A North Central College student with a textbook.

North Central News

Library Launches Cardinal Textbooks Program

Program helps North Central students with textbook affordability

by Olivia Rosenberg '25 & Jacob Imm

Dec 19, 2023

In the fall of 2023, North Central’s Oesterle Library launched Cardinal Textbooks — a textbook lending program that provides all enrolled students with free access to high-use and high-cost textbooks.   

Beginning with North Central’s annual Day of Giving in February 2023, the library partnered with faculty and staff across campus to create a collection of commonly used textbooks. Library staff bought books with library funds, members of the Cardinal community gave both financial gifts and gifts of books, and faculty donated spare textbooks to build out the collection.  

Students can check out any book in the collection for a two-hour period inside the library. According to Michelle Boule Smith, director of library services, “Most students do not need continual access to a text, so being able to use a textbook a couple hours at a time is sufficient for many. Keeping the checkout time low means that more students will have access to these books.” 

Intended to help reduce financial barriers for students and support student success and retention, Cardinal Textbooks has had immediate impact. In the first semester of the program, the library saw 525 individual checkouts from the collection.  

The cost of college textbooks can be a significant obstacle for many students. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, prices for college textbooks increased by seven percent between 2020 and 2023. The rise in prices can have a disproportionate effect on low-income families from underserved communities, as well as students who are the first in their family to attend college. 

At North Central, where 36 percent of students identify as first-generation college students, Cardinal Textbooks is one of many ways to ensure every student has an equitable opportunity to get to graduation successfully. 

Research has shown that financial stress can greatly impact a student’s ability to persist and be successful in college—textbooks can be a major impact and stressor in this area,” said Boule Smith. “Because a student does not have to ask for help or assistance to use this collection, like they would for financial help, there is no stigma or need to a student to self-identify in a way that may make them feel uncomfortable. 

The Cardinal Textbook collection is updated each semester and can be searched on the library’s website. Currently, the collection contains 355 titles for students to access. Most are for 100-200 level courses to support incoming students in their first years on campus, and library staff hope to expand the collection to include more 300-400 level texts as the program grows.  

“We would love to eventually have every textbook on campus,” said Melissa Proulx, head of outreach and liaison services.  

The library gladly accepts donations of used textbooks from faculty and recent graduates. To support Cardinal Textbooks, fill out a donation form on the library’s website. You can deliver the form in person to the library along with your book donation or email it to library staff.