For purposes of this policy statement, a textbook is defined as a monograph which indicates in the preface or introduction its design for use to support specific courses and which may have one or more of the following characteristics: use of colors in the text to distinguish main points or supplementary material, provision of questions for review at the ends of chapters, frequent publication revision schedules (2-3 years), and the plastic over paper bindings which allow for colorful but poor-wearing covers. The Northeastern University Library, like most other academic libraries, strongly discourages its subject librarians from the purchase of college-level textbooks for a number of reasons. Textbooks typically add little to a discipline's literature other than simplification and summarization.
Their high cost, frequent revision, and generally poor bindings make most textbooks a poor investment for the Library's permanent collection. There are occasions when very selective acquisition of textbooks is warranted, but every textbook purchased means that another scholarly title cannot be purchased. Certain types of college-level textbooks deserve special discussion.
NU Course Textbooks
It is the responsibility of students to provide their own textbooks, study guides, etc.; the Library will not undertake to maintain a textbook or course pack collection. The Library will approve orders for titles known to be University textbooks only in unusual circumstances. Such caution does not apply for traditional academic or literary works that may incidentally also be used in University courses.
Course Reserve Materials
Faculty members and instructors frequently expect their students to read books or periodical articles that supplement course textbooks or assigned course packs. The Library will place such material [from the Library's collections or faculty members' personal collections] into temporary Reserve collections with reduced loan periods in order for greater numbers of students to use the material. Often, titles for Reserve must be acquired as quickly as possible, and the Library will make every reasonable effort to expedite Reserve requests. However, such collections are not intended to replace the students' obligation to acquire personal copies of NU course textbooks.
Faculty are encouraged to make arrangements for personal copies (or desk copies from the publisher) to be added to Course Reserves.
A useful distinction can be made between collections of previously published items and collections of new readings. Either may be selected as the primary or secondary textbook for University courses. Anthologies of new works obviously have more value for the Library since previously published articles are frequently available elsewhere in the collections.
Textbooks that provide spaces for readers to record their answers or responses will not be acquired for the Library's collections.
The Library does not collect workbooks that supplement a specific college-level textbook. The American Library Association's definition of a workbook includes: a learning guide, which may contain exercises, problems, practice materials, space for recording answers, and frequently, means of evaluating work done (ALA Glossary, 1985, p. 243).