Textbooks at MSU Library 

Montana State University Library acquires books, media, journals, databases, and other resources to support and advance teaching, learning, and research at MSU.  

As a general policy, MSU Library does not purchase textbooks for the collection. The Library may acquire textbooks selectively for the collection if they have long-term research, study, or archival value.  

The following frequently asked questions were compiled to better help our students and faculty understand more about textbooks and because: 

  • We want to be transparent about our reasons for not acquiring or lending textbooks.  
  • We want to help faculty find less-costly alternatives to traditional textbooks.  
  • We want students and faculty to connect with the resources we can provide.  
  • We want our users to request materials and know that we carefully consider each request. 

 Frequently Asked Questions about Textbooks 

Does the Library purchase textbooks? 

The short answer: no.  

The long answer: sometimes.  

Not all required course materials fit the standard definition of a textbook (for example, assigned works of fiction, poetry, or history). Titles may be in the collection because they meet the criteria of the Library’s general collection development policy, not because they are assigned for a particular course.   

The Library also acquires selective materials for the collection: 

Can a faculty member use Library resources as course materials? 

Yes! The Library subscribes to databases which contain e-books, e-journals, images, videos, and more. These resources are available to use by MSU students, faculty, and staff.  

If you want to use an ebook for your class, you need to make sure it is licensed to be used by more than one person. Contact Molly Arrandale with questions about licensing for ebooks. 

Other Textbook Resources 

  • MSU faculty may donate a single copy of a textbook they have purchased themselves to be placed on Reserve 
  • We recommend utilizing free, open textbooks and offer support services for faculty who choose this option. 
  • We welcome purchase requests from faculty and students via our web form. We want our users to request materials and know that we carefully consider each request. 
  • We are delighted to meet with faculty and help review textbook options.  

Occasionally, MSU Library receives requests to acquire online textbooks for students with specific accessibility requirements. In such cases, the Library will suggest the student submit their textbook request directly to the Office of Disability Services. If the Office of Disability Services is unable to obtain online access to a textbook, the Library will work with them to facilitate access when possible.  

Why doesn’t the Library purchase textbooks? 

Like most academic libraries, MSU Library’s collections budget limits what we can acquire. We also have limited physical space to house collections.  

Textbooks, particularly for undergraduate studies, are too costly, space-intensive, or inaccessible for the Library because: 

  • Textbooks can be significantly more expensive for the library to purchase compared to other materials.
  • Textbooks are frequently updated with new editions, requiring new acquisitions. 
  • Physical and electronic textbooks are designed for one-copy per student per class. 
  • Electronic textbooks are often not available for libraries to purchase or license. 

What counts as a textbook? 

When we say that something is a textbook, we mean a book used by students as a standard work for a particular branch of study. Textbooks generally are:  

  • designed to be used by students at different levels of study (e.g., introductory to advanced; undergraduate to graduate);  
  • include discussion topics, problems, and study questions at the end of individual chapters; and  
  • may be updated regularly with new editions. 

Why can’t I request a current semester textbook through InterLibrary Loan? 

MSU Library does not borrow required class textbooks via Interlibrary Loan or Resource Sharing. Our mission is to assist our campus community in accessing and utilizing reference and research materials. InterLibrary Loaning textbooks is not a service that helps our community due to the many challenges such as:  

  • Most of our partner libraries do not lend textbooks. 
  • Most libraries do not purchase textbooks. 
  • The very few libraries that do have textbook collections reserve them for their campus use only.  
  • Interlibrary loans are typically not for an entire term. 
  • Failure to return items when due will result in fines, suspension of borrowing privileges, blocked registration, and may jeopardize future borrowing by the MSU library from that lending library for any MSU student. 

Can the Library purchase a copy of an assigned text for me to use as a student? 

No, unfortunately the Library cannot purchase your assigned texts for use in courses. Our budget and physical space would quickly be overwhelmed if we were to purchase textbooks for every student. 

However, you are free to check out materials that we already have in our collection. Please be aware that checked out materials are subject to recall by other users prior to the due date. (Assigned texts may be sought after by other students).  

You are also free to use electronic materials that we have in our collections. The Library subscribes to databases which contain e-books, e-journals, images, videos, and more. These resources are free to use by MSU students, faculty, and staff. Please be aware that some ebooks are limited to one user at a time, and you may only be able to check it out for a limited period.