Library Services that Support Access and Affordability

Posted: November 29, 2022

By: Lemieux Library and Learning Commons

Library at Night
The pandemic, still unfolding racial justice movements, and the rising costs of books and materials underscore the importance of the Lemieux Library and McGoldrick Learning Commons’ commitment to continually evaluating and adjusting the ways in which it supports and drives access and affordability for Seattle University students.

A successful student needs access to quality teaching and learning materials. They need content––readily accessible content that fits a student budget. In so few words, they need free content. Enter shadow libraries: online databases of potentially reliable books and articles that may not be otherwise readily accessible. The content found on these sites may not be available because the publications are out of print, hard to obtain, or protected by paywalls. While backdoor access to content illuminates the inequalities of information access, its unregulated nature puts students at risk of using inaccurate and/or unreliable information.

The library is dedicated to contributing to teaching and learning activities at Seattle University by opening pathways to student success and making resources available in all formats. Students have access to a scholarly information ecosystem that provides the materials they need – the challenge is to make sure they know what resources are available to them!

Examples of initiatives that support this follow.

  • Stewardship

Seattle University faculty rely on a wide variety of teaching and learning materials. The library ensures that collections are aligned with student needs.

Student use of electronic resources continues to skyrocket, and the library continues to allocate the majority of its books and materials’ operating budget to electronic resources rather than print. Stewardship of e-resources involves tracking the selection, acquisition (with a preference for multi-user and unlimited licensing for eBooks and streaming media), licensing, access, maintenance, usage, evaluation, retention and de-selection of the library's electronic information resources.

With students in mind, the library works with faculty to select course materials that are already included in the library’s collection. Liaison Librarians are available to assist instructors in exploring electronic textbook alternatives and may be able to identify options within existing library collections or electronic materials available for library license. Faculty members looking for guidance on selecting open or low-cost materials for their course, can contact the co-chairs of the Open Education Task Force: Lydia Bello or Kyle Brown  

  • Commitment to “E”

Students’ heightened preference for online materials was evident to library staff prior to the pandemic. Pivoting to online teaching and learning during the pandemic underscored the importance of the library’s commitment to, and investment in, electronic resources (e-resources or simply “e”). Student success is best supported by retrieving e-content provided by direct library acquisition, subscription, and licensing.

  • Orbis Cascade Alliance Membership

The library is a member and contributor to the Orbis Cascade Alliance, a library consortium serving academic libraries in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. The Alliance runs a shared library management system and discovery interface, works on collective purchasing, facilitates access to unique and local collections and coordinates resource sharing for our members––all of which to say, students have access to many more materials than they see on the library shelves.

Students can search the Library Catalog (Primo) by course, instructor, or title––as the library may have physical or electronic copies of assigned course materials within its collections. Liaison librarians will help students access items that are not currently held by the library by determining if the library can purchase an electronic copy. Additionally, students may request a print copy through Summit or Interlibrary Loan, services powered by the Orbis Cascade Alliance which are of no additional charge to students. 

  • Course Reserves and Textbooks

The library supports instruction by offering access to course-related resources through course reserves. Upon instructor request, course reserve items may be set aside for limited-term loan from the library’s Circulation Desk or made electronically available for students. Students looking for help accessing course materials, can check out the library’s Course Reserves Guide; if their question isn’t covered in the guide, Ask Us! 

Publishers often restrict electronic textbook sales and licenses to individual students, preventing libraries from obtaining copies that can be made available to students who do not purchase or rent them. Scanning of chapters from print textbooks for placement on electronic reserve may also be restricted by applicable copyright laws.

Library staff work with students and their faculty to relieve the financial burden caused by high-cost textbooks that are only available in print by purchasing them for placement on reserve. Although textbooks are often available in electronic format, many electronic textbooks specifically published for course instruction cannot be purchased by libraries.

  • Open Principles and Practices

A commitment to open principles and practices is a necessary strategy for fulfilling our mission. Open principles and practices include approaches that seek the free exchange of information and the removal of financial and legal barriers that limit access to knowledge, data and tools. This manifests as, among other forms: open access (OA) publications, open data, open educational resources (OER), open scholarship, open science and open-source software. We have created a library guide with resources for faculty, staff and students interested in learning more about Open Access Resources:

  • Open Education Task Force

The University’s Open Education Task Force — part of the University’s Reigniting our Strategic Directions — is working to support Seattle University faculty in choosing openly licensed materials for their courses. Open Education Resources (OERs) are available for free or at a low cost. OERs are also licensed under flexible terms that permit faculty to modify materials to promote Seattle University’s values and fit the unique needs of their course.

  • The Campus Store 

The library is pleased to partner with the Campus Store and support the many steps the Campus Store has taken to improve access and affordability at Seattle University. The Campus Store sells, and rents assigned course materials in both new and used, as well as physical and electronic formats. They will also buy back your used textbooks to help recoup costs.  

The Seattle University Library is committed to an evolving approach to access and affordability. Supporting students with reliable, accessible information is our priority and we welcome the insights of our community, so please don’t hesitate to reach out with your thoughts at