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A Student's Guide Textbook Affordability Support at VCU Libraries

What we do

VCU Libraries supports textbook affordability through: 

  • Staffing: Our Open Educational Resources Librarian, Jessica Kirschner, advocates, educates and assists in the creation of new resources as well as the location, adoption, and adaption of existing course materials from library materials to open educational resources. She offers faculty consultations, can attend or hold meetings, and offers workshops.
  • Project management and publishing support
  • Library collection support and purchasing
  • Collecting stories from students like you, which can help combat the strain of  high textbook costs on our campus.

How Can Students Advocate

You can help support our initiative by sharing your stories. Sharing the impact of textbook stories in the words of VCU students helps faculty see that this is a problem at VCU. 

If you have a faculty member already using a free resource, thank them! Acknowledging the work that they've done to help you focus on success over finances shows much of an impact their choices can make on students.

VCU Libraries is interested in partnering with student organizations to advance dialogue and action surrounding textbook affordability. If you are interested, please contact the Open Educational Resources Librarian.

Supporting Open Educational Resources

Open educational resources (OER) are educational resources that are both free to access digitally and carry permissions for unrestricted usage, sharing, and editing. This ability to edit makes them unique as they can be customized to fit a specific class, whether that means including just the content covered in class, VCU-specific examples, or up-to-date content.

We support lowering textbook costs through OER by helping faculty

  • Find and evaluate OER to find the one that's a perfect match for their class.
  • Create and share original works, customized resources, or ancillaries like test banks. If the perfect OER doesn't exist, we help faculty create it. 
  • Assess students’ perception of materials and the impact on their performance. We want to make sure that the OER really is the best fit for the class, and we do all that we can to help improve them if they aren't working.

Learn more about OER:

Supporting Library Resources as Course Materials

VCU Libraries resources are already freely accessible with anyone with VCU credentials, so they make a great option for affordable course content. You might use items such as articles, databases, digital collections, or streaming media (e.g. video). VCU Libraries ebooks also offer a great option for course content. While we don't collect traditional commercial textbooks (e.g. your Algebra 1 book), a number of books we own are assigned reading. A number of these books also have unlimited users, which means that everyone in the class can access it at the same time, no matter how large. For some other ebooks, we only have 1 or 3 copies, and these function much like their print counterparts: if one person is using the text, no one else can access it. 

We support lowering textbook costs through library resources by:

  • Identifying ebooks in our collection which could be used as course content and sharing evaluation criteria with faculty
  • Working with the bookstore to identify books already being assigned for courses which we own as unlimited user ebooks
  • Taking faculty requests for new purchases

Learn more about library content as course materials:

Your professor might also have put your textbook on the print course reserve collection. You can check out reserves from the library's front desk. 

Learn more about course reserves:

Formal Support Programs

The Affordable Course Content Awards support VCU faculty adoption of zero-cost resources and creation of openly-licensed alternatives to expensive textbooks. It provides funding and project support for adopting, customizing, or creating content. VCU has had 3 cohorts of Affordable Course Content Award Recipients. Project partners include VCU Libraries, Office of Provost, ALT Lab, CTLE, Academic Technologies, Inclusive Excellence, and Barnes & Noble.

Learn more about about the program and past recipients

VIVA Open Grants (formerly the Course Redesign Grants) are a statewide grant program that supports Virginia faculty with funding to adopt, customize, or create zero-cost course content. There are two awards programs: 

  • VIVA Open Grants: smaller-scale funding to support the adoption of a pre-existing OER for a recurring course.
  • VIVA Open Course Grants: larger-scale funding to support adopting, adapting, and creating free and affordable course content.

Learn more about the VIVA Open Grants Program