Skip to main content

This video requires you to be logged in to view it.

Session Recording

Let's never go there again: The crisis of textbook access and the University of Guelph's response Recording


Long before the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Guelph Library was working to alleviate barriers to textbook access for our students. We had developed a textbook purchasing program, a dedicated Open Educational Resources (OER) Librarian position, a textbook survey, and an institutional task force to promote open and affordable course materials, among other initiatives. But when the pandemic arrived in 2020, these access issues hit a crisis point, as campuses shut down and courses moved to online-only learning models.

In response to this crisis, several University of Guelph Library staff collaborated on a news article, Commercial Textbooks Present Challenges in a Virtual Environment. This article resonated with hundreds of academic librarians across North America and beyond, who repurposed its content at their own institutions in an effort to spur discussion and advocacy concerning the challenges they were facing in acquiring online access to textbooks and other course materials.

Since then, library staff at the University of Guelph have intentionally worked to develop new services and awareness-raising to support instructors who are trying to move away from commercial textbooks, from targeted communications for instructors using course reserves to funding programs incentivizing OER development. One notable service, the Textbook Alternatives Recommendation workflow, leverages collection development skills and vendor relationships in new ways, to help faculty adopt library-licensed, DRM-free materials for their courses. 

Come learn about how we have navigated the challenges of textbook licensing and access at the University of Guelph and the new services we have developed to support instructors who are seeking alternatives. In our live Q&A, we hope to hear from conference attendees about how their libraries are navigating textbook access during the pandemic: what worked, what didn’t, and what opportunities we can collectively envision to do things better.  

Heather Martin manages the E-Learning & Course Reserves team at the University of Guelph’s McLaughlin Library, and is also the University’s Copyright Officer.  In this role, she provides support to faculty, students and staff in their use of copyright-protected works, facilitates access to course materials, and advocates for the use of open educational resources. She also currently co-chairs the campus-wide task force on Open and Affordable Course Content.