Agony Aunt: reading material availability

March 9, 2001

Q : Students complain that the library is too busy and they can't afford to buy books. How can I help?

A : The most useful thing you can do is to let your library have copies of your reading lists well ahead of your students. The library staff can then order multiple copies if needed. Most academic libraries will have a short-loan collection to which these can be added.

Most libraries will also add photocopies of journal articles to the short-loan collection for students to borrow or read in the library. Some libraries are creating electronic short-loan collections that enable students to read or print an article anywhere on campus.

You could create a course pack. This will help relieve the pressure on the library and may well be very popular with your students, depending on how much of the cost you pass on to them.

Encourage your students to read widely around the topic rather than concentrating on a few core texts. And, finally, encourage them not to leave their information-gathering to the day before an essay deadline.

Philippa Dolphin, Librarian, Birkbeck College University of London.

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