Connect With Temple University Libraries’ Technology This National Library Week

National Library Week (April 3–9) is upon us and this year the theme is “Connect With Your Library,” with a specific emphasis on technology and digital ways we connect. We’re here to share with you a few of the many technological resources you have access to at the Libraries.

National Library Week graphic, with text Connect with Your Library and images of headphones, hands reaching for each other, an outlet

Assistive technology

At Temple Libraries, we offer assistive technology software and devices available at Charles Library and Ginsburg Library and are constantly working on expanding and updating our offerings. Examples include:

  • JAWS (Job Access with Speech): a screen reading software installed on all public desktops and loaner laptops
  • Ubi Duos 2: a face-to-face communication assistive device with two separate keyboards and screens that convey messages between two people in real time letter for letter (helpful for non-verbal or hearing impaired)
  • Optelec ClearView Speech Reader: a sight amplifying device that increases size and contrast of text and can read aloud to you


The groundbreaking technology used in our Automatic Storage and Retrieval System in Charles Library has freed up space for dozens of study rooms (many of which have monitors and presentation technology), other types of collaborative space, and specialized research equipment (see Duckworth Scholars Studio below). When a book or bound journal is requested via our online catalog, the BookBot initiates the request and the material is delivered to a processing station to be readied for patron pick up. Check out our Instagram story takeover on Tuesday, April 5 for a behind-the-scenes look at the BookBot and the staff that make it work. 

Battery banks and laptops

Photograph of portable battery bank in Charles Library
Photo by Geneva Heffernan

In Charles Library, portable battery banks and laptops are available for Temple affiliates to check out. The banks operate as portable outlets, allowing you to charge your devices anywhere in the library. The laptops can be checked out for a few hours and can even be taken outside the building and returned to any kiosk on campus.

Innovation Space and Loretta C. Duckworth Scholars Studio

The Innovation Space in Ginsburg Library and Duckworth Scholars Studio in Charles Library are hubs of creativity and technology that offer equipment such as VR headsets, 3D printers, laser cutters, sticker/button makers, and digital software for any Temple affiliates to use. Upcoming events include a digital humanities symposium on Afrofuturism, workshops on VR and video equipment, and a digital innovation showcase.

Community Computer Lab and WiFi

Photograph of patrons using the community computer lab in Charles Library
Photo by Geneva Heffernan

Anyone can come into Charles Library and use our Community Computer Lab to connect with job resources, people, or just browse the web. And, as long as you are utilizing the WiFi in our building, you have access to all our databases, journals, articles, and ebooks! There are also charging lockers available to secure and charge phones while in Charles Library.

Ambler Library in the Technology Center

Our Ambler Campus Library is open in a scaled-down capacity in the Ambler Technology Center (inside the Ambler Campus Learning Center). With computers readily available, you can receive in-person reference help while immersed in online work. Stop by to check out the new spot and say hello!

Digital collections from the Special Collections Research Center

In addition to the reading room on the first floor of Charles Library and the amazing materials you can view and touch, the Special Collections Research Center has an enormous online repository of digital collections including scans of documents, photographs, video, and audio content.

Black Lives Always Mattered! (BLAM!) virtual exhibit

Photograph of Black Lives Always Mattered! graphic novel cover
Photo by Joseph V. Labolito, Temple University

The Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection launched an online exhibit showcasing the stories and art that went into the BLAM! graphic novel, produced with the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.

Ebooks and open publishing

Our in-house publisher, Temple University Press, offers ebooks for sale for most of their publications. In addition, North Broad Press, the open publishing arm of Temple University Press and Temple University Libraries, produces open textbooks, freely available online for anyone to access.

Check out this North Philly Notes blog post highlighting the Press’ open access books, journals, and collaborations in celebration of National Library Week.

Equipment for use

Technical equipment available for check out from Charles Library includes portable DVD players, calculators, cameras, and a Raspberry Pi. Ginsburg Library offers noise canceling headphones, calculators, laptop stands, power strips, and chargers. 

There are dozens of ways to connect with the Libraries and our technology. We hope you will join us in celebrating National Library Week by checking out some of these resources.

Black Lives Always Mattered! A graphic novel by the Blockson Collection

In case you missed it, the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection created and recently published the graphic novel, Black Lives Always Mattered! (BLAM!), which was made possible by a grant from the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage.

Photo by Joseph V. Labolito, Temple University

BLAM! has been in the making since 2016. The project’s curator and art director Eric Battle illustrated three of the stories himself and selected and coordinated with other artists for the rest. Dr. Sheena Howard joined the project as the writer. In all, the novel features stories and illustrations of 14 prominent African American Philadelphians from the 20th century. 

Photo by Joseph V. Labolito, Temple University

Recently, the Blockson Collection donated 5,000 copies of BLAM! to the School District of Philadelphia. Eventually, the public will have access to the graphic novel as well. Find out more about how the novel will be part of the curriculum in Philadelphia from the Philadelphia Tribune article published in February.

News roundup

Photo by Joseph V. Labolito, Temple University

It’s no surprise that this project has generated buzz in the media. Below is a roundup of just a few news stories to catch you up on the project:

A new graphic novel brings African American history in Philadelphia to life,” March 2020,  Temple News

“’Black Lives Always Mattered!’ invites all to see Philadelphia history in living color,” January 2022, Temple News

Artist and Art Director Eric Battle talks about ‘BLAM!’, A graphic novel profiling fourteen Black historic Philadelphians,” January 2022, Artblog

Temple’s Blockson collection publishes graphic novel to encourage youth,” February 2022, The Philadelphia Tribune

Philly district will get 5,000 copies of a book celebrating Black Philadelphians,” February 2022, Chalkbeat Philadelphia

After 30 years, African American Children’s Book Fair expands to the Convention Center,” February 2022, WHYY

BLAM! exhibits and programs

Photo by Ryan S. Brandenberg, Temple University

Through the process of creating the graphic novel, the Blockson Collection spearheaded an in-person exhibit that was on view first at  Charles Library and then at the Blockson Collection from March 2020–August 2021 and an accompanying virtual exhibit still available to viewers. 

We also offered a series of freely available virtual programs, a few of which we’ll highlight and link to the recordings below.

In September 2020, BLAM! curators, historians, artists, web designers, and others involved in the project spoke about the creative process, sharing details about how the project evolved.

Photo by Ryan S. Brandenberg, Temple University

A month later, in October 2020, Eric Battle led a conversation with amazing fellow illustrators Micheline Hess, Jamar Nicholas, Dwayne Turner and Christine Kerrick. They discussed their visions and artistic processes while creating the illustrated stories for the novel.

Fast forward to April 2021, we unveiled the novel cover along with some of the illustration profiles. Dr. Diane D. Turner, curator of the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection and Dr. Carol D. Lee, assessment and learning consultant to the project, discussed plans for the graphic novel.

Special thanks

We’d like to extend a heartfelt thank you to everyone who has contributed to this project:

Blockson Collection staff
Dr. Diane D. Turner, project director
Aslaku Berhanu, associate director
Leslie Willis Lowry, archivist
Serkaddis Alemayehu, instructional design and technology specialist

Project curator/art director
Eric Battle 

Sheena C. Howard

Graphic designer
Julius Harmon 

Eric Battle
Damali Beatty 
Akinseye Brown 
Andrew Dalhouse
Nancy Devard 
Micheline Hess 
Mike Leeke 
Nile Livingston  
Christine Kerrick 
Jamar Nicholas 
Will Rosado 
Dwayne Turner

Stay tuned for announcements on when the graphic novel will be available to the public!

Join Temple Libraries for Love Data Week

Guest post by Will Dean, research and data services librarian

Every February, Temple University Libraries takes part in Love Data Week, an annual celebration of data, learning data skills, and the people who work to understand data all year long. Temple Libraries’  Research Data Services team is proud to present this week of virtual workshops and events that teach data skills and showcase the research and work of our academic community.

Graphic for Love Data Week, with linked boxes

Love Data Week speakers

Rates of gun violence have spiked in Philly (and around the country) in the past two years, and Temple researchers are working to understand why. On Monday, 2/14 at 10am, join Dr. Jessica Beard, Dr. Iman Afif, and Dr. Christopher Morrison to learn about their research into COVID-19 and the Epidemiology of Firearm Violence in Philadelphia.

Understanding how to communicate effectively, and honestly, with data is an important skill for both researchers and anyone who wants to understand the world. Learn the Basics of Effective Data Visualization with Dr. Cory Ng on Wednesday 2/16 at 11am and get started with Tableau, a popular data visualization platform.

Love Data Week workshops

REDCap plot example with average scores and table

REDCap plot example, courtesy Will Dean

This year’s Love Data Week workshops will teach data skills applicable to a wide array of disciplines including clinical statistics, digital mapping, social network analysis, text mining, and writing data management plans. 

Join Drs. Daohai Yu and Huaqing Zhao of the Department of Clinical Sciences at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine to learn, or refresh, about basic clinical statistics. The Basic Clinical Statistics workshop on Monday, 2/14 at 12pm will cover statistical methods important for clinical research, and at Basic Statistical Methods with JMP on Tuesday, 2/15 at 12pm you’ll get a hands-on opportunity to put those statistical methods to use with the JMP software (available free to Temple users at

To build up your digital humanities, data mining, and visualization skills we are partnering with the Duckworth Scholars Studio to offer three workshops digging into data skills with broad applications. 

At Introduction to Digital Mapping on Wednesday 2/16 at 12pm with Victoria Sarmiento, you’ll learn how to use QGIS, an open-source mapping program, to create maps that synthesize data with the physical world in new and interesting ways. Get more out of the research databases that house academic articles by attending Text Mining Databases on Thursday 2/17 at 12pm with Dr. Alex Wermer-Colan, and learn the basics of bringing data science methods to a large corpus of documents. Join Dr. Marcus Bingenheimer to learn how to create network graphs that illuminate hidden connections in Basics of Social Network Analysis with Gephi on Thursday 2/17 at 2pm.

Image of network map

Network map, courtesy Will Dean

If you’re applying for a grant to support your research or want to plan your data management process better, you should check out Writing a Data Management Plan with Olivia Given Castello on Friday, 2/18 at 12pm. This workshop covers what goes into a Data Management Plan (DMP), what information funders want to know, and library resources that can help.

All Love Data Week events and workshops are open to all. 

Welcome Back for the Spring 2022 Semester

While the spring 2022 semester at Temple is beginning primarily online in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19’s latest variant, the Libraries are still here for you. So no matter where you are, we have the services, resources, materials, and expertise to help you succeed.

Photograph of Charles Library, from the outside

Outside Charles Library, photo by Heidi Roland Photography

Most of our locations remain open, but our hours page has the latest information on any closures. 

Check out our website to browse materials, access resources, or to contact us with questions. Below, we offer a refresher on the services, collections, and opportunities you can make use of, as well as some of our top tips to start the new year off right. 

Tap into fully online support

As the semester begins online for the majority of students and faculty, read up on how you can make the most of library resources and services remotely

Help with research

Librarians are here to offer personalized assistance as you work on your research papers and projects. No matter what you are studying or what major you pursue, we have a librarian who specializes in your field

Getting in touch with your librarian is easy: you can chat 24/7, email, or schedule an appointment. For more ways to get in touch, visit our Contact Us page. 

Access books, journals, archives, and more

We provide access to a broad range of physical and online materials—from books, databases, and journals to ebooks, archival materials, and movies—all searchable through our website:

Each semester, we also compile a list of digitally available textbooks and reading materials, based on information Temple faculty provide to the bookstore. Check out if your etextbook is on the list! [Note: this list is typically updated for each new semester within the first or second week of the semester.]

And for those doing archival research this semester, our special collections are housed in the Special Collections Research Center and the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection.

Apply for research and creative writing awards

Through February 28, we will be accepting applications for the Livingstone Undergraduate Research Awards, in which we recognize the best scholarly and creative work produced by Temple undergrads. There are cash prizes for the winners, and you can view past winning projects on our awards website.

The Libraries are also participating in Short Édition’s annual inter-university writing contest for students this spring. Hopefully, you’ve seen the Short Édition short story dispenser we have here on the third floor of Charles Library (if not, make sure you do next time you are on campus!). All submissions will be considered for international publication in 300+ dispensers worldwide, including our dispenser at Temple. There are also cash prizes!

Attend free workshops and events

We have a full slate of virtual workshops scheduled for the spring on everything from editing artwork in Photoshop to using citation managers to getting started with 3D scanning and printing. We hope you’ll join us for any or all of these specialized online learning opportunities!

And check out our Beyond the Page public programming series. This semester’s theme is What Comes Next?, and we’ll be offering a variety of virtual and in-person events.

As always, our events and workshops are free and open to all.

Even more tips!

What to Read Over Winter Break (That’s Not Your Textbook)

The end of the semester is around the corner. If you are ready to step away from your coursework and into another world, library staff have you covered with these reading recommendations—many of which you can even check out from the Libraries

Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time by Dava Sobel

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a good nonfiction read. Part biography, part history, part scientific exploration, Longitude relates the quest for an accurate way to determine longitude. At first, this book came across as a technical topic, however, when diving in and dedicating my spare time to read this, it quickly became very interesting. I now take GPS for granted after reading this. Hope you all enjoy! I certainly did. 

—Jim Boyce, Charles Library evening building supervisor

A Children’s Bible: A Novel by Lydia Millet

This story about the end of the world as we know it— brought about by climate change—may feel a little too real. But it comes from the perspective of the children, which felt fresh to me and particularly poignant. The writing is beautiful, and I’m still thinking about this book months after I put it down. 

—Beckie Dashiell, editor

The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson

I thought I had paid attention in science classes over the years until I read this book. I learned so much about the human body, especially how the human body has so many constantly moving parts and yet it operates without you realizing it. Spoiler alert: you’ll pick up a few tips on how to live and breathe a little easier.

The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

If you’re looking for an eerie mystery set during the winter, look no further than The Winter People. The past to present flashbacks and small-town charm kept me captivated.

—Jess Martin, library depository building supervisor

Game Wizards by Jon Peterson

Game Wizards details the first few years of the creation of Dungeons & Dragons, the company TSR that published the game, and the struggles between the games co-creators Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. The book is a wonderful example of art turning into business and all of the pitfalls that can come with it. If you have any interest in the history of games or the history of Dungeons & Dragons, creative disputes, and the pitfalls of starting a business that ends up being successful, this is the book for you.

—Matt Shoemaker, head of the Loretta C. Duckworth Scholars Studio

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

I recently listened to Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. Trevor’s life story was surreal and exciting! Throughout the entire book, he was relatable and humorous, which made deep concepts about his life feel light-hearted and easy to understand.

—Joi Waller, web/graphic designer

Need even more recs? 


Dispatch from the Ambler Campus Library: Reopen in Tech Center After Devastating Storm

Guest post by Sandi Thompson, head of Ambler Campus Library

Editor’s note: On September 1, 2021, the remnants of Hurricane Ida swept through the Greater Philadelphia region. During the storm, an EF2-level tornado caused serious damage to Temple’s Ambler Campus, including the Ambler Campus Library.

We are happy to report that as of Monday, November 8, the Ambler Campus Library is open in a scaled-down capacity in the Ambler Technology Center (inside the Ambler Learning Center) from 8:30 am–5:00 pm, Monday–Friday.

While rebuilding efforts are underway, Ambler Campus is forever altered by September’s storm.  With 510 trees down and gone, the skyline has been changed for future generations. I’ve even heard that some people who travel here on Route 309 say they don’t recognize the exit or the area. Homes close by also received major damage, and some are still uninhabitable. Thankfully, even though people were on campus, tornado warnings were sent out and no one was hurt. Of course, many people were scared and shaken. And it’s the people who are most important here—those who work here, those who take classes here, and the locals who use our services and spaces for leisure and contemplation.

At the Ambler Campus Library, ten windows were blown in, allowing 130 mile per hour winds and hard rain into the library proper. Windows in offices were also blown in. In all, we lost approximately 17,000 books, including all of our oversize books.  

On the day after the tornado, three staff members worked quickly to save archival material by moving it out of wet conditions into dry spaces. (Would you believe the only “dry” spaces in the building were the restrooms?) Even the fire marshal, who was on campus taking inventory, pitched in and helped us move those materials to the dry space!

Within a short time, all our archival materials were sent down to Charles Library and Kardon (our remote storage facility on Main Campus) in two trucks, and now reside there in a safe, dry, environmentally-controlled environment. The rest of our collections were packed and delivered  to Charles Library on Friday, November 5. In total, we sent 2,358 crates of Ambler material (or close to 57 tons)!

Photo of Ambler Library Staff in the Tech Center

Ambler Campus Library staff, from left: Andrea Goldstein, Darryl Sanford, Sandi Thompson; not pictured: Joanne Rempfer (who was present the night of the storm!)

On Monday, November 8, we are opening our scaled-down library in a space graciously shared with us by the ITS department in the Ambler Technology Center, which is inside the Ambler Learning Center. Our hours will be 8:30 am–5:00 pm, Monday–Friday. There, we’ll have approximately 4,900 books, including an additional 110 titles from the general stacks, 160 items for reference, 101 items for leisure reading, 195 DVDs, and—just for fun—five VHS tapes! These items were all handpicked by staff, and we hope we have picked some that people actually want and need! If not, our delivery service will be moving lots of material between locations, so let us know if you have any requests

There is no way I can thank all the people who have helped us make this possible—from departments here on Ambler’s campus to so many departments and people from Charles Library who have come up with ways and means to make this move and this library happen. So, a simple thank you to everyone for your support and help in this situation. See you in the library!

In Memory of Librarian Latanya N. Jenkins

Photograph of Latanya JenkinsIn late September, friends and colleagues gathered on Zoom to honor Temple University Librarian Latanya N. Jenkins, who died April 13, 2021 at the age of 45. She was a treasured colleague and continues to be dearly missed. 

Here at the Libraries, Latanya was the Africology and African American studies and government information subject librarian. She served on the Temple University Faculty Senate Committee on the Status of Faculty of Color, the International Programs committee, the Academic Center on Research in Diversity (ACCORD) steering committee, and the Global Women’s Dialogue steering committee.

Latanya was also very active in the field as a member of ALA’s Government Documents Round Table, the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), and ACRL’s African American Studies Librarians Interest Group, among others. She frequently published and presented on government documents and information and on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Latanya was a contributing author to Government Information Essentials, which was awarded the Margaret T. Lane & Virginia F. Saunders Memorial Research Award by the Government Documents Round Table of the American Library Association in 2019. In 2020, Latanya was named a Library Freedom Institute fellow. Before joining Temple Libraries in 2013, Latanya was a reference librarian at Morgan State University and Bowie State University, both in Maryland.

Betsy Sweet, assistant professor of equitable and sustainable development at the University of Massachusetts Boston, worked with Latanya in several different capacities while teaching at Temple. During the program, Dr. Sweet noted: “I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to work with Latanya. Her intellect was so amazing; it sparked so many ideas. She was so hard working and so compassionate… you could read her smile coming through her emails and texts. She was so so loved by so many of her colleagues.”

Joe Lucia, dean of Libraries, noted that Latanya had been working toward regular appointment as a librarian at Temple, which librarians can apply for after six years of employment and increasing professional accomplishments. She received promotion and regular appointment prior to her death. He added: 

I do want to say just on a personal note that one thing about Latanya was that she was a uniquely light-hearted spirit among us, even when she was dealing with the tremendous burden of her illness. One of the ways she was recognized as a presence in the library is that oftentimes you heard her singing in the distance and knew that she was around. She always had a song in her heart.

Kimmika Williams-Witherspoon, associate professor in Temple’s School of Theater, Film, and Media Arts, worked with Latanya on the Faculty Senate Committee on the Status of Faculty of Color. She led the Chat in the Stacks program in memory of Latanya, and said:

We wanted to do something more than just commemorate and celebrate Latanya’s life today. We wanted to do something ongoing. And so we’ve started a memorial fund. It will support programming and diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives amongst the Libraries… We’ve all been touched in some way by Latanya Jenkins, and I’m laying it on your heart to figure out a way for her memory to stay at Temple in perpetuity. This memorial fund will be just that.

You can donate to the memorial fund in Latanya’s memory at If you’d like to view the video, please email

You Can Print Coronary Arteries?

Guest post by Nick Perilli, Innovation Librarian

The Innovation Space team at the Ginsburg Health Sciences Library recently completed the first major project for their new medical grade printer: modeling and printing a series of coronary artery models with Temple University Hospital cardiology fellow Dr. Matthew Delfiner. Per Dr. Delfiner, “We’re using 3D printed models of coronary arteries from real patients to demonstrate how the vessels look from different angles and perspectives, a skill key to understanding coronary angiography, [an examination of blood or lymph vessels by x-ray].”

Using a combination of Meshmixer and Blender software, Innovation Librarians Nick Perilli and Patrick Lyons were able to edit the initial scanned artery (pictured above) to remove stray 3D artifacts from the model, fix errors, and add a stand for display purposes. The model was then printed using the space’s new Formlabs 3BL resin printer. Three models were printed in total, one complete model and two others highlighting certain areas of the artery. 

Dr. Delfiner posted a thread on Twitter using the model to illustrate coronary fluoroscopic anatomy, which received 300 likes (and counting) and over 45,000 impressions. He will continue to use the models for educating fellows on an as-needed basis.

The Innovation Space team has several other interesting projects in progress, including modeling prototypes for Temple University Hospital’s MedFlight response team and printing a flexible neck brace for the Temple Co-op team at Drexel University. They will again be working with Dr. Delfiner on a geometric model of a left ventricle during the fall semester.

For more information on the Innovation Space and its projects, please visit our guide and/or contact Or stop in! The team is here to help you innovate and create, Monday through Friday, during normal business hours!

Meet the Libraries: Fall 2021 edition

Welcome to the fall 2021 semester at Temple University! Whether this is your very first semester on campus or if you are returning after a year of mostly online coursework, allow us to introduce (or reintroduce) ourselves: we’re Temple University Libraries and we’re here to help you succeed in your academic pursuits. We have a variety of resources, materials, and services to get you started and keep you on track as the semester unfolds.

Photo of Charles Library interior, with stairs

Charles Library, July 2021, photo by Geneva Heffernan

This post highlights just a few of ways you can use the Libraries this fall. Be sure to check our website for more resources, as well as the most up-to-date information on hours and operations. And don’t be a stranger—visit our contact us page for all the ways to get in touch.

Explore and access materials 

The Libraries provide access to a broad range of physical and online materials—from books, databases, and journals to ebooks, archival materials, and movies—all searchable through our website:

Photo of book stacks in Charles Library

Fourth floor browsing stacks in Charles Library, July 2021, photo by Geneva Heffernan

For those doing archival research this semester, our special collections are housed in the Special Collections Research Center and the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection.

If you are looking for fully online materials, we have highlighted those on our website. 

Get personalized research help

Librarians are here to offer personalized assistance as you work on your research papers and projects. No matter what you are studying or what major you pursue, we have a librarian who specializes in your field

Getting in touch with your librarian is easy: you can chat, email, or schedule an appointment. Our chat service is 24/7, so no matter when you are working, someone will be here to answer your questions. 

Keep learning: free events and workshops 

We host a variety of events and  workshops throughout the academic year. This semester, our Beyond the Page public programming series will continue to explore the Made in North Philly theme we debuted last spring, and we’ll be offering a variety of virtual readings, concerts, conversations, and more.

Looking to learn a new skill or need a refresher on copyright rules? We offer specialized workshops on everything from visualizing data to using citation managers to getting started with virtual reality. 

As always, our events and workshops are free and open to all.

Tour Charles Library—from home!

Charles Library, located on Temple’s Main Campus, is our newest library building. If you are looking to get a peek inside before heading to campus, check out this new virtual tour of Charles Library

Here are a few more tips to help you navigate all the Libraries have to offer:

Faculty: Help Your Students Save on Textbooks

By Karen Kohn, collections analysis librarian, with the Open Education Group

Photograph of woman in office looking at computer

“Does Temple University Libraries have my textbook?”

This is a question we at Temple University Libraries (TUL) hear frequently at the beginning of each semester, from students who may be struggling to pay for course materials. As a faculty member, you may see students coming to class unprepared because they haven’t bought the book, or dropping out of class because they can’t afford materials. One way to keep textbook costs low in the courses you teach is by assigning readings that are available as ebooks through the Libraries and letting students know you have done so.

The Challenge of Textbook Costs

Textbook affordability has become an issue of national concern as the cost of textbooks rose 40% between 2010 and 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. A survey conducted by Temple Student Government for the university’s Textbook Task Force in fall 2020 (12,500 anonymous, randomly selected students; 628 responses) showed that 24% of Temple students choose courses based on the costs of the materials. In order to afford a textbook, 41% have worked extra hours at their job, and 14% have skipped meals.

How the Libraries Help Save Students Money

One of the steps TUL has taken to help reduce these costs is to purchase ebooks of course-assigned materials. While we are not able to buy everything, it is worth searching our library catalog to see if there is an ebook available for your class. If there is, you can let your students know, or even link to the book within your Canvas course.

The number of books that the Libraries are able to buy each semester varies, as not everything is available in an appropriate format. Textbook publishers such as Pearson or Cengage usually do not sell ebooks to libraries. The ebooks we buy are ones that are not technically classified as textbooks, but general books that are assigned as reading in a course. When possible, we get licenses that allow multiple simultaneous users, but if a single-user license is the only one available, we’ve decided it’s better to purchase it than not. We also do not buy an ebook if it costs more than four times the print. In the 2020-21 academic year, between new purchases and titles already in our catalog, we were able to offer access to just under a third of the books assigned in courses.

While the amount that TUL spends on course materials per year is not trivial ($13,000 this academic year), it is minimal compared to the potential savings for students. Recent calculations showed that in the 2020-21 academic year, between the ebooks the Libraries purchased and those we already owned, TUL saved students an estimated $302,849. This represents $247,223 savings in fall 2020 and $55,626 in spring 2021.

How We Calculated Savings

These calculations are based on several different numbers, collected by different people. First, a student worker looked up the prices of all the books on Temple’s Barnes & Noble bookstore website. The student collected the used price for each book, assuming students would try to save money by purchasing this cheaper option. The same student also looked up enrollment in each course.

The next step was to estimate how many students used each book. For this step, a librarian checked how many times the books were used between August and December 2020 (for fall books) and January and May 2021 (for spring books), referring to standard usage reports from each of our ebook platforms. Surprisingly, 29% of books that were assigned in fall 2020 and are available as library ebooks were not used during that semester. In spring 2021, 49% of course-assigned texts to which the Libraries provide access were not used. We did not count unused ebooks towards the savings.

For books that were used, the librarian compared the number of times a title was used to the enrollment. If a course had 25 students enrolled but the book was only used five times, that means at most five students may have opted to use the ebook instead of paying for their own copy. In the opposite scenario, if a course had 25 students enrolled and the book was used 200 times, there is still a maximum of 25 students who could’ve chosen not to buy the book and to make use of the library ebook instead. For our calculations, we used either the enrollment or the total uses, whichever was lower, and multiplied this by the price of the book. While we were as conservative as possible in our calculations, we know that this is still only an estimate of potential savings, not absolute savings. Maybe all five uses, or all two hundred uses, were from the same student.

How You Can Help as a Faculty Member

Student savings could be even more significant if the campus community was widely aware that the library routinely purchases course-assigned books and if students knew how to find this information. TUL provides a database, updated at the start of each semester, of ebooks that are associated with courses. Faculty can direct students to this database, or search the library catalog. Please speak with your subject librarian if you want to know if the Libraries can purchase a book for your class, if you need help determining what is already available, or if you want instruction on linking to an ebook in Canvas.