Thrift Library reaches important milestone in saving students money
For college students, the days of lugging massive backpacks full of textbooks and ink pens and notebooks—the flotsam and jetsam of the school-aged since time immemorial—is over. Technology has solved the problem with the rise of e-books and digital content.
The benefits are more than saving the body from spine- crushing weight, more than increased efficiency from having fewer things to keep track of. It’s financial.
Saving students money through the use of open educational resources (OER) and e-books has been an institutional priorly for Anderson University for years, and the efforts of the Thrift Library staff have paid off—literally. In early 2022, Anderson University Library Director Kent Millwood calculated that, over a three-year period, students have saved more than $1 million by using AU-provided eTextbooks.
For example, Millwood said one in 20 books available to students were eTextbooks in the spring of 2019. This past fall, that number rose to one in four.
“There’s a really positive impact having free textbooks because so many students struggle financially to pay for textbooks,” Millwood said, adding that studies link offering free textbooks digitally to improved grades, reduced withdrawals and improvements in retention and graduation rates. He also feels this option is important to share with prospective students considering enrolling at Anderson University.
“If we have an eTextbook and one student uses that eText- book, I get more circulation; but if I have a new textbook and 20 in a classroom are using it on a regular basis, statistics explode. So it’s good for the students, it’s good for the library—it’s a ‘win-win’,” Millwood said.
He also adds that AU Outfitters, the Anderson University campus store, has been cooperative in sharing lists of required textbooks. He regularly shares with faculty members digital options as they choose textbooks for their classes. Savings estimates take into account prices a student would pay for their required books through Amazon, a popular choice for purchases.
“Some commercial textbooks come with ‘bells and whistles’ such as online test banks and other online help for students and faculty that are not available for purchase by libraries. Others are deliberately set back to protect their sales,” Millwood said. “We will never be able to supply everything. Our current rate of one eTextbook in four is higher than I ever imagined possible and is a direct result of faculty making an effort to switch from titles unavailable to libraries to those that are.”
Digital textbooks are just one part of AU’s efforts. In 2018, the University ramped up its efforts to provide Open Educational Resources (OER), free and openly licensed media like textbooks and videos, that are used in the classroom or for research.
“OER is about affordability and accessibility for students, but it’s also about allowing faculty to more easily customize their materials for a course without being tied to one specific book or publisher,” said Dr. Joshua Herron, associate dean of the Anderson University Center for Innovation and Digital Learning (CIDL.) “Through the curation or creation of OER, an AU faculty member can offer students a more personalized experience based on our students’ needs and context.”
Saving students money through the use of open educational resources (OER) and e-books has been a goal of the Thrift Library of Anderson University for years, and its staff’s efforts have paid off—literally. In early 2022, Anderson University Library Director Kent Millwood calculated that, over a three-year period, students have saved more than $1 million by using AU-provided eTextbooks.
That didn’t just save students money—it was an award- winning concept. Partnership Among South Carolina Academic Libraries (PASCAL) in 2019 honored three Anderson University professors (College of Arts and Sciences faculty members Dr. James Duncan, Dr. Robert Franklin and Dr. Andrew Stowe) with the Professors for Affordable Learning (PAL) Award for their use of OER in the classroom.
Millwood sees these trends continuing to work in favor of the student.
“It’s growing, and the faculty are responding to it by making an effort to get an unlimited use e-book, which means they’re having to swap from one they used to a different one,” Millwood said. “We help them find textbooks if they need help.”