov. 25 and Friday, Nov. 26: closed in observance of Thanksgiving Day

For more information about hours of operation and services, visit the library's website.

Juan Flores
Media Contact
Public Information Officer
Office: (562) 201-7317


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