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Neuroscience & Behavior

Finding Affordable Course Books

The cost of textbooks and other required course texts has become a major impediment to affordability and student success across U.S. college campuses. The Barnard Library, the Dean of Studies Office, and the Empirical Reasoning Center are partnering to assess the issue of textbook and book affordability at Barnard and propose alternatives.  Here are some approaches you can use to find course texts:

  • Check if the materials are on reserve, using our handy guide to course reserves: Book scanners (but not photocopiers) are available in the Barnard library, in the Library Instruction Lab (LeFrak 113) and next to the public computers on the north side of the library. There is no charge for scanning. Brief directions are available at each scanning station. If you need additional assistance, please ask at the Circulation/Reserves desk.
  • If it’s not on reserve, we might still have it in the library’s general collections: check  CLIO to see if the item is available at any of the Columbia University Libraries. For education-related items, you may also want to check the Teacher’s College catalog.
  • Even if we don’t have it (or it’s already checked out), you might be able to get it using one of the request services:
    • Check Borrow Direct to see if you can borrow the book from another institution. The loan period is 16 weeks with no renewal, and it usually takes 3-4 business days to arrive.
    • If the item is not available through Borrow Direct, try Interlibrary Loan. Interlibrary Loan can be more slow (particularly for textbooks) and uncertain than Borrow Direct (you will not be able to see whether an item is requestable), so if you need a book quickly we recommend another option. One advantage of Interlibrary Loan is that you can use it to request a scanned chapter of a book.
    • Here’s a helpful chart that compares the services offered by Interlibrary Loan and Borrow Direct.
  • If you still can’t get the item, or if you need it faster, try searching the catalog of the New York Public Library. Some materials may only be used at the research branches of the NYPL while others may be checked out. Follow these instructions to apply for a library card.
  • Students with financial need or insecurity can consult with the Dean of Studies about alternatives for getting access to course texts.
  • The Columbia First-Generation Low-Income Partnership (FLIP) maintains a lending library of textbooks and other course texts inside the Milstein Library on the 4th floor of Butler Library. 
  • For lower-cost options, students have recommended the Barnard Buy Sell Trade Facebook group as well as textbook rental (via services like Chegg and Amazon Textbook Rentals). The Barnard Library has not reviewed any of these services.
  • Though not course-related, the Barnard Career Development Office has a library of books related to interview prep, workplace etiquette, women in leadership, specific careers, general career guidance, and graduate school guidance that students can borrow. For more information, contact