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Online Learning Support: How to Access Library Resources: Course Reserves and Textbook Options

Course Reserves

UPDATE:  Effective March 17, 5pm, all UW Library buildings are closed due to COVID-19. 

Services and support for teaching and learning continue remotely. The health and safety of our staff and users are the priority. Supporting adherence to public health recommendations on social distancing is imperative at this time.

Reserves staff (pending staffing availability) can support remote learning by:

  • Providing off-campus links to UW-restricted journal articles
  • Purchasing e-books and streaming media contingent upon the following: availability of licensing option(s) for academic libraries; selector approval; funding availability; and favorable licensing terms

For more information about Course Reserves, visit Course Reserves - Information for Faculty and Faculty Guidance for Choosing Online Materials.

Accessibility Information

Campus Library Reserves and the UW Libraries scans PDFs with optical character recognition (OCR) but does not provide remediation of PDFs for added accessibility as a standard service (e.g. adding tags, alt-text). OCR creates a PDF that is compatible with assistive technology (such as screen reader software), though the quality may not be sufficient for individuals with visual impairment.

Requests for captioning and other services to support students with disabilities should be forwarded to UWB Disability Resources for Students (DRS) or Cascadia Disability Support Services (DSS) for assistance.

Alternatives to Textbooks on Course Reserves

Consider using an Open Textbook as an alternative to traditional textbooks. Open textbooks are books covered by an open copyright license and available freely to students, teachers, and members of the public. Most open textbook licenses allow the right to access, download, revise, or customize the content. 


A few Open Textbook options are:

Open Course Library - "The Open Course Library (OCL) is a collection of shareable course materials, including syllabi, course activities, readings, and assessments designed by teams of college faculty, instructional designers, librarians, and other experts."

OpenStax - OpenStax is a nonprofit based at Rice University, that has published more than 20 open source, peer-reviewed, textbooks in common undergraduate subjects like Algebra, History, and Psychology. They also maintain the OpenStax CNX, a place to view and share free educational material in modules.

Open Textbook Library - The Open Textbook Network created this database of peer-reviewed, open-source texts. The University of Washington Libraries is a charter member of the network. The goal is to compile all quality open textbooks and promote faculty reviews of them in one place. Covers most subject areas.

BC Campus Open Textbooks - British Columbia Ministry of Advanced Education’s Open Textbook Project makes open textbooks available in BC's 40 highest-enrolled academic subject areas. As of Feb. 2015, there are currently 67 reviewed textbooks.


For more open textbooks options, or information about OERs and library-licensed educational resources (LERs), see Campus Library Open Educational Resources.

For other online alternatives to physical textbooks, see Faculty Guidance for Choosing Online Materials

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