LMU Library News

Library Urban Legends: Textbook Edition


“I heard that the library has textbooks that I can check out for a semester.”

“How come you don’t have textbooks for every class?”

“Aren’t professors supposed to put a copy of every required text on reserve for us?”

These are just a small sampling of the textbook-related questions that we get at the Information Desk at the beginning of every academic year. Unfortunately, as a general rule of thumb, the William H. Hannon Library does not collect textbooks for courses offered at LMU. But we promise it’s not because we’re trying to make our students’ lives more difficult! To understand why this is the case, read on.

During the 2017-2018 academic year, there were approximately 2800 undergraduate and 600 graduate courses taught at LMU. Some courses have 1 required textbook, and some courses have 6 or more required texts. Let’s take 3 textbooks as an average.

(2800 + 600) x 3 = 10,200 books

In that same academic year, the library purchased approximately 14,000 new books. If we were to buy just one copy of each required text each year, it would mean that 72% of our resources and space for new materials would be dedicated to textbooks alone. Maybe this doesn’t seem like such a bad proposition at first glance– especially since many assigned texts do stay the same from year to year– but consider how quickly new editions of texts are published, rendering old “required” texts obsolete at a rapid pace. We aim to keep our collection relevant to the research and teaching goals of each academic department on campus, and doing this means collecting a wide variety of materials that support the subjects being taught, and encouraging our students to look beyond the required texts in their research.

So this is all fine and dandy, right? But this still doesn’t help to alleviate the increasing costs of textbooks! Read on:

It never hurts to search our catalog for the textbook you need. A librarian or faculty member might have slipped an order in there, in which case, if you’re the first person in the class to find it and check it out, you’re in luck! In addition, the library tries to acquire as many unlimited user e-books as we can from the lists of books that are required reading for classes each semester. Although the publishers don’t always let us buy the book this way, if we can get it, we will buy it, and you can use it for free.

Not in the catalog? Try LINK+. You can borrow materials from over 40 libraries for free. If there’s a copy in LINK+, request it, get it delivered to the LMU Library within 3 working days, and you’re ready to go. (At least for a few weeks at a time!) Don’t forget to check to see if your professor put materials in the library’s course reserves. And if all else fails, there’s always the bookstore, which, by the way, offers textbooks for rent!

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on August 27, 2010 and updated on August 29, 2018.