Library Textbook Policy

Policy No.: 2



Last Revision:  January 2024

Responsible Executive:  Associate University Librarian, Collections

Title: UBC Library Textbook Policy (UBC Vancouver & UBC Okanagan campuses)

Background & Purposes:

UBC Library purchases materials that support the teaching, learning, and research interests of UBC on both campuses. It is the general policy of UBC Library not to purchase copies of textbooks that students are expected to purchase for use in a particular course.

Not all texts used for instructional purposes are textbooks. Many scholarly monographs lend themselves to classroom use but they are not considered ‘textbooks’. The library collection is primarily intended to provide research materials and other resources which supplement the learning experience taking place in the classroom.

Textbooks or books used for instructional purposes may be added on a case-by-case basis at the discretion of selectors. E-books in the library’s collection are available to UBC students and faculty from any physical location and many are suitable for use in courses. Faculty members may place a personal copy of a textbook on course reserve. 


A textbook is defined as “An edition of a book specifically intended for use of students who are enrolled in a course of study or preparing for an examination on a subject or in an academic discipline…sometimes published in conjunction with a workbook, lab manual, and/or teacher’s manual.” ODLIS —Online Dictionary for Library and Information science by Joan M. Reit, Libraries Unlimited (Last updated November 19, 2007).

Governing Principles:

There are several reasons the library does not typically purchase textbooks:

  • One copy will generally not suffice for an entire class and buying multiple copies for all classes that need them is prohibitively expensive.
  • The library is resourced to purchase material for research and to supplement what is used in the classroom, not to provide access to basic curricular material.


Exceptions to this policy will be considered on an individual basis by the appropriate subject librarian/selector. Possible exceptions include:

  • Textbooks written by UBC faculty
  • Textbooks that significantly support teaching, learning, and research interests at UBC (e.g., cover new or emerging research areas, establish the medico-legal record, document the history of education, chronicle societal viewpoints, etc.)
  • A format requested for accessibility reasons that cannot be fulfilled through other means.

Other ways UBC Library supports access to course readings:

  • UBC Library Online Course Reserves (LOCR) allows instructors to create a single list that includes all course readings.
  • Open education addresses barriers to learning by engaging in open education practices in the classroom and through the development and use of open educational resources, including textbooks.