Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Library responds to the challenge of digital access and commercial textbooks

A young person reads a smartphone while surrounded by physical textbooks.

A message from the Library. This article originally appeared on the Library's website.

As we approach the fall 2020 semester, library staff are working hard to provide alternative access to the print course reserves collection. Traditionally, a significant portion of the books on reserve are print copies of required textbooks, and students cannot access these this fall.

To support instructors and students over the next several months, we are developing new approaches to course reserves to ensure that students have access, even in a primarily online, alternative delivery environment.

However, this work is hampered by textbook publishers who do not provide electronic purchasing options for libraries. Approximately 85 per cent of existing course textbooks are simply unavailable to libraries in any other format than print. We have found this to be especially true of materials that support language learning. We did an analysis of spring 2020 course reserves and identified a number of publishers for which an online version is unavailable for libraries to purchase including:

  • Pearson (including Addison-Wesley)
  • Cengage
  • McGraw Hill
  • Oxford University Press (Textbook Division)
  • Nelson
  • Penguin Random House
  • Wiley
  • A variety of language textbook vendors and publishers

We are working with instructors to explore and identify viable textbook alternatives, including:

  • Using an existing ebook in the relevant subject area from the Library's ebook collection or suggest that the Library purchase one. There are many academic ebooks that aren't considered textbooks and are therefore available for the Library to purchase if they fit within collection development policies
  • Adopting an open educational resource (OER). OERs are freely available educational materials that are openly licensed to allow for re-use and modification by instructors. Please search our Open Educational Resources catalogue for freely available teaching materials, sorted by content type and faculty or reach out to your subject librarian for advice
  • Scanning book chapters and excerpts, subject to copyright limitations. Copyright permission will be sought where feasible in cases where the excerpt falls outside of fair dealing guidelines. We use OCR (Optical Character Recognition) technology to convert scanned content into accessible PDFs
  • Linking to content from the existing collection of electronic resources (ebooks, journal articles, streaming media, and other digital materials) or acquiring new content whenever possible

Efforts will be made to secure online materials that are free from digital rights management restrictions (DRM) in order to ensure unfettered student access. DRM includes limits on the number of users that can access a resource at any one time, as well as limits on copying, printing, and downloading. However, often publishers only offer ebooks with DRM.

Instructors who are reactivating courses in Course Reserves for the fall 2020 semester will be contacted about any print materials on their lists so alternative options can be identified. Any instructors teaching a fall course are also encouraged to contact the Library at any time for support with sourcing their course materials.


Questions about course reserves can be directed to Please reach out to your subject librarian to find or identify digital resources for your courses.

From entrepreneur to mentor

Eric Migicovsky speaks to an audience.

By Etta Di Leo. This article originally appeared on Waterloo Stories.

Eric Migicovsky (BASc ’09) had no idea what to expect when he started his own company. Although he created the Pebble — one of the world’s first smartwatchs — Migicovsky had only just completed his engineering degree at Waterloo.

“I had no expectations,” Migicovsky said. “I was fresh out of school and just happy to build stuff. I have great memories of running the assembly line to build the watches in the garage behind our house.”

Migicovsky, who will participate in an upcoming Waterloo Innovation Summit, was building the InPulse — the first iteration of a smart watch that would evolve into the Pebble. The idea for a watch that allowed the wearer to read their email and receive messages first came about while Migicovsky was working on a co-op term at the Netherlands' Delft industrial school in 2008.

“I was in my final year of engineering and had worked in a bunch of different co-op jobs. I enjoyed them, and it was great to try so many different jobs, but it wasn’t what I wanted. I think of all students who don’t get to experience co-op during school. They graduate and maybe find a job right away where they make a lot of money, but they have no idea if it’s right for them.”

Five years to overnight success

Although Migicovsky was attracted to the idea of building his own business, it wasn’t until his final year when he came upon an idea he felt had potential. In 2012, his company, The Pebble Corporation, garnered a great deal of attention for their hugely successful kickstarter campaign that asked backers to help fund the company and raised more than $10 million.

“I like to say we were the five-year overnight success. We were naïve, and it took longer than expected, but it helped us in many ways. We didn’t lose hope or get down. We didn’t think about how hard it was, we just did it.”

Migicovsky got started at Velocity before getting accepted to Silicon Valley’s Y Combinator accelerator, which provides support, early funding and mentorship to tech entrepreneurs. The move allowed the company to accelerate at a faster pace and set larger goals. Migicovsky is among 150 Y Combinator founders who attended the University of Waterloo — those 150 founders make up nearly 100 startups.

“We were connected to people who had experience building consumer electronics. They gave us advice on manufacturing and design. Starting a company is very difficult. You want to have the cheat codes to success. The biggest advantages came from talking to people who have done it before. It’s not that they tell you exactly what to do, but you learn from their experience so that you can make new and more imaginative mistakes.”

Sharing the wisdom of hundreds of founders

In 2016, when Migicovsky sold Pebble to FitBit, he was invited to become a partner in Y Combinator and made the transition from entrepreneur to mentor.

“At Y Combinator, I’ve had the pleasure of personally working with probably 500-800 founders. My mentorship and advice comes less from my time at Pebble and more based on working with other founders. It’s less about my own experience and more about the aggregated experience of hundreds of entrepreneurs.”

Building more startups

Migicovsky believes that anyone with a sense of adventure and a novel idea can create a successful startup if they can access the right resources. He’s impressed with how many startups now call Waterloo Region home. The sheer number of companies combined with support programs like Velocity, which offers early startup support and funding, has created a supportive and active environment. He hopes more people take the leap to entrepreneurship and discover entrepreneurship programs like Velocity’s Concept and Y Combinator’s Startup School, a free online program to help founders with every detail of starting their own business.

“Startup School is based on the 2,500 companies we’ve funded at Y Combinator. It aligns well with our mission, which is to encourage people to start a company. The more startups, the better.”

While startups may not have all the answers on how to navigate the difficult economic times we can expect ahead, he does see the advantages for established businesses to take on traits from startups.

“The essence of startups is that they set short-term goals and move quickly. Companies can learn to adopt that level of speed and clarity of focus. It doesn’t work across the board, but it certainly fits in tech. One of the secret advantages of startups is their naiveté. They don’t have the weight of experience holding them down. Nothing is keeping them from dreaming big about the future.”

Migicovsky is looking towards the future as he gets set to participate in the Waterloo Innovation Summit on August 19. He is looking forward to participating with other tech leaders and connecting with founders. He also hopes participants walk away motivated to create something new.

“Part of going to events like the Waterloo Innovation Summit is to feel inspired. It’s great to hear and celebrate remarkable stories. But I also want people to realize that they are capable of doing it too. I want them to walk away and not just think ‘Wow, that’s crazy.’ I want to them to realize ‘I can do this too!’”

Hear from Eric Migicovsky at the virtual Waterloo Innovation Summit

On August 19, join CCO and editor of Forbes, Randall Lane, alongside global leaders and influential entrepreneurs, as he explores how talent and innovation collide in the race to reset today’s workforce and rebuild economies. Register today.

Provost announces organizational review of Human Rights, Equity and Inclusion unit

The University will undertake an organizational review of the Office of Human Rights, Equity and Inclusion (HREI).

Provost Jim Rush made the announcement yesterday in a memo circulated to University employees.

"As with previous reviews of units and departments at Waterloo, we will engage external experts who will consult with the members of HREI and with interested stakeholder and community members from across campus," the provost wrote. "The review panel will provide the University with valuable recommendations that will inform the future structure and resourcing of the work done by various portfolios, as well as the leadership profile required."

"Over the coming weeks we will finalize the mandate and scope of the review, and I look forward to providing additional details as they become available," the provost's memo continues. "I want to ensure that the people who are engaged and affected by the work of this office will have an opportunity to participate during the review."

"I would like to publicly thank Jean Becker for agreeing to take on the role of interim associate vice-president of HREI while we undertake this review," the provost's memo concludes. "Her leadership throughout her career, as well as in her role of senior director, indigenous initiatives, gives me full confidence in her ability to provide interim leadership for the important work of the office."

Link of the day

Disaster in Beirut

When and Where to get support

Students can visit the Student Success Office online for supports including academic development, international student resources, leadership development, exchange and study abroad, and opportunities to get involved.

Instructors can visit the Keep Learning website to get support on adapting their teaching and learning plans for an online environment. The following workshops are current offerings from the KL team (CTE, CEL, ITMS, LIB):

Getting Ready to Facilitate Online Courses: TA Training, beginning July 13.

Remote Course Design Essentials, Wednesday August 5, 8:30 a.m. to Tuesday, August 11, 4:30 p.m.

Employees can access resources to help them work remotely, including managing University records and privacy of personal information

Interested in learning more about engaging your students in an online course? The Centre for Extended Learning has created a new resource for you called "Fostering Engagement: Facilitating Online Courses in Higher Education"

This Open Educational Resource was designed for post-secondary instructors and teaching assistants who would like to better understand the critical role of facilitation in online course delivery, and build practical skills and strategies that are relevant, effective, and authentic.

Here are some tips for staying healthy while working from home.

The Writing and Communication Centre has gone virtual. We have many online services to help you meet your goals, including: Virtual Pre-booked and Drop-in appointments, Online workshopsVirtual Grad and Faculty Writing CafésInstagram Live Q&A sessionsLive PJ-Friendly Write-insOnline learning resources, and Online programming for Master’s and PhD students. Whatever you’re working on, we’re here to help! Visit our website for more information.

We understand that these circumstances can be troubling, and you may need to speak with someone for emotional support. Good2Talk is a post-secondary student helpline based in Ontario, Canada that is available to all students.

If you feel overwhelmed or anxious and need to talk to somebody, please contact the University’s Campus Wellness services, either Health Services or  Counselling Services. You can also contact the University's Centre for Mental Health Research and Treatment.

The Library has published a resource guide on how to avoid information overload.

The Faculty Association of the University of Waterloo (FAUW) continues to advocate for its members. Check out the FAUW blog for more information.

The University of Waterloo Staff Association (UWSA) continues to advocate for its members. Check out the UWSA blog for more information.

WUSA supports for students:

Food Support Service food hampers are currently available from the Turnkey Desk on weekdays from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in the Student Life Centre. If you have any questions please email us at

MATES – Providing general online Peer Support via Skype to undergraduate students. To set up an appointment, please go to:

Glow Centre - Providing online Peer Support for the LGBTQ2+ community via Skype to Undergraduate students. To set up an appointment, please go to:

The Women’s Centre – Providing online Peer Support via Skype to undergraduate students. To set up an appointment, please go to:

RAISE – Providing online Peer Support via Google to undergraduate students. To set up an appointment, please go to:

The Bike Centre – Now open by appointment for your bicycle repair and rental needs in the Student Life Centre. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please go to:

Centre for Academic Policy Support - CAPS is here to assist Waterloo undergraduates throughout their experience in navigating academic policy in the instances of filing petitions, grievances and appeals. Please contact them at More information at

WUSA Commissioners who can help in a variety of areas that students may be experiencing during this time:

WUSA Student Legal Protection Program - Seeking legal counsel can be intimidating, especially if it’s your first time facing a legal issue. The legal assistance helpline provides quick access to legal advice in any area of law, including criminal. Just call 1-833-202-4571

Empower Me is a confidential mental health and wellness service that connects students with qualified counsellors 24/7. They can be reached at 1-844-741-6389.

When and Where (but mostly when)

Healthy Warriors at Home. Free programming including Online Fitness, Personal Training, Health Webinars, Personalized Nutrition and more. Open to students, staff, faculty and alumni. Register today.

Waterloo Warriors Online Hockey Skills Camps. Designed to provide a fun, inclusive and safe atmosphere where youth can take part in skill development and team building. Age 7-9 and 10-12. Only $50/week and includes 5 x 1 hour sessions. Register today.

Warriors Basketball Web Workouts. Register today to gain access to online content that is guaranteed to help you improve your basketball skills; regardless of your current skill level. Open to all ages. New content added weekly throughout the year for only $100. Register today.

Warriors Big 6 Summer ChallengeWeekly challenges from July 13 to August 23 focusing on Movement, Sleep, Hydration, Nutrition, Apps and Choose your own adventure.  Post your photo and tag @WlooRec on Instagram for a chance to win a $100 box from truLOCAL each week as well as $100 from Mel’s Diner for our grand prize winner. Stay healthy Warriors!

 Q&A with the Science Innovation Hub Advisory Team, Wednesday, August 5, 10:00 a.m. 

New Faculty Online Social, Tuesday, August 11, 11:00 a.m.

Science Innovation Hub Skills Development Workshop: Scientific Project Planning, Wednesday, August 12, 3:00 p.m.

CBB-[CREATE Series]- Engagement with the FDA on Premarket Submissions and Inspections by Yuan Fang], Friday, August 14, 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Online via Webex.

Positions available

On this week's list from the human resources department, viewable on the UWaterloo Talent Acquisition System (iCIMS):

  • Job ID# 2020-5602 - Instructional Support Coordinator - WIL Programs, USG 8 – 10
  • Job ID# 2020-5530 - MNS/NE Chemistry Instructor – Chemistry, USG 9 – 11
  • Job ID# 2020-5604 - Undergraduate Advisor - Physics and Astronomy, USG 7
  • Job ID# 2020-5565 - Administrative Officer - School of Accounting and Finance, USG 12
  • Job ID# 2020-5579 - Executive Assistant to the Vice President Research and International - University Research, USG 8                                         

Internal secondment positions:

  • Job ID# 2020-5557 - Senior Laboratory Demonstrator - AHS - Kinesiology (KIN), USG 9
  • Job ID# 2020-5574 - Senior Manager, Evaluation and Accountability - University Research, USG 12