Guidelines on Textbooks

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The UNT Libraries have a collection development policy that prohibits buying textbooks; the policy states: UNT Libraries will not purchase or maintain a collection of currently adopted textbooks for coursework. Requests for purchases of textbooks will be considered on a case-by-case basis; textbooks must have value beyond that of a textbook to be considered for inclusion.


The Collection Development Department uses a very specific definition for textbook. A work is a textbook when it has many or all of the following characteristics:

  • the book usually contains tertiary information, reporting from primary and secondary sources in a summary way and at times with little bibliographic citation of specific sources;
  • the preface states that it is a textbook for the topic, with an outline of the content to be covered; sometimes the outline is divided into units or learning blocks;
  • the content is sequential so that you have to know information from the earliest chapters in order to understand the later ones;
  • chapters begin with stated learning objectives;
  • chapters have summaries or reviews at the end;
  • chapters have problems or discussion questions, frequently at the end;
  • chapters sometimes have inset boxes that explore a concept in an empirical way, translating the theory to practice;
  • the book has other indicators like …
    • new editions are issued very frequently;
    • the book is from a known textbook publisher like Cengage/Gale, Pearson, Macmillan, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Prentice Hall, Scholastic, sometimes Emerald, Routledge, Wiley, or Sage;
    • the book has one author or set of authors responsible for the entire work (not chapters credited to separate individuals).

If a book does not meet the above criteria, then Collection Development does not consider it a textbook for the purposes of applying the policy. Instructors may use a research resource as a textbook, and the Libraries will buy it, provided that it isn’t merely a tertiary source of information (example: a course on ancient Greece or epic poetry could have Homer’s Iliad as a textbook, and the Libraries would get it since it doesn’t meet the criteria).


Collection Development does make exceptions at times on specific textbook requests. An exception to the policy is appropriate when the work has value beyond being a textbook. This value usually derives from the work being one that has information that isn’t available elsewhere (so it constitutes a primary source), or the research faculty in the discipline recognize the work as the best presentation of the topic currently available (so it is unique in the field), or the entire discipline uses the work as a standard for reference. Another scenario for an exception is for situations where the course is teaching students how to teach the textbook itself.


If Collection Development doesn’t approve an exception, there may be other options:

  • Search the catalog for resources that the Libraries already own that cover the information;
  • Talk to the subject librarian about content that meets the need of the curriculum and that the Libraries can provide; the librarian may be able to find a work to purchase that doesn’t meet the definition of textbook;
  • Put the various sources for class readings on reserve; these secondary and sometimes primary sources can be better, or at least more complete, than the textbook’s version;
  • Loan a personal copy of the textbook to the Libraries for reserve; the title remains the property of the owner and can be given back at any time; sometimes textbook publishers will provide a free review copy to an instructor that can be used for this purpose.


If you have a question or comment regarding this guideline, or wish to request an exception to the textbook policy, please send an e-mail to Collection Development.