Program to help reduce textbook costs

By Sara Rasmussen

DeKALB — A new task force has rolled out a pilot program to help students offset the costs of textbooks.

Faculty have suggested and placed copies of various course texts on reserve at the Founders Memorial Library. The Textbook Affordability Task Force Program has selected high-demand, high-cost textbooks for the library’s permanent collection.

Textbooks are currently limited to one per class, but librarians plan to increase the number of books if the program is successful. There is a two-hour limit on using each textbook at one time.

The Textbook Affordability Task Force began fall semester. DeeAnna Phares, NIU Libraries’ Circulation supervisor said the task force has since increased its membership by 30 percent.

College Board, a nonprofit organization that seeks to increase access to higher education, found the average student spent over $1,200 on books and supplies annually between 2002 to 2013, according to a Dec. 11 NIU Today release.

Phares said she has helped in the process to make more textbooks available to students.

“We started real work on it in November and have been trying to kick it into high gear to make sure that students can have access through reserve here at the library,” Phares said. “We’ve ordered around 30 textbooks that will be put on reserve this term.”

Phares and others on the Task Force have been working to inform faculty about the program.

“There was a big push from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences last term to get faculty to put items on reserve, so we actually have a 30 percent increase from the amount of items put on reserve in the fall of 2017,” Phares said. “We’re hoping to increase that again in the spring of 2018. We have a pretty good distribution of things from throughout the college. A lot of [textbooks] are gen ed classes, but we also have more advanced classes as well.”

Autumn Holmstrom, freshman visual communications major, said she is interested in participating in the program and thinks if it’s marketed properly to students and their parents, it could be a success.

“I definitely think it could be a well-working program,” Holmstrom said.

Holmstrom said she thinks this could help students increase their productivity.

“Since it’s a two-hour limitation, you’re going to focus more and try to get your stuff done,” Holmstrom said. “And you’re not going to procrastinate, and you’re not going to spend that two hours on your phone. You’re really going to handle your business and really focus on what you need to learn due to the time constraint.”

University Libraries Dean Fred Barnhart had a similar program when he was the assistant dean at Loyola University and wanted to find a way to have a similar program for NIU students.

“It was something we had already done at Loyola for a couple of years, and I saw how well-received it was and I thought, ‘This is definitely something we should try here,’” Barnhart said.

Barnhart and the Task Force found ways to expand the program during the spring semester so more students can benefit. They are ensuring the program helps benefit the students to the best of its abilities.

“In the library, we wanted to make sure the money was used in the most impactful way,” Barnhart said. “I think our students’ success is everybody’s job here at NIU. I think we have it in our power to make resources available to students, so we have to do whatever we can to make those resources available.”