Students Paying Twice For The Same Content

There was a post on InsideHigherEd the other day about duplicative spending on library holdings.

Professors often assign articles for additional reading or inclusion in coursepacks, and many "[c]ollege students ... spend hundreds of thousands of dollars extra per year on buying rights for digital versions of readings to which they have free access [through their library]."

Stanford University, for one, wanted to see exactly how much duplicative spending was occurring. They "found that more than $100,000 was being spent, mostly by students, on course materials that could be found in the 1,200 databases the university spends millions of dollars to make available. Stanford analyzed its own records from July 2010 to June 2011. About 60 percent of the course materials the university sought to license from the Copyright Clearance Center for student coursepacks was already among Stanford’s library holdings."

The question is, why is this happening? "This is because faculty and students are often unaware of what is already available. 'The hurdles to knowing what we have are high,' said Catherine Tierney, Stanford’s associate university librarian for technical services, 'so that the T.A.s or the department admins or the faculty person herself doesn’t even know what we have.'"

The solution to rein in duplicative spending lies in a more effective way of checking library holdings against copyright clearance requests for coursepacks, etc.... Thus, Stanford created the Stanford Intellectual Property Exchange (SIPX). "It allows faculty to compile digital reading lists. It can check to see what readings are freely available, which would prevent the sort of inadvertent double-spending that Stanford found. It will also automate the purchase of individual texts from a variety of publishers that do require new licenses to use in class."

A few of the commenters offered the ways that their libraries prevent this problem. "At Central Michigan University (CMU), all requests for e-reserves go through the library's Course Reserves and Copyright Services office. Every item to be placed on reserve is automatically checked against the library's holdings to see if we own it before external rights are sought and fees paid. This checking is built into the reserves processing workflow, effectively preventing double payment like this."

I can attest to the effectiveness of CMU's system. When I was an undergraduate student there, the Course Reserves system was highly utilized by professors, and it ran seamlessly. And now, as a librarian, I understand the pains that they went through to make sure I, as a student, wasn't double spending.

Thank goodness that this issue is getting press. With the unprecedented price of tuition, every institution should be doing all that it can to make sure that students are not unnecessarily wasting money. This also shows that libraries need to offer better instruction and outreach on what the library owns. Our faculty need to be more aware of what the institution already has access to before requiring students to purchase a second copy.


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