UI Library closes book on class text program

URBANA – The University of Illinois Library has decided to end a textbook lending program.

Instead, library staff will focus on working with a textbook publisher to develop a model for electronic textbooks.

The Textbook Reserve Project was a pilot program started last fall with $20,000 ($10,000 from the provost's office, $5,000 from the Illini Union Bookstore and $5,000 from the library).

The bookstore posted notices on its textbook shelves informing students which books were also available in the undergraduate library. Students could read from a selected number of textbooks in the undergraduate library, but could not remove the books from the library.

Acting University Librarian Karen Schmidt said organizers were not disappointed with circulation numbers, but that the program itself was too labor-intensive to maintain and if it were expanded, the books would take up too much room in the stacks.

During the fall 2005 semester, the library had 285 textbooks available through the program, or 5.4 percent of required textbooks, representing 109 course sections out of 2,248 course sections offered at the UI. Each book was checked about four times during the fall 2005 semester.

For the spring 2006 semester, the library added more books for a total of 1,508. Each one was checked out an average of seven times during the semester.

The program began as an alternative for students who want to cut down on book expenses. The library also wanted to put required reading books, such as certain English literature books, on reserve.

"It's very much on our minds that textbooks cost money," said Schmidt. But the program was "incredibly labor intensive," because the textbooks changed every semester, she said.

"We just decided for now we'd put our energies into electronic textbooks," Schmidt said.

The UI Library and Provost's office are working with a textbook publisher (Schmidt declined to name the company) on developing a model for delivering electronic textbooks.

UI students can access electronic journal articles from the library now, and one day they may be able to retrieve electronic versions of textbooks too, complete with links to articles and graphics.

"We'd love to be able to serve all this on students' desktops," Schmidt said.

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