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Leveraging Mason’s Resources to Save on Textbooks

March 7, 2018

Andrew J Quillen

Textbooks are expensive. Whether you use Amazon, Chegg, the Mason Bookstore, or another service, class readings can cost a pretty penny—and if you’re like most grad students, this can leave you scrambling to scrape together funds. I’m here to offer some free, legal options to knock a few books and articles off your shopping list for upcoming semesters.

George Mason’s libraries offer a range of options to cut down on your book costs. Beyond traditional library services, you can access books from university libraries across Virginia, the DC metro area, or online. If the library doesn’t have access to your books, there’s always Google Scholar as a backup. Through the power of Mason’s university library and the internet, you can almost certainly cut some of your academic costs for the next semester—every penny counts!

Library Resources

Mason’s Library Services offer a multitude of options to get the books you need. Take advantage of the current book catalog, Primo, and always check if your professor has reserved a copy of a textbook at the libraries desk. The library offers access to online databases and the InterCampus Loan, Washington Research Library Consortium (WRLC), and Interlibrary Loan (ILL) systems. Below, I will describe each of these online platforms. If you want to learn more, check out the Mason Libraries website or the Library Search Tips and Features page.

Online Catalogs

The library provides access to countless digital libraries and text databases. The Hathi Trust is a huge digital library with access to countless texts, ranging from academic to recreational.

WorldCat provides catalog access to libraries around the globe—a great way to see where you might find the books you need. If you’re looking for articles instead of books, scroll down to the Google Scholar section below.

InterCampus Loan

The InterCampus Loan system is the first step beyond the traditional library catalog service; it essentially uses the catalogs from across Mason’s Northern Virginian campuses to give you access to books on your primary or most convenient campus. Between Mason’s libraries, you can often find what you need through this service. If the InterCampus system doesn’t have what you need, you can generally find it through the WRLC.

Washington Research Library Consortium (WRLC)

The WRLC is a library database, now searchable through Primo using the “WRLC Members” option, containing books from across the Washington area university consortium, including George Mason, Georgetown, American University, George Washington, and many others. Given the size and number of universities participating in the WRLC, it offers access to most any book or reading you could require. Give it a search and you’ll likely find what you need.

Interlibrary Loan (ILL)

The Interlibrary Loan is your last-ditch effort. If the Intercampus Loan and WRLC systems both don’t have the books you absolutely need, try the ILL. The ILL sources from other libraries across the region to get a particularly eclectic item. NOTE: Please use this service sparingly, as it is expensive for the Mason Library system. While ILL is extremely useful, be sure to exhaust all other methods before considering it.

Online Resources

Online Article/Text Searches

Mason offers access to a plethora of online databases like JSTOR, ProQuest, and more. You can access these through the library’s Article & Database page. Additionally, Google Scholar links to most of these databases. Additionally, if you’re on-campus, access to most articles through Google Scholar will be free. Simply put, if you haven’t been using Google Scholar, your world is about to change when you do.

While these tips might not yield every book on your list, hopefully they save you some time and money on your readings for the next semester. Mason’s University Libraries are always there to lend a hand; feel free to reach out and Ask a Librarian about these and other ways to legally save on your textbook purchases.


This blog post has been edited and updated to reflect current changes in information.

Edited by Sydney Glass, 01/24/2019


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