The government must act immediately to provide college libraries with the funds that they need to purchase access to digital versions of books.
Third-level students are being asked to complete assignments and sit exams without access to important books related to their course work almost a year into the pandemic.
It was been a long standing issue for college libraries that due to underfunding and the high cost of purchasing the rights to digital copies that they have not been able to offer the vast majority of the books they hold in hard copy on campus for remote use.
The sudden move to online learning across all university programmes in March 2020 highlighted a significant ongoing challenge in securing affordable online access to essential reading list materials.
Colleges across the country have done all they can to keep the libraries services operating for students.
In most cases, this has been in the form of a ‘click and collect’ system.
This doesn’t work for many students who live far away from their college. With the increase in case numbers, it now presents public health risk to staff and students.
Many colleges and universities have used their limited resources to purchase additional e-books for the 2020/21 academic year. However, they are still falling far short of what is needed and huge variation between colleges exists.
The government must immediately release funding for colleges to purchase annual subscriptions to all necessary course material.
The government should also be engaging with the publishers to review the exorbitant fees they charge public universities for the right to digital version of books.
Third-level students have all too often been an afterthought in the Covid-19 response. This is an issue that can potentially be addressed at very short notice – if there is political will to do so – and be of immediate benefit to students.