EOT 338- Textbook Lending
Jonathon Eigenmann sits down today with Mia Partlow, Resource sharing Librarian at NC State. She is sitting down with him today to talk about the physical textbook lending service that is coming back with logistics and processes behind it as campus continues its path to going back to normal.
Jonathan Eigenmann 00:00
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Jonathan Eigenmann 00:28
Textbooks are not always easy to come by buying them can be expensive, and others aren't used as much in classes. So some students are stuck with textbooks that cost hundreds of dollars without using them more than just a couple of times. This is why the NC State Libraries down at DH Hill and Hunt offer textbooks for each university course to be checked out for a short time. In such cases, though this was altered by the COVID 19 pandemic. That's why today I'm sitting down with Mia Partlow resource sharing librarian here at NC State. She has currently served in this position for a little over three years, she graduated with a bachelor's degree in political science from Indiana University Bloomington, and two master's degrees, one from New York University or NYU in american studies, and the other from Indiana University Bloomington, in library science. She's sitting down with me today to talk about the physical textbook lending service that is coming back with their logistics and processes behind it. Miss Partlow Welcome to Eye on the Triangle.
Mia Partlow 01:20
Jonathan Eigenmann 01:22
So my first question is, I would like you to tell the listeners more about your role here at the NCSU libraries and more about how it relates to textbook lending.
Mia Partlow 01:31
Sure, so my name is Mia Partlow. I'm the resource sharing librarian at NC State University Libraries. I mostly work over at Hill Library, but I also get over to Hunt, which is wonderful. So my responsibilities as a resource sharing librarian are over the interlibrary loan service. So we call that trip saver or TRLN Direct if you run into that in our website or catalog. But essentially, a large part of my job is making sure that if we don't have something that you need that you can easily get it from somewhere else. So we'll borrow it from another library or acquire it from another library if it's an article. So that's part of my job. But then another big part of my job is the Course Reserves and Textbooks Service. So, course reserves are items that a professor asks us to, you know, put on hold for their class for the semester, they might not be on the syllabus, but you know, they're like supplementary readings. And then the textbook, Textbook Collection is one of our I think, flagship services. So we purchase a copy of every single required at least one copy of every single required textbook at NC State. And those textbooks will go to either, you know, one of our branch libraries, so Hill or Hunt, sometimes they'll go to the natural resources library, or the design library or the veterinary medicine library if they're more specialized for those courses. So yeah, those are the book textbook collection, we have them in our library catalog. And you could so you could see which library they are located that and then check them out for two hours at a time from the Ask Us desk.
Jonathan Eigenmann 03:27
So I guess what you just said about the one every textbook uh, that's also leads to one of my questions about that. So like in reading what the little ad that you guys sent out, I saw that you do do one textbook for every university course, which I found very interesting. But what my question would be, would you care to elaborate on what that exactly entails? Because I find it interesting that you, um, more specifically that you'd like, because I figured there's possibly like 1000s of teachers on campus, and they all have to send you that textbook, and then sometimes they change and obviously COVID goes all over the place. So if you can elaborate more about how how that what that entails and how you go about figuring out what books to get for those classes. And I guess what happens?
Mia Partlow 04:14
Yeah, great question. So I guess there is I will say an asterisk on every text book, because as you may know, as a student, there are some books that are like a digital content, essentially, they've got the quizzes and the, you know, labs that you know, all sorts of things kind of built into the digital content. And those the publishers don't really make available for us to acquire. So there's a little bit of an asterisk like, whenever, whenever, whenever possible, we buy them so the way it works is that faculty actually submit their required book list to the bookstore so there's you know, the bookstore knows what to have in stock, and they share that with us as well. So we get that list. So it's it's pretty centralized, which is great. We don't have to you know, send an email out to every faculty member or anything like that. So the faculty have a deadline by which they need to submit their textbook or required lists to the bookstore. And then we work with the bookstore to get that list. And then we, you know, take a look and say, oh, which of these do we already own? Which of these do we need to buy? And, you know, just kind of parse it out from there. And there does end up being a, you know, a few weeks in the beginning of the semester, where we are working very, very diligently to, you know, get books on the shelves, and there, there's an ordering process, right. So, we try our best to get things close to the beginning of the semester as possible. But sometimes there can be a bit of a delay with things. But, you know, by and large, you know, we have 1000s of items on the shelf, ready to go at the beginning of each semester.
Jonathan Eigenmann 05:48
This is kind of a sub question, but what would you say is maybe like the hardest things to get? Would you say it's more of the, you know, the physical textbooks? Would you say it's more of the online stuff? Would you say it's more of a specific subject, maybe?
Mia Partlow 06:01
I don't know. So I don't personally work in the ordering department, we call that department acquisitions and discovery. And there are specific platforms available to libraries to order books. So you know, we have a lot of tools at our disposal. So it's really kind of parsing through, you know, from my perspective, what I've noticed is it's like parsing through all the options, you know, kind of which is the best option, you know, do we want to buy an ebook? And if we do want to buy an ebook? How many people at a time can view that ebook? So how many copies of that do we want to buy? Right? It gets quite complex, you know, with the licensing of ebooks, you know. So, right now, we do prefer to buy ebooks over print, because they are accessible to any student anywhere, they might be right. So you don't have to come to the library, you know, you could be anywhere in the world, essentially, to view these textbooks. So that's obviously, during the type of the pandemic, we worked really, really hard to kind of comb through everything and say, okay, we have this book in print, but maybe it was made available as ebooks, since we bought it, let's go find out. And so we come through our whole collection, and bought ebooks whenever we could, that was a big project that we did, right, the beginning of the pandemic. And now we continue to kind of prefer ebook formats for textbooks whenever possible.
Jonathan Eigenmann 07:35
So you talked a little bit about like, you didn't know too much of the, the, you know, what goes into buying them. But I don't know, if you maybe could tell me or maybe if you know, maybe a rough estimate of like, what the annual budget for textbook buying is for each, for each year. And then maybe, like, if you're if you maybe if there's not enough money in that budget, let's say maybe there's a few textbooks that maybe cost a little too much, or let's say, it's just, there's just not enough? How do you find it do? How do you find unique ways to go around that budget area where you can get those textbooks available to those students/
Mia Partlow 08:08
I actually do not know how much our budget is for textbooks. But I will say that this program is a very important program to the library's so um I, we do not run into a situation where we can only buy, you know, X percent of the books or anything like that. So we've been successful at maintaining this program and being able to buy every book every semester since 2009, which is really, really cool. So I'm very happy and proud of that and proud to be a part of that service. So I don't have an actual number because I don't I guess I'm not involved with the budget. But we are able to is this is a sustainable service for us, I guess I'll say and we know that it makes a real impact in students of learning success and ability to be successful at school on campus. And just because it's so impactful, right, this is an important service for us.
Jonathan Eigenmann 09:09
So obviously, since you said this service is very important. Would you say this service is very popular, or do you think it's more as needed? And then, personally, do you think students are underestimating the service a little bit because either because of the time limit, because there's like, I see, there's like two hours you get for a textbook limit, which, you know, some people is not a lot. Some people are slower, some people are faster, and then the need to carry it. And then maybe some students feel the need to carry it with them because they don't want to like you know, go somewhere, say, oh, you know, I forgot my textbook. But do you feel like that's maybe people are reason why people are under est, or students or particular are under estimating the service a little bit?
Mia Partlow 09:49
That's a great question. Um, I think everyone has specific needs when it comes to textbooks. So sometimes people come to the desk, and they check out a book because they didn't want to bring their large, heavy textbook all the way to campus. So they say, Oh, I can come to the library, you know, read the chapter that I need, you know, take a look, maybe even bring it to class and bring it back. Right. So, you know, there's a lot of different reasons or, you know, at the beginning of the semester, I haven't decided whether I'm going to stick with the class, so I'm going to check the book out from the library, before I you know, make that commitment, or my order hasn't come in yet, you know, I ordered it, you know, there's just so many different kinds of reasons why people use the books that it really varies. And so I think that, you know, the two hour period, yes, it's short, but it's designed so that, you know, if we have a large class that that book is available to everyone in the class for, you know, some period of time. And, you know, we do find that if you come to the desk, and do you say, like, hey, I've had this for two hours, can I check this out? Again, you know, like, a lot of the times we can make that work, like if the book hasn't been requested, since you came in, took it out, right. So there is some, you know, it's not renewable, technically, but it's, like, come to the desk and tell us what you need, I think is the the main message, I want to give just about this, not just about the service, but really any service that the library's provides. So I think the more popular it could be, you know, the better, right. So, you know, if we see an increase in demand, you know, we could respond with, you know, maybe purchasing more copies or, you know, that something like that, right. So that more demand for us is, would be great, we would be happy to see it. And, you know, this is a really, really, really popular service, pre pandemic. I mean, if you're coming to the desk, and are you fine, like, I was just working the desk earlier this afternoon. You know, like, a lot of what we're doing is circulating textbooks there. So it's, it's popular, but I think, yeah, it could be as popular as, as we want it to be.
Jonathan Eigenmann 12:05
So that actually leads into my next question, because I found that you actually, were here a little bit before the pandemic hit, um, that you started a little bit before the pandemic hit. You continued after? So prior to COVID? How, like, would could you elaborate more about how popular or how much service was utilized and how much it changed during COVID?
Mia Partlow 12:26
Yeah, so yes, I started my job, I think, like six weeks before the campus closed in March 2020. So quite the start to a new job. And yeah, it was extremely popular service before, you know, 1000s 1000s of circulation, circulations per month rate for the textbook program. During the pandemic, we switched to a digital delivery mode for textbooks. So we would scan, you know, a student could request like, I need chapter three, and five. And we would scan chapters three and five for them. And for a while, like kind of towards the, you know, first few months, and everything was just so, you know, we had so many questions, what's safe, what's not safe, right? Like, it was, you know, this that stressful moment of like, everyone just kind of scrambling. We were just delivering these PDFs by email, you know, just like, okay, you requested chapter three, here's chapter three by email, and we would, you know, have the file. So sooner Pacific, and we could, you know, send it out. We ended up with these, you know, really like long queues of requests, and it was taking us much longer to respond than we want it to, because we know that this is in pretty urgent need, right? Like, if you're requesting a chapter of a textbook, you're reading it that week, maybe the week after, if you know, you're planning ahead. And so be very wanted to be very sensitive and aware of that fact that these are urgent requests, and you know, our staff is stretched, then we're scrambling, it's COVID, you know, so what we ended up doing was we made kind of a digital, like an online portal for these chapters. So once we did have them scan, we could put them up and someone could look at them online at their convenience without having to wait for us to kind of email it to them. And then they could see like, if all their other classmates had requested chapter three, it would already be up there. Did you have a follow up?
Jonathan Eigenmann 14:31
I was gonna say did that online portals app public because is that like a public site that everybody can go on? Or is that more just specifically towards that chapter book that that student is requesting?
Mia Partlow 14:42
It was public. And we have since discontinued that service. And I'll explain why which is that so part of that service, required the books to be not circulating the actual physical books. And there was some digital controls that we placed on the files as well. So you couldn't download or share, print things like that. So we had those controls, and then the physical item couldn't circulate. This is so that we could adhere to fair use principles of copyright law. So once we said, Okay, we're going back to on campus learning in fall 21, students are coming back to campus on mass. And we know a lot more about surface transmission of COVID. Right now, so we feel comfortable, we're going to circulate these items again. And so once we say we can circulate these textbooks, again, we took down the online portal to you know, so those, those scans are no longer accessible. And now it's all physical circulation, or using our pretty robust ebook collection.
Jonathan Eigenmann 15:53
And then, since we are trying to go back to normal, obviously, what you said about services during COVID? Oh, yeah, I mean, I would assume they won't totally change as we're kind of still getting out of the, you know, online sphere into the physical aspect more and seeing each other and talking to each other. But has textbook lending returned to exact same as it has pre COVID? Or, like, maybe have you meshed the two policies together to create kind of like a hybrid kind of lending service? Or could you? Could you elaborate on that?
Mia Partlow 16:29
Yes, we have returned our policies to kind of pre pre pandemic normal. So the physical items are available at the Ask Us Desk to check out for two hours at a time. Copyright restrictions really make it difficult or impossible in some cases, for us to scan textbooks for students. Now, there are some exceptions to that, such as a student with a print disability, who needs a digital version of a book, right? So like, that's something that, you know, someone could ask us, and we could work with them on.
Jonathan Eigenmann 17:13
So we're, when you were applying those textbooks to maybe someone with a disability to find out be a little bit harder online, since cuz of all the, you know, you weren't able to be in front of them to help them out with the, you know, the readings they were trying to do?
Mia Partlow 17:29
No, I think it's just communication and talking to students and seeing what they need.
Jonathan Eigenmann 17:35
And then now, I would like to take this opportunity to put a more personal question, obviously, I don't want you to like bad mouth, but I just kind of want a more honest answer. What would you say? Would you say that NC State University overall has done enough to allow for the libraries to be a proper use of students, and then more specifically, during this time, where masks, specifically, during this time, where masks are mandated and dist, distancing is a must?
Mia Partlow 17:59
That's a great question. Um, I don't know, you know, this has been a really challenging time for us and our staff. If you think about the textbook scanning service, right, which started March 2020, while everything was closed, the world was locked down. Our staff, were here, scanning textbooks, right? Coming into the libraries, trying to kind of maintain the services to the best of our abilities. So it even as we did that, we knew it wasn't enough, right, that there is something missing, when you can't come into the building, get the textbook, talk to somebody and find out serendipitously that, oh, you also lend out DSLR cameras, that's wonderful, because I need that for my project. Right? So there's a lot that gets missed when someone can't come into the building. So, you know, I know that their students still working in like a hybrid learning environments. And so, you know, I guess I would say that if you have a need the best, best, best thing that you can do, is to contact us and ask us, so if you, if you google, like NCSU Libraries Ask Us, you'll get to a way to contact us chat, email, phone, etc. And if we don't kind of hear needs, then it's really hard for us to meet them. Right. So we have a student advisory board and we're talking with them and you know, like, we're talking with our student colleagues and people that come in, but you know, kind of hearing from everybody about what you need is, is great. So, if you, yeah, if you have an example of something that you need, I'm happy to hear it. And I think yeah, it's it's been a challenging time and we want to do our best.
Jonathan Eigenmann 19:55
So would you say that, you know, social communication as far as you know, like being able to talk somebody say how your day is what you're doing? Do you feel like that's more of a underrated part of the textbook lending service just because of the fact that they can, you know, talk to somebody they can, you know, see face to face, you feel like now that were in a pandemic, that was kind of something that people took and took, um, you know, overrated with and then kind of looked back and was like, wow, I kind of missed this.
Mia Partlow 20:23
Yeah, I think I was just talking with a colleague today about how, like, just running into somebody, we ran into each other for the first time, you know, a year to have, and that was great. And I heard you oh, I'm going into the classroom. I'm doing, I'm teaching. Right. So I think that yes, of course, of course, talking with someone at the desk. And you know, oh, you need this textbook? And oh, yeah, well, here's where all the other books about, you know, physics are kept in the book stacks like, and being able to kind of, like, take someone there and show them how to find books in the stacks like, yeah, absolutely. I mean, face to face is a wonderful way to, you know, find out what people need and talk to, I just, you know, I like to have conversations at the desk, too, that are more social. So I think that's a super important part. You know, and we have also, you know, been providing services online for a long time, right. So, like, via chat or email, like, you know, there's all this kind of communication that's been happening for a long time. So we were able to kind of pivot like pretty well, but I think there's just so much that honestly, we offered that is nice to be able to talk to people in person and find out more about what you need.
Jonathan Eigenmann 21:43
Alright, so my final question is, um, you mentioned googling NCSU? Could you tell the listeners how to contact the libraries or like, what specifically they can go to? Maybe Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, whatever, LinkedIn, for that matter, that maybe they didn't know about it first. And maybe they can contact you? Because now they know.
Mia Partlow 22:04
Sure. Um, so our website is L IB, like library Lib.ncsu.edu. Does, there's a chat now, like button right at the top in kind of like the top right of our homepage. You could also, you know, there's contact info at the bottom of the pages and things like that. So you can actually text us, you can email us, you could call us, there's a chat, like little kind of chat service. And it's not a chat bot. There's actual people staffing that chat every time every hour that we're open, which is cool. So you're never going to get some weird, automated response from us. Um, and yeah, we're on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, I am not well versed in all of those handles, but I know we're doing a lot on Twitch right now. Um, so some interesting, like, a lot of our programs are streamed on Twitch at the moment. So that's been kind of interesting. I'm not super involved with that. But I know it's half a day, it seems pretty cool. So yeah, there's a lot if you're really looking for textbooks, kind of the more like, traditional, quote, unquote, means of contacting us like chat, email, phone, that sort of thing, or is a great way to go. Because you're going to get to that like those are reference professionals that like really know how to find what you need, and are like, you know, can help you find the circulation, get the, to the desk that you need all that good stuff. So I think that would be the best way to go.
Jonathan Eigenmann 23:32
Well, thank you, Miss Mia Partlow for joining me today. I appreciate you taking time out of your day for to answer my questions and to talk to me.
Mia Partlow 23:41
Yeah, thanks so much for having me.
Jonathan Eigenmann 23:43
Music and today's episode was sailing by Delicate Steve through YouTube audio library license. Thank you for listening to the episode today. If you want to listen to more episodes, go to wknc.org/podcast as we have new episodes coming out every Sunday. This is Jonathan Eigenmann reporting for Eye On The Triangle signing off.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai