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Olin Library launched a pilot program allowing students to request their own course reserves textbooks this fall.

September 6, 2018

Students Can Request to Put Textbooks on Course Reserves Through New Pilot Program

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A new pilot program will enable students to put textbooks on course reserves themselves for the first time, a privilege that was previously reserved only for faculty, in the hopes of providing “equitable access to course materials for all students,” according to Tobi Hines, senior assistant librarian.

Initiated in early August by Wendy Wilcox, library associate, and Hines, the program lets students request a textbook that they want. The library will then acquire it and place in its reserve for students to borrow on a short-term basis of two to four hours.

“For the first time, we are enabling students to tell us what materials they need for their courses, which we hope will allow us to better support students who want or need to utilize library resources for their work,” Hines said.

To get a specific textbook in stock, students need to fill out an online request form. The textbook reserve staff will then contact the student and purchase the item requested. Once the textbook is placed in course reserve, making it available available for short-term loan, students can borrow the textbook for their studies.

The librarians said that the main challenge to the program currently is simply making students aware of the resource.

“As with any new service, one of the biggest challenges is getting the word out to students,” Hines said. “We know that students receive so much information, especially at the start of the semester so being able to ‘cut through the noise’ and make sure that they learn about this pilot (and how beneficial we believe it can be to their studies) is a challenge.”

The program will be beneficial to Cornell students since it “will help defer expensive textbook costs for students, and by putting these items on short-term loan, we hope that we are providing equitable access to course materials for all students in a class,” Hines said.

The pilot program’s success will be analyzed this fall and will decide whether the program continues into the spring, according to Hines.

“Part of the success, we believe, will be how many students place requests, as well as how many times these materials are used,” Hines said. “But we know that’s only part of the story, and we will also want to hear feedback directly from students who use the service on whether or not they’ve found it useful for their studies.”