Library promotes textbook affordability


Melanie Ramirez

The library’s goal is for all textbooks to be free in the future.

Melanie Ramirez, Staff Writer

This story was updated on April 8. A previous version of this story attributed quotes to Toni Olivas that should have been attributed to Olivas, Holly Hampton and Lauren Magnuson because they collaborated on responses to an email interview.

Finding affordable textbooks as a student is hard. That’s why CSUSM’s University Library has been focusing on building an affordable textbook program for its students, called the CALM initiative (Cougars Affordable Learning Material). 

The CALM initiative aims to eliminate the high cost of textbooks and course material which often serve as a barrier to overall academic success. 

“Our goal is that no students will have to pay any costs for textbooks materials all across the curriculum one day,” said the CALM team over email. (The CALM team who participated in this email interview included Engagement and Inclusion Librarian Toni Olivas, Head of User Services Holly Hampton and Head of Collections, Delivery and Access Lauren Magnuson.)

CALM first sprouted last year from the university’s Instructional & Information Technology Services department. The CSUSM library took control over the program in July 2020. 

“The library can purchase rights from publishers to use portions of published works as required readings to make them free for students. We have also reached out to publishers, especially for materials that are not available as e-books, to ask for permission to digitize or digitally lend materials,” wrote the CALM team. 

Not only does CALM benefit students, but professors are able to apply for grants that will allow them to reconstruct their courses into ones that include these alternative affordable resources.

Our goal is that no students will have to pay any costs for textbooks materials all across the curriculum one day.

— CALM team

“The more faculty CALM their courses, the more accessible higher education will be for so many current and future students. Too often students have to choose between purchasing expensive textbooks or paying for daily essentials,” wrote the CALM team. 

With this, students may be more inclined to take classes that have been restructured around materials that CALM provides since they wouldn’t have to worry about the financial burden of taking certain classes which often require an extensive amount of course material. 

With this program, we are able to encourage and incentivize instructors to reduce the cost of the course materials for their courses so that students have one less expense to worry about,” said the CALM team in their email.

“This program will help make higher education more accessible to more communities. It’s time we stop supporting big commercial publishers and help ease the burden on our students,” wrote the CALM team.

Students have been reacting positively to this initiative since it works to their benefit in helping take off some of the financial burden. 

“I think the CALM resource is a great idea and can help students gain access to textbooks they need at a more affordable rate. It is something I will definitely look into next semester when I’m trying to buy textbooks,” said Kelsey Wierenga, a third year student at CSUSM.  

Another student, Marissa Villanueva, said, “I’m happy to hear that the school is making efforts to partner with different organizations to help students, especially during these crazy times.”

To see if your textbooks are available for digital access, visit this site

To learn more about CALM, visit the University Library page here

Professors and faculty who wish to reconstruct their courses into CALM classes can contact [email protected] for more information. 

Melanie Ramirez is a graphic design intern for The Cougar Chronicle. She is currently a junior at CSUSM as an arts and technology major. Melanie hopes to work in the entertainment industry after graduating. She enjoys watching films and shooting photos and loves to indulge in a good book.