Adopting library resources (e.g., ebooks, journal articles, videos) as course materials can help your students save money because they already pay to access these high-quality resources through their tuition and fees. Library resources are generally not the same thing as open educational resources, though, due to their often restrictive licensing, inaccessibility for anyone outside an institution’s current student population, and at times, impermanent nature.

If you decide to use library resources in your course, talk to a librarian first! They can help you troubleshoot licensing, print, and access issues before the term begins. They may also be able to acquire a license to content that students would otherwise have to purchase individually.

The chart below compares the features of library resources and open educational resources.

FeatureLibrary ResourcesOpen Educational Resources
No or low-cost to studentYESYES
Openly licensedNOYES
Students retain access after leaving institutionNOYES
Institution retains perpetual accessNOYES
Can share materials with instructors and/or students at other institutionsNOYES
Can adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the contentNOYES

While library materials are not the same thing as open educational resources, they can be an important component in solving the problem of high textbook prices, especially when it’s impossible to use an open equivalent for your course materials. Listed below are several situations when using library content might be the best approach:

  • Most of the material being studied (e.g., modern poetry) is under copyright protection,
  • Course learning objectives include finding and using research from the library, and
  • Existing OER don’t meet the learning objectives for a course.

The short video below offers more information on using library resources as course materials.

When you change your course materials, follow your institution or department's procedures to make the change official. The bookstore and other departments need to know so that they can stock the right materials and let students know about no-cost and low-cost course materials that are in use.