Libraries and ZTC/LTC: Frequently Asked Questions

As the California Community Colleges consider the implementation of the Zero-Textbook-Cost (ZTC) Program established in California Education Code 78052, many librarians have asked about how libraries might contribute to aiding faculty in making a course zero textbook cost (ZTC) or low textbook cost (LTC). The OERI has compiled commonly asked questions and provided answers to them. If you have other questions you’d like to see added to this list or if you have any helpful information to add, please share it with the OERI. The answers provided reflect the OERI’s understanding of the ZTC Program based on available documentation and conversations with representatives of the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office.

  1. Can libraries use ZTC funds to purchase library materials?

Yes, libraries can use ZTC funds to purchase materials so long as the materials meet the sustainability requirement of the legislation. Sustainability can be defined as extending past the life of the funds. 

  1. What types of library materials can be purchased?

As specified in the legislation, the following appear to be the most pertinent:

  • Consider sustainability after grant funds are exhausted, including how content is updated and presented 
  • Ensure compliance with ADA and the federal Copyright Act of 1976

Perpetually licensed ebooks and print books may meet these requirements. 

You also might consider including in your plan technical equipment such as a scanner to digitize materials, programs like Alma Digital, additional ebook platforms, or other materials that might help meet ZTC pathway goals. 

  1. Do I have to provide a resource for every student in a course section to get the ZTC designation for that section? In other words, do I have to purchase ebooks with an unlimited license or a copy of a book (print or digital) for every student?

Yes. A course with a ZTC designation must provide a free resource for every student to access materials simultaneously. This essentially means one copy for each student, be that print or digital. 

Unlimited licenses for books are ideal but not always available. You might be able to purchase multiple single use or three user licenses depending on what is available. You also might purchase a class set of print books to loan for the semester. These are just a few options that have been proposed thus far. 

  1. Where can I find ebooks with unlimited licenses?

Unfortunately there is inconsistency with licenses across platforms. EBSCO Ebooks and Proquest Ebook do offer many options and often at slightly different price points if purchasing title by title. Sometimes there are different licensing options in each platform for individual titles. 

Overdrive/Libby may be another platform option because of content from a wide range of publishers. Overdrive/Libby has more options in the realm of contemporary literature, popular novels, and other materials that are not exclusively academic. Licensing options include “purchasing and renting digital titles, from individual copies that never expire to yearly simultaneous-access plans to pay-per-use plans.” Currently Overdrive/Libby is not available with consortium pricing. Colleges will have to contact Overdrive for pricing information. 

  1. If ebooks with unlimited licenses are not available for an ebook, what are my options? 

If ebooks are available in single user or three user options, you can purchase enough ebook copies for an entire class. The affordability of this will depend on the cost of the licenses which varies greatly title to title.

You could also purchase a class set of print books, making sure that there is a book for each student in the class. A physical set of books probably won’t work well for online classes. A method that could provide digital checkouts might be to purchase a specialized scanner along with Alma Digital. For more about Alma Digital and Controlled Digital Lending, see question #10 below. 

  1. Where is the best place to find ebooks of novels, contemporary literature, and thematic identity-related materials like Latinx or BIPOC authors, that are not usually freely available online or do not have open licenses?

There is not necessarily a single best place but rather it will depend on the individual title and what each publisher has made available to libraries. EBSCO, Proquest, and even OverDrive/Libby all have different title options and pricing. Sometimes an ebook of a particular title may not be available for the library to purchase. If an instructor is not requesting a specific book but rather a book on a certain topic, say an anthology of world literature, you can search for several options. Sometimes smaller and/or academic publishers as well as older publications have better and more affordable ebook licensing options. 

  1. What about traditional textbooks from commercial publishers? Will ZTC funds cover this type of material? Where can I find textbooks to purchase through the library?

It is possible to purchase textbooks through the library in print or ebook format. Ebooks of textbooks from big publishers tend to be very limited or non-existent for licensing through the library. If textbooks are available in ebook format they tend to be older editions and/or cost prohibitive. Print textbooks are also quite expensive and as mentioned in question three above, to get the ZTC designation, a copy needs to be available for every student. 

  1. What qualifies as a Low Textbook Cost (LTC) material? How do I verify the material is truly low cost? 

The designation of LTC is defined at a local level and ranges anywhere from under $20 on up through $50. Your college may or may not have a LTC designation in use in the schedule.

A course’s LTC designation will depend on if the bookstore offers the book for a low cost. The bookstore cost should be used because some students are required to purchase materials through the bookstore. 

  1. If the library purchases some ebooks with single user licenses can a course get the LTC or ZTC designation?

Providing some free copies to students through the library can be beneficial to many students. However, because technically not all students will have access to the free resource the course should not get a ZTC designation. The LTC designation will depend on the cost of the title through the bookstore. 

  1. What other solutions or resources are available that might help classes reach the ZTC designation besides ebook licenses?

If ebook licenses are not available, an option might be to buy a class set of print books. In order to expand access by providing digital copies, Controlled Digital Lending (CDL) can be used. CDL works like print lending in that when one copy is loaned digitally, the print copy equivalent must not be loaned out. In other words, regardless of format, you may only loan out the number of books actually owned by the library. For example if the library owns six print copies of a book, they can loan out three print copies and three digital copies at one time. In order to facilitate CDL you may need to buy a special scanner and something like Alma Digital. These products will ease lending and help make sure copyright is not violated. 

  1. Are there other ways libraries and librarians can help support the adoption of OER across campus?

There are many ways the library and librarians can help support OER. A few examples might include a LibGuide or website with more information, holding workshops on discovery, Creative Commons licenses, or other topics, and helping individual faculty find OER or ZTC resources for their courses. Some librarians have OER work built into their position and others might get extra compensation to help with OER work on campus.  

This page last updated November 18, 2022.