First Generation, Low Income (FLI) Partnership Library

The Columbia FLI Partnership Library is a collection of textbooks and other course materials available to first-generation and/or low-income (FGLI) students from one of Columbia University's undergraduate schools: Columbia College (CC), the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), or General Studies (GS), as well as students from Barnard College. The FLI Partnership Library is a collaboration between FLI Network (FLI Net), a recognized student club at Columbia University, and the Columbia University Libraries. The group primarily builds community for students who identify as first-generation and/or low-income, actively creates and advertises resources needed by FGLI students, and advocates for and implements institutional change with the help of library and other university administrators.

At Columbia, a first-generation student is defined as a student whose parent(s)/guardian(s) never received a four-year U.S. bachelor’s degree. There is no specific income level that determines eligibility for students to check out materials from the FLI Partnership Libraries; however, low-income students typically have little to no expected parental contribution as part of their financial aid package. Students who identify as first-generation or low-income and who register can borrow materials from the collection for extended loan periods. Columbia's FLI Partnership Library is located on the third floor of Butler Library, Room 303A. Barnard also maintains its own FLI Partnership Library at the back of the fourth floor of the Barnard Library, and qualified Columbia undergraduates may similarly borrow from that collection.

The FLI Partnership (then called FLIP) lending library started as a fully student-led initiative in 2014. The group began its work by collecting donated textbooks from students at the end of each semester. The emphasis of this early collection effort was on the Core Curriculum, particularly course materials for Literature Humanities (Lit Hum) and Contemporary Civilization (CC).

The collection was initially kept in a storage closet in a Columbia residence hall. The Libraries reached out to offer space within Butler Library for the collection, and the group coordinated in Spring 2015 with then Undergraduate Services Librarian Anice Mills to relocate the collection to the fourth floor of Butler Library. (A 2017 Libraries blog post provides more information about this relocation.) By the end of the Spring semester, the collection had grown to approximately 2,500 titles. During the Fall 2016 semester, more than 1,000 loans were made to FLI students.

The original partnership between the Libraries and the FLI Network involved the Libraries’ housing the collection in the corridor between rooms 406A and 409 on the west side of Butler’s fourth floor; however, these books were not added to the Libraries’ catalog, CLIO, until January 2020. Before this, students borrowed books from the FLI collection using the honor system, emailing the FLI Net group to notify its members. Butler staff were responsible neither for maintaining/organizing the collection nor for acquiring new material; both jobs were handled by the student group. The Libraries separately granted—through the efforts of Libraries Information Technology (LIT)—self-identifying FGLI students extended, semester-long borrowing privileges for CUL collections; however, the borrowing privileges did not directly affect Columbia’s FLI collection because those books were not yet cataloged.

At the urging of student Jasmin Torres Pinon and other members of the FLI Partnership student group, and through the efforts of student worker and group member Ana Pérez Villagómez—in coordination with staff in Access Services and Humanities & History—the FLI Partnership collection was moved to Butler 401 (in the newspaper alcove) in the summer of 2019. As part of that move, the collection was lightly weeded. Having been built mainly through donation drives, the collection was a desultory assortment of pertinent curricular material alongside books much less relevant to coursework. The collection also primarily consisted of relatively cheap editions of Core readings such as the Lattimore translation of the Odyssey.

Finally in January 2020, Columbia’s FLI Partnership collection was processed and cataloged in Voyager through a collaborative effort of staff across the Libraries, led by staff members Ian Beilin (Humanities Research Services Librarian), Jeremiah Mercurio (Head, Humanities & History), Mayra Alvarez (Assistant Head of Circulation & Support Services), Freddy Claudio (Binding & Shelf Processing Supervisor), and Mark Wilson (Director of Collections Acquisition and Description). Once in Voyager/CLIO, the FLI Partnership books could enter regular circulation and maintenance routines. Acquisitions and cataloging are mostly handled by Humanities & History in coordination with a designated student worker, Binding and Shelf-Processing staff and, when necessary, Collections Acquisitions and Cataloging staff.

In Summer 2020, the collection, like the student group, changed its name from FLIP to the FLI Partnership to avoid the racial epithet evoked by the former.

Starting in 2020, the Libraries began to work more closely with the student group on proactively acquiring new titles for the FLI Partnership lending library. In addition to its foundational emphasis on the Core Curriculum, the collection’s focus currently centers on alleviating FGLI students’ financial burden by collecting expensive textbooks and related course materials for undergraduate courses across the curriculum. The Libraries also collect electronic versions of textbooks, primarily with unlimited-user licenses, when available. In addition to assigned course materials, the collection includes test-preparation manuals, workbooks, and other material for educational or professional advancement that would otherwise be financially burdensome to FGLI students. 

Columbia University undergraduates can also borrow from Barnard College’s FLI Partnership Library. Student organizers first approached Barnard librarians about the potential partnership in Fall 2017, and the collection launched in Fall 2018, seeded by a student-run book drive and a modest College-funded allocation for acquisitions. In Summer 2018, ahead of the lending library’s launch, Barnard librarians worked with colleagues from Columbia University Libraries’ Information Technology unit, Breck Witte and Evelyn Ocken, to develop the special user status for FGLI students’ expanded borrowing privileges and to catalog Barnard’s FLI library in CLIO.

The Libraries welcome acquisition suggestions from students, faculty, and researchers.

  1. Undergraduate

    The FLI Partnership Library supports students from one of Columbia University's undergraduate schools: Columbia College (CC), the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), and General Studies (GS), as well as students from Barnard College.

  2. Graduate & Professional Schools

    Not applicable.

  3. Institutes, Interdisciplinary Programs, etc.

    Not applicable.

  4. Course Reserves

    Individual faculty members are responsible for working with the Libraries’ reserves units, the Teaching & Undergraduate Services Librarian, and/or relevant subject liaison(s) to select materials for course reserves in a timely and efficient manner.

    Items from the FLI Partnership library that are not available elsewhere in the Libraries’ collections or through direct purchase can be considered for temporary placement on course reserves, but only when an item’s placement on reserves expands its availability to FGLI students and at the discretion of the Teaching & Undergraduate Services Librarian. Whenever possible, material that has been requested for reserves should be acquired through direct purchase or requested from another library collection.

    The FLI Partnership library might also strategically duplicate material on Course Reserves when that duplication expands access for FGLI students.

  1. Print

    Current imprints (+/- three years) of course materials, including textbooks, are acquired as possible in the languages required for their corresponding course for the FLI Partnership Library. The collection also accepts donations of these items. The primary location for new print acquisitions is Butler Library Room 303A.

  2. Digital Collections

    Ebook versions are acquired when available for purchase with an appropriate institutional license, especially for heavily used course materials. The Teaching & Undergraduate Services Librarian collaborates with other selectors when necessary and when making selections that pertain to selectors’ individual subject areas, especially with regard to the purchase of interdisciplinary ebook packages, digital copies of textbooks, and other electronic materials related to the Core Curriculum. Access codes for publishers’ textbook companion sites are not acquired by the Libraries because they cannot be distributed to more than one student; however, the Libraries recognizes the financial burden that these supplementary costs create and works with campus partners, whenever possible, to connect students with other resources available to them.

  3. Time-Based Media

    Audio-visual media are not generally collected for the FLI Partnership library; however, exceptions could include required A/V course material (e.g. for foreign-language courses). See also the Libraries’ Butler Media Research Collection policy.

  4. Languages Collected

    All languages represented in undergraduate course materials are represented in the collections.

  5. Chronological Focus

    All chronological foci represented in undergraduate course materials are represented in the collections.

  6. Geographical Focus

    All geographical foci represented in undergraduate course materials are represented in the collection.

  7. Imprint Dates Collected

    The main focus of collecting is on required textbooks, particularly current and recent (+/- 5 years) imprints. Materials published before the most recent five-year period will be evaluated and acquired based on curricular needs and availability.

The FLI Partnership Library does not include distinctive or special collections.

  1. Consortia and Collaborative Collecting with Other Institutions

    Collecting for the Columbia FLI Partnership Library is conducted in coordination with selector(s) for the Barnard FLI Partnership Library and the Columbia FLI Net (First-Generation, Low-Income Network).

  2. Location Decisions & Selection for ReCAP

    All items in the FLI Partnership Library remain onsite in the Milstein Undergraduate Library (Butler).

    Duplicate items are acquired as needed in large enough numbers to meet the current needs of Columbia’s FGLI students.

  3. Deaccessioning

    The Columbia FLI Partnership Library is intended to meet the needs of current FGLI students at Columbia University. Items in the collection that no longer meet the needs of current or future students will be considered for deaccessioning. Items from the collection might also be deaccessioned based on physical condition. 

  4. Digitization & Preservation

    The FLI Partnership Library serves the needs of current FGLI students. Items in the collection are not intended for long-term preservation or stewardship. Any items in the collection that have artifactual value can be evaluated by staff of the Preservation & Digital Conversion Division (PDCD) as needed.

Sydni Meyer

Sydni Meyer

Teaching and Undergraduate Services Librarian

  • Humanities & History

Butler Library - 309G Butler Library

Last updated: August 2023