Textbooks: Information and Guidance

Last Updated: Mar 1, 2024 12:52 PM

Finding E-Books and Print Books

Textbooks are not normally purchased by the library, but there are sometimes exceptions. For example a professor will lend us a copy to place on Reserve. Or the assigned textbook is not a traditional textbook.

Check the library catalog which is linked below.

Know your textbook name, author, or ISBN? Your syllabus or other course material should have this information.  A textbook might be on Reserve meaning you can use it in the library for a few hours or it might be a circulating copy which means you can check it out for longer.

As stated above the library does not usually buy textbooks and there are other limitations when we do have a textbook in the collection. Please read the Expectations listed below. Even when the library does have a copy it may be that sharing it is not a viable option for your specific needs.

Expectations About the Library and Textbook Availability

Setting expectations when it comes to textbooks and the library is important as you prepare for your semester. Keep the following factors in mind.

The library's Collection Development Policy states:

"Textbooks are not normally purchased. The exceptions are those which have earned reputations as "classics" in their fields, or when a textbook is the best or only source of information on a particular topic. Duplicates are purchased only under unusual circumstances. Examples of exceptions include multiple copies purchased for speakers’ series, commencement speakers, etc."

Will the library have all the textbooks?


Occasionally a textbook is in our circulating collection or placed in our Reserve section by a professor. What is the difference between Circulating and Reserve? Circulating refers to the books that can be checked out for multiple weeks at a time. Reserve refers to a controlled set of books that are usually only checked out for use in the library for a few hours. A few Reserve books have longer loan periods but most books identified as textbooks are designated as being only in-library use for a few hours.

If I find a textbook is in the library can I borrow it for the whole semester?

Probably not. If the textbook is on Reserve it will usually have a checkout period of a few hours and will have to be used in the library. Sometimes professors use books in our collection as a textbook but the book is not classified by us as a traditional textbook. A copy might be available as an e-book or might be available in the print circulation collection. Think of Reserve books as shared copies with borrowing limitations that help many students have access through the semester. If you need a book for a class that you want to control when and where you use it, buy or lease a copy from the RIT Bookstore.

What other factors should I consider?

Reserve books might not be available when you need them. A textbook on Reserve might be checked out when need it or have time to visit the library. If your class assignments are heavily dependent on the textbook, trying to use a shared Reserve copy might not work for you.

Reserve books sometimes go missing or are damaged beyond repair during a semester and may not be replaced.

If you need or want to control when and where you use your textbook, buy or lease a copy from the RIT Bookstore.

If the library has the eBook version, can I download it?

Maybe. Maybe not.

eBooks are leased through different vendors with varying restrictions. Some are DRM-free (digital rights management free) meaning there are no usage restrictions. Others have very restrictive DRM and only allow one user at a time with very minimal downloading or printing. Some can only be viewed online with no downloading or printing. If you find the ebook in our collection, try it out to see if there are any limitations which might limit how you use the book throughout the semester. Plus any ebook versions the library has will not have any of the quizzes or supplements textbook companies now offer and professors will sometimes require. 

Need more help?

Use the Chat/Email/Appointments button near the top of this guide to get live help while the Reference Desk is open or send us a question via email libraryhelp@rit.edu

You can also reach out to the librarian supporting your college for guidance and subject specific help. Take a look at the list below to see the team supporting RIT's students.

Subject Librarians at RIT

Adwoa Boateng
Science, Health Sciences & Technology
Jennifer Freer
COLA Librarian
Liberal Arts
Roman Koshykar
Engineering, Technology & Sustainability
Greyson Pasiak
Art & Design Librarian
Art & Design
Ryan Tolnay
Global Campuses, University Studies, & School of Individualized Study

Edit this Guide

Log into Dashboard

Use of RIT resources is reserved for current RIT students, faculty and staff for academic and teaching purposes only.
Please contact your librarian with any questions.

Facebook icon  Twitter icon  Instagram icon  YouTube icon