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Library Support for Low Cost Course Materials

What Can the Library Do?

We want to help you find low- and no-cost readings for your students! The UMass Lowell Library offers students, staff, and faculty thousands of full text ebooks. Most are available for unlimited use by the campus community.


A few definitions are helpful:

  • An OER is an Open Educational Resource, meaning it has been created and published completely free online. It's open to anyone with an internet connection.
  • Low- and no-cost course materials may be a combination of OERs plus books and journals the library already provides. In other words, since the library is already paying for many academic resources, they are not open or free, but they are free to members of the UMass Lowell community.


How does this actually work? You may have a set list of readings and a textbook you already know you want to use. Contact us because:

  • We may already own the articles and books, and we can help you find permalinks for you to add to Blackboard
  • Depending on costs, we may also be able to purchase new journals and books for use in your class. (We wish we could purchase every book! But some electronic textbooks cost in the thousands of dollars, so we may be limited in what we can provide.)

Finally, if you are interested in replacing your current textbook with either a new, open and freely available OER textbook, or a textbook the library can purchase: 

  • Library staff can also help discover titles (either freely online or available through library subscriptions) and provide these for your consideration.

Important Concepts

When you are putting your course reading lists together using library materials, you may want to know about some specific terms.

  • Simultaneous users: we try to purchase ebooks with unlimited users whenever possible. This means that any number of students can access the book at the same time. In some cases, we may buy ebooks with limited simultaneous users. This means that only 1 or 3 people can look at the book at a time. We may do this because either the publisher just doesn't offer an unlimited user version, or the unlimited user version is prohibitively expensive.
  • Permalink: for many of the articles and books you will find in our online resources, the browser link (that you might copy from the address bar) is not a "permanent" link. It is a temporary link, which you may have encountered before on the internet. These are links you might bookmark but, when you use them later, give you the message that the "session has expired" or "link has expired". Almost all of our databases will have a button for a permalink, permanent link, or stable link. You want to send those to your students, not the address bar link.
  • Proxy prefix: or login prefix or proxy server. This will usually be automatically included if you use library database permalinks. However, it can help to understand the process, in case your students need help. When you log into library resources from home, the online login process goes through what is called a proxy server. The proxy server makes your computer look as though it is coming from on-campus, so that the databases recognize you as a member of the UMass Lowell community. 
    • What does this look like? When you send your students a permalink, you should see this special prefix, highlighted here in red

Do You Have Ebooks I Can Use in Class?

Start at the library website:


1. Under the Catalog tab, enter the title, keywords or subject for the book you are looking for.

2. Filter the results in the left hand column of the results page. 

  • Under Held by Library click "UMass Lowell Libraries".
  • Under Format click "eBook"

3. To determine whether an ebook  permits unlimited users, click the blue "Access online" OR "View Ebook" button. This will take you to either the vendor's platform or to a menu listing platforms where the title may be found.

  • While useful for temporary access, please note that The Internet Archive is not guaranteed permanent access for a classroom textbook.