UW Libraries Blog

March 25, 2020

Course Reserves: Online Alternatives vs. Equivalents

UW Libraries

As we head into our online spring 2020 quarter, we know that instructors and students are searching for ways to access course texts and readings.  At the same time, for the health and safety of all, UW Libraries’ physical spaces are closed to staff and users until further notice, and there is no access to physical library collections. The Libraries is asking everyone to work under an assumption that students will not have access to physical materials that would have been available for courses for spring 2020. 

When it comes to previously-planned physical texts and course reserves materials, we are encouraging a motto of “first alternatives, then equivalents.” 

Alternatives: We encourage all instructors to consider online alternatives to planned physical course texts and DVDs — alternatives include open textbooks, and e-books and streaming media already licensed by UW.

Why choose alternates over equivalents? 

 1) Ease of use. These resources are immediately available and will avoid potential delays that may occur in trying to source equivalent materials.

2) More equitable access for all. In particular, open textbooks provide students with equitable access to content in many subjects; they are available for free online; and students can have copies printed locally at low cost. 

Information about these alternatives may be found on the “Online Resources for Teaching” and “Streaming Video” sections of the Libraries Services for Remote Learning page.

Equivalents: At this time, new course reserves requests are limited to electronic resources. For previously-submitted requests for required physical materials, librarians and staff are working to identify equivalent online e-book/streaming resources that are available from publishers. However, data show that online equivalents don’t exist for all physical texts; and, when equivalents do exist, licensing them will take additional time, so they may not be available for course use immediately.  

We encourage everyone to review the resources we’ve pulled together on Libraries Services for Remote Learning, and don’t hesitate to reach out to your subject librarians if you need additional assistance. 

Contributor: John Danneker,Director / Learning Services
University of Washington Libraries