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Drake Library to help combat cost of textbooks

by Courtney Deeren - Lifestyles Editor
Tue, Nov 19th 2019 11:00 am
The Drake Memorial Library will be offering open educational resources on campus to combat the rising cost of textbooks. Photo Credit: Marios Argitis/ Photo Editor
The Drake Memorial Library will be offering open educational resources on campus to combat the rising cost of textbooks. Photo Credit: Marios Argitis/ Photo Editor

Drake Memorial Library is working on bringing open educational resources (OER) to The College at Brockport’s campus. OER would serve a number of purposes, including cutting costs of textbooks for students. 

As Associate Librarian Mary Jo Orzech said, this whole idea began with the question “why are textbooks such a problem?” 

Orzech talked about the time and worry that goes into obtaining textbooks, something that can hinder a student’s learning. Not only are students struggling to pay for very expensive textbooks, but often they have to hold off for a while to buy a book until a refund check or scholarship comes through, and if they choose to look elsewhere for a potentially cheaper option, they may have to wait much longer than expected. All this can factor into hindering a student’s ability to learn in a class. 

And what are these students paying for? A textbook which, according to Orzech, contains mostly the same material but has rearranged chapter titles and charged a new price. While many faculty say it is OK to have older versions of the book, some professors still want students to have the newest editions of books. 

This is a concern Brockport Professor James Zollweg also has. 

“Textbook costs are just going wild,” Zollweg said. “And there’s books that can cost $5,000 or more easily over a student’s time at Brockport. It’s really very expensive and this really does impact students. Probably more than our faculty actually realize.”

Orzech said this has been on-going for a while. 

“For at least the last five or six years, this has been an issue,” Orzech said. “The library and SUNY are paying attention.”

To combat this issue of affordability and in order to make these materials more accessible, OERs are being introduced. These include online services such as Lumen Learning and putting course materials on Blackboard as a PDF. 

On top of cutting back on the cost of textbooks, OERs will also allow collaboration between classes. 

“It gives the opportunity to create, not just consume,” Orzech said. “The class can formulate a response to an author. It can get classes thinking about it in an open environment, and if licensed correctly, working within copyright, it can lead to creating new material.”

Zollweg also discussed how OER makes it possible for professors to customize their teaching materials. 

“There’s tons of issues [with] courses and those are completely designed by the teacher, and the teacher has an opportunity to use all kinds of different resources for that,” Zollweg said. 

With regard to the resistance some might be against utilizing OER, Zollweg had something to say. 

“Sometimes there’s a feeling that when something new like this comes out, people are afraid that everybody’s going to be forced to suddenly throw away the things that they had,” Zollweg said. “We’re going to have to be put in an uncomfortable place, you have to do a lot more catch up work and everything else doesn’t mean that, that’s really not necessary. What Mary Jo [Orzech] and the rest of us would like to do is for everybody to at least consider that the possibilities might be really positive.”

One student who can attest to the high cost being a hinderance is the Brockport Student Government (BSG) President Emma Chilson-Cline. Chilson-Cline invited Orzech and Zollweg to speak at a BSG meeting. Later, BSG hosted an open forum on Friday, Nov. 15, to discuss OER deeper in place of its regular senate meeting.

When Chilson-Cline spoke about meeting the new Director of Drake Memorial Library, Diane Fulkerson, she was excited by the conversation of OER. 

“We had a great discussion about open educational resources, which is my biggest nerd topic and we could have conversations for years about it,” Chilson-Cline said. 

With the rising cost of textbooks, many students are at a loss for what to do. With a new semester around the corner bringing a host of new classes, which will require textbooks, some students may be wondering how they will pay for textbooks. As Zollweg said, it could mean all the difference between being able to get a car fixed or getting out of the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle. 

With this introduction and implementation of OER, students may very well have another option provided to them in the coming years. 


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