Making Required Texts Affordable

All students deserve to be able to access course texts. The high costs of textbooks and other course materials prohibit access and perpetuate inequity, and Barnard librarians are partnering with students, faculty, and staff to increase access. The Barnard Library recommends the following strategies for students to access course texts at no cost, as well as advocating that faculty make their texts more accessible via the Library.

For Students

  • Check if the items are on reserve, using our guide to course reserves. If you find that a book is on reserve, you can only check it out for a brief time, so you may want to scan some pages. Book scanners are available in the Barnard library in the open computer lab on the second floor and next to the PawPrint stations on the third and fourth floors of the Milstein Center for Teaching and Learning. There is no charge for scanning, and brief directions are available at each scanning station. If you need additional assistance, please ask at the Circulation and Help desk on the second floor.
  • If the book is not on reserve, we might still have it in the library’s general collections: check CLIO to see if it's available at Barnard or at one of the other Columbia University Libraries. For education-related items, you may also want to check the Teacher’s College catalog as these items do not appear in CLIO.
  • Even if we don’t have the book (or it’s already checked out), you can request it to be sent here via one of these request services:
    • Check Borrow Direct to see if you can borrow it from another institution. The loan period is 16 weeks with no renewal, and it usually takes 3-5 business days to arrive.
    • If the item is not available through Borrow Direct, try Interlibrary Loan. ILL can be slower than Borrow Direct (particularly for textbooks), and more uncertain (you will not be able to see whether an item is requestable or know how long it will take to arrive), so if you need a book quickly we recommend finding another option. One advantage of Interlibrary Loan is that you can use it to request a scanned chapter of a book.
    • Here’s a helpful chart that compares the services offered by Interlibrary Loan and Borrow Direct.
  • The New York Public Library is another option for accessing books. Although it requires the extra steps of getting a library card and going off campus for non-online materials, it can be a good way to get access to some materials more quickly if they are not available or are checked out at the Columbia University Libraries. Some materials may only be used at the research branches of the NYPL while others may be checked out. Follow these instructions to apply for a library card. The closest branch to Barnard's campus is the Morningside Heights branch.
  • The Barnard FLIP Library is a collection on the fourth floor of the Milstein Center that provides textbooks and other course materials for low-income and/or first-generation students. It is a collaboration with the Columbia First-Generation Low-Income Partnership (FLIP) and was inspired by Columbia’s FLIP Library, which is housed on the fourth floor of Butler Library (see below). Any student who identifies as low-income and/or first-generation and attends Barnard College, Columbia College, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, or the School of General Studies may check out materials from the Barnard FLIP Library for an entire semester. To receive semester-long borrowing privileges, students must provide their UNI in this form. Books can be checked out at Circulation just like any other books from the Barnard Library.
  • The Columbia First-Generation Low-Income Partnership (FLIP) maintains a lending library of textbooks and other course texts inside the Milstein Undergraduate Library on the fourth floor of Butler Library. 
  • Students with financial need or insecurity can consult with the Dean of Studies about alternatives for getting access to course texts.
  • For lower-cost options, students have recommended the Barnard Buy Sell Trade Facebook group as well as textbook rental (via services like Chegg and Amazon Textbook Rentals). The Barnard Library has not reviewed any of these services.
  • Though not course-related, the Beyond Barnard's Career Development Office has a library of books related to interview prep, workplace etiquette, women in leadership, specific careers, general career guidance, and graduate school guidance that students can borrow.

For Faculty

  • For books, films, sound recordings, and other library materials:
    • The Barnard Library will put any circulating, available items from the Columbia Libraries collections on reserve. We will also purchase items to put on reserve if we do not have them.
    • Please review the instructions for placing library materials on reserve at Barnard.
  • For e-reserves and CourseWorks:
    • Please see this page from Columbia University Libraries for guidance fair use and copyright when putting materials up on CourseWorks.
    • Contact the personal librarian for your department with any questions about placing materials on e-reserves or finding online versions of articles, books, and more to link to from your CourseWorks page. The librarian for your department can also talk to you about alternatives to course packets.
    • More information about streaming media reserves can be found here.
  • The Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) of 2008 federally mandates that price information for any texts that students are required or recommended to purchase for a course must be made available during registration. This information should be listed in the Textbook section of Courseworks. For more information, see this FAQ and these instructions for adding textbooks in Canvas or contact the personal librarian for your department.
  • In 2018, the Committee on Instruction and the faculty approved the following statement to be added to all syllabi. Please include this statement on each of your syllabi: 

All students deserve to be able to access course texts. The high costs of textbooks and other course materials prohibit access and perpetuate inequity, and Barnard librarians are partnering with students, faculty, and staff to increase access. Prior to registration, you should be able to view on CourseWorks information provided by your faculty about required texts and their prices. Once you have selected your classes, here are some methods for accessing course texts, recommended by the Barnard Library: find out if your faculty has placed the texts on reserve at Barnard Library or another Columbia library, and look for course texts using CLIO (library catalog), Borrow Direct (request books from partner libraries), Interlibrary Loan (request book chapters from any library), and NYPL. Students with financial need or insecurity can check items out from the FLIP lending libraries in the Barnard Library and Butler Library and can consult with the Dean of Studies and the Financial Aid Office about alternatives for getting access to course texts. Talk with your librarian and visit the Barnard Library Textbook Affordability guide ( for more details.

  • Contact the personal librarian for your department to discuss open educational resources and other alternatives to textbooks.