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Want to help students hold down costs? Consider course reserves

Many of the solutions in the campaign to lower textbook costs involve digital alternatives, but Northwestern University Libraries maintain an old practice rooted in the physical realm: course reserve items that can be checked out for a short time.

Course reserves are books that are set aside at the circulation desk and available for a checkout of just a few hours — ideal for reading this week’s chapter.

Northwestern librarians are placing a growing number of high-cost textbooks on course reserve, but proactive faculty can also request the Libraries purchase materials to serve their classes.

What materials work well on course reserve? Here are some best practices from our librarians:

  • Textbooks (when faculty assign a single chapter at a time) and journal articles are an ideal use of course reserve.
  • The Libraries can provide a scan of an individual book chapter.
  • Consider how long students will need with the item. If they can complete the reading in a few hours, it’s a good fit for course reserve.
  • What’s not a good fit? Novels and other books where everyone in the class will be discussing something on the same day. These can create a bottleneck or require prolonged access to the material, countering the benefits of course reserves.

Want to learn more? This helpful video gets you started reserving your own materials, or you can address a question to