Students consider open online access system during textbook shortage

PHOTO: Textbooks are distributed through a drive by system on scheduled days.

By Allyson Kang, Editor-in-chief–

UC Davis started a new open-access textbook system for their students this year due to the pandemic. Some members of Davis High, which is currently facing a textbook shortage, are advocating for forms of online access as well.

Joining the UCD open access system costs students $200 per quarter to gain access to all books they will need for the classes they are taking. 

“Unless your textbooks are super expensive, it’s cheaper just to opt-out of [open access], which is what most students do anyways. […] Basically it’s UCD trying to profit a little from us,” UCD junior Sophia Park said. 

However, a less costly online access system may be helpful for DHS students, who have had trouble obtaining textbooks this year. 

“Not having enough, the numbers we thought we had we didn’t have, or not enough books were returned […] that has been kind of a hassle,” English teacher Eileen Guerard said.

Guerard had to find online sources of copies of “Frankenstein,” which is out of copyright and free to use, for her English class when books were not available in time.

Because of an increasingly limited supply of books, especially economics and government textbooks, this year, the DHS library has established a new policy for the third quarter that requires students to return overdue materials before they are allowed to check out new ones. 

“I feel it is harsh, but it has also greatly increased the number of books being returned,” librarian Bruce Cummings said.

In the past June, when school staff were calculating how to distribute limited books, Guerard suggested that the district look into opting into an online system to ensure all students will have access to books.

“I said if we’re going to be spending all this money on Canvas and infrastructure like air filters […] why hasn’t anyone discussed the possibility of buying into one of these online library textbook systems so we can get all of the books that we need digitally?” Guerard said. 

Another English teacher, Carin Pilon, has also shared ebooks, audiobooks and PDFs when she can to help students who need textbooks. However, she believes there are problems with relying on online material.

“Novels can be hard to access online [… and] when students are in front of a screen for much of the day, asking them to read a longer work online doesn’t seem like a great idea to me,” Pilon said.

On the other hand, DHS junior Nathan Fanous supports the online textbook system. 

In addition to reducing the risk of spreading COVID-19 through school pickups, “I’ve found that when teachers provide online textbooks, it’s much easier to do homework because it takes up less physical space,” Fanous said. 

“With COVID, a lot of our homework and schoolwork has shifted online, so it would make the most sense if textbooks were also available online,” Fanous said. 

One problem Cummings has with online access is that it may be more difficult to ensure the quality of material online. 

“To me, online access means increased access. However, free junk is still junk. I’m more of an advocate of encouraging use of our magazine and journal databases to supplement the textbook,” Cummings said. 

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