From Divided to United: Creating A Campus Partnership for Student Success

By Michael Moore | October 6, 2023

For this guest blog, I have asked Kate Holvoet, MLIS and Ben Compton from San Diego State University to share how they have developed a mutually beneficial partnership between the Library and the SDSU Bookstore that serves as a strong foundation for the Day 1 Ready Equitable Access program at SDSU. Kate is an Associate Librarian* on campus and Ben is the General Manager of Course Materials at the SDSU Bookstore**. For any campus Bookstore, but especially one that is independently managed, developing a collaborative relationship between the Bookstore and the Library is crucial. Kate and Ben have worked very hard together to ensure that the focus remains on students and ensuring they have all their required course materials as part of the SDSU Day 1 Ready course materials program. The duo will also be leading a presentation at the Textbook Affordability Conference on November 2nd at 12pm CST on this very subject. I really appreciate the work that Kate and Ben put into this blog, and I hope you enjoy it. It is an honor and privilege to present…

From Divided to United: Creating A Campus Partnership for Student Success

On campuses across the country there are two entities that are quite similar in services offered, but whose goals are often miles apart. Their names are interchangeable in the student vernacular, but their objectives regularly compete against each other. If you haven’t guessed by now, we’re referring to the campus Bookstore and the Library. When these two cornerstones of the campus community are divided and left to their own devices, the non-ideal status quo continues to prevail. The Library: championing Open Educational Resources (OER) and providing print & digital resources as well as course reserves for students. The Bookstore: one stop shop for all paid course materials; the intermediary between professor adoptions & student acquisition and the official retailer of the campus. Both entities are frequently distrustful of each other’s competing interests and students get stuck in the middle.

However, a campus does not have to remain divided. There is another way forward that uses a student-centric approach that is full of collaboration, shared goals, and a lasting partnership that will benefit all parties involved. A meaningful relationship between a campus Bookstore and Library can be a game changer for everyone. At San Diego State University, the SDSU Bookstore has an extremely strong relationship with the SDSU Library founded on the shared goals of removing barriers to student access to course materials and improving academic success.

Surfacing Library Materials

The Library is responsible for curating materials that will benefit campus stakeholders. Unfortunately, faculty and students are not always aware that needed resources are available through the Library. This is where the Bookstore can step in to assist. As the repository for all course materials related information, the Bookstore is in a unique position to help bring course materials available through the Library to the surface.

At San Diego State we accomplish this during the requisition process. After a professor informs the Bookstore what materials will be used for a course, the SDSU Bookstore Course Materials staff searches the SDSU Library’s catalog to see if there is an unlimited user license eBook available.

If an unlimited user license eBook is available, the book’s specific Library permalink is provided to the faculty member with instructions on how to embed the link within the campus Learning Management System course shell. The permalink is also added to the student’s personalized booklist. Obviously, the Library doesn’t always have what professors are looking for, but there is a way to improve the odds of finding material through the Library, which we will touch on later.

Campus Advocacy

The SDSU Bookstore and Library collaborate on campus advocacy programs, participate on advisory committees together, and cooperate on the State of California Affordable Learning Solutions initiative grants. Bookstore and Library information is often packaged together, even presenting in tandem on course materials to departmental leaders and in webinars directly to faculty. Another example of the Bookstore and Library collaboration is the Course Materials Canvas Homeroom, a convenient place for faculty to see all their options for providing course materials.

Financial Partnership/Collection Building

Prior to piloting Equitable Access for undergraduate course materials, the Bookstore and Library shared information and advocacy efforts, but not finances. As part of the Equitable Access pilot, the Bookstore signed an agreement with the Library to fulfill course materials via Library-hosted unlimited user license eBooks whenever possible. Within the agreement, the Bookstore committed to investing a lump sum of money into the Library ($10,000 in year one and $15,000 in year two) for the express purpose of purchasing unlimited user license eBooks for the curriculum. The initial $10,000 investment to the Library would have provided an additional $110,000 in delivery costs savings for the Equitable Access program in the first year. However, due to the delayed availability of the Library-provided eBooks in Fall 2022, we only realized an additional delivery cost savings of just over $50,000. At the conclusion of the first academic year, using existing and newly acquired materials, we were able to deliver over 14,500 Library-provided eBooks to students. This resulted in delivery cost savings to the Equitable Access program of over $1 million. The delivery cost savings helped us save students over $7 million in the first year. (Editor Note: Current Fall 2023 savings are around $3.9 million).

Common Goals/Leveraging Unique Skills

The Library and Bookstore are aligned under the common goals of student success, retention, and affordability. We can use our unique skillsets to advance these goals. The Bookstore develops and implements course materials solutions that provide access and cost savings to students as well as peace of mind for faculty knowing their students are day-one-ready. The Library uses their vast subject matter knowledge and wide range of materials to both foster the development of faculty courses and to provide support for students. We work in tandem to support our campus stakeholders, no matter if the materials are commercial publisher content, Open Educational Resources, or Library resources. A campus no longer divided, but united, can focus its time and energy towards collaboration and reaching its shared goals.

Wrap Up

The partnership between Kate and Ben was not developed overnight. I think anyone working in and around course materials can attest to the often contentious or distrustful ‘relationship” that exists between the Bookstore and the Library. We have seen others develop relationships like this before (see UC Davis). However, this relationship is not a standard practice; it is unique. In a world where our competing interests are not so easily set aside to unite under a common goal or objective, these types of partnerships are very important. They are important because what we are trying to accomplish in serving students is much, much greater than our individual or departmental wants. Thank you, Kate and Ben, for the incredible work you do serving the students of SDSU and for helping share how your important relationship can serve as an example for others.

As always, thanks for checking in and I’ll see you next time.


*Kate Holvoet, MLIS, is an Associate Librarian with 25 years of academic library experience. She is the Scholarly Communication and Open Initiatives Librarian at San Diego State University, and liaison for Government Publications, Open Access, and Open Education Resources (OER).  She co-chairs the campus committee for Affordable Learning Solutions, part of a CSU-wide initiative to encourage faculty use of OER.

**Ben Compton is the General Manager, Course Materials with 22 years of collegiate retail experience.  For the last 17 years he has specialized in course materials and course materials management.  He is also a graduate of the National Association of College Stores Leadership Institute, sits on the CSU Bookstore Advisory committee, Campus eBookstore Board, Cengage Advisors Network and is co-chair of the Affordable Learning Solutions committee at SDSU.