Top Textbooks

The Top Textbooks at GW Libraries program acquires up to five copies of required textbooks for a select group of undergraduate, high enrollment courses with traditionally expensive textbooks and places them on course reserve for use by all students. Textbooks are available at Gelman Library for use in accordance with current course reserve practices and loan periods. 

Courses Included for Fall 2022

The Fall 2022 list of courses is forthcoming. 

How It Works

Students can come to the Gelman Library Check Out Desk any time it is open to request the textbook for a participating course. If the textbook is available (not currently on loan to another student) the student may check the book out with their GWorld card to use for three hours. Textbooks may be used overnight if checked out in the three hours before the Check Out Desk closes. Items must be returned before 8:30 AM the following day.

Course reserve materials must be returned to the Reserve Book Drop located in the front of the Check Out Desk, or fines may be incurred. Unreturned books will incur a fine for the cost of replacing the book. Reserve materials may not be renewed. Once items have been returned, they can be checked out again after a 15-minute waiting period.

In the event that an instructor changes or adds a required textbook during the semester, you may experience a delay while Top Textbooks acquires the new book.

How to Check if a Textbook is Currently Available

To see whether a textbook is currently available in Gelman Library (i.e., not currently checked out by another student), search the library catalog for course reserves. You can search for course reserves from any page on the library website by clicking on the magnifying glass icon in the blue navigation bar and choose the "course reserves" search option. 

Hours of Operation

Textbooks can be checked out any time the Gelman Library Check Out Desk is open. Please check the library website for information about holiday and weather closures.

Fines for Late Returns

Fines are an important tool to make sure circulating items are returned promptly and are available for everyone. To ensure these textbooks remain available, late returns will be assessed a fine of $1.20/hour per item with a $30.00 maximum fine per item.

Why isn’t my textbook included in the Top Textbooks program?

Each year, we carefully review the course schedule, course enrollment, textbook assignments, and other factors to determine which courses to include--and how to best serve students at GW--through this program with the funding available. Additionally, the library can only include a textbook in the program if we know it is assigned in a course and are able to acquire a print edition for students to borrow from us. Faculty are strongly encouraged to submit their textbook adoptions to the GW Bookstore for the upcoming semester in a timely manner in order to help the library select and acquire textbooks for the Top Textbooks program.

Even if a course is not included in Top Textbooks, the library may still have a copy of the textbook in its collection or course reserve, so check the library catalog. If a copy is not available, any faculty member can request that a copy of their course materials be placed on course reserve for students to borrow. 

Open Educational Resources (OER)

While the Top Textbooks program seeks to improve textbook affordability and increase access to course materials, it does not fix all of the barriers and inequities created by the commercial textbook market. The library strongly supports the adoption of open educational resources (OER) and provides support to faculty interested in using OER as a way to reduce the cost of--and increase access to--course materials and enhance student learning. 

Looking for Assistance with Financial Insecurity?

The Store: GW's Food Pantry provides food, toiletries, and school supplies to students facing insecurity. Through the Financial Aid Office, emergency funding is also available to students in some situations.

About Top Textbooks

The escalating price of textbooks is a significant concern for undergraduate students, and many students struggle to afford the $1200 average cost of textbooks and supplies each year. The Top Textbooks program, launched in fall 2017, began as a proposal by former Student Association president Peak Sen Chua and continues as a collaboration with the Student Association. We continue to make improvements to the program each semester, thanks to input from students like you -- for instance, the extended three-hour loan period is a direct result of your feedback!


The Top Textbooks program has resulted in $587,825 in textbook savings for GW students!*

*Based on individual checkouts between Fall 2017 and Fall 2021

Today’s Hours

Gelman Library:


Check Out Desk:


Questions or Suggestions

Gelman Library Reserves Services
phone: 202-994-2591