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CSA Textbook Library: Successful first run

<te opened their textbook library this fall, lending a total of 50 textbooks to 25 Carleton students.
The lending library, located in CSA’s basement Sayles office, was open from Thursday, September 14th to Sunday, September 17th.

On the first day, the library was available to “students for whom buying textbooks is a significant financial hardship,” according to the CSA Textbook Library website.

From Friday to Sunday, CSA opened the library to all Carleton students.

“We wanted to come up with a system that would ensure we were getting the most access to the people who needed it the most,” said Lillie Schneyer ’18, a member of CSA’s textbook library working group.

The working group was formed in fall 2016 under the leadership of former CSA President Tiffany Thet ’17. Its members have shifted over the terms, but the group is currently composed of Vanessa Martinez ’18, Lillie Schneyer ’18, Riley Irish ’19 and Natalie Sainz ’20. The two Class of 2021 Representatives will join the group once they are in office.

The CSA library is made up of used textbooks donated by Carleton students. Working group members placed collection boxes in Sayles and dorm lounges at the end of each term last year.

CSA has no full count of how many books were donated. At the beginning of fall 2017, the library contained a total of 322 books that were being used in fall term courses, according to Vanessa Martinez ’18, who served as CSA’s TRIO liason last year and remains a member of the working group.

TRIO, a federally-funded program that supports low-income and first-generation college students and students with documented disabilities, provides discounted textbooks to their students.

TRIO accepts only about 30 participants each year, which means many Carleton students qualify for TRIO but cannot receive cheaper textbooks from their library. Students who are undocumented or who have DACA status cannot receive federal funding and thus are not eligible for the TRIO program.

 “We wanted to target TRIO-eligible students who needed the textbooks but weren’t actually in TRIO, so that was our first priority,” explained Natalie Sainz ’20, Class of 2020 Representative and a member of the working group. “But we were also aware that we had a lot of books to give out. We wanted to make those textbooks available for anyone who feels like they don’t want to purchase textbooks.”

 “We all don’t come from the same background,” said Martinez. “We all have different things that are difficult while we’re at college. Addressing those, and finding ways to help our classmates, is really important to us.”

 Only a small handful of students utilized the library on its first day open, reported Martinez. Many more people checked out books between Friday and Sunday. “Students might not be comfortable coming in on those priority days,” said Martinez. “I think in the future we have to think about whether we even want to hold a priority day.”

 The group used a Google spreadsheet to broadcast the status of the library’s inventory.  “The hope is that, especially as we get busier next year, people would be able to check on the spreadsheet right before they come to know if we have the book or if someone’s already checked it out,” said Schneyer.

Over winter break, the working group members will upload the list of available winter term textbooks.
 In January of last year, the working group told the Carletonian that they planned to open in Spring 2017. The process proved more tedious than anticipated, said Schneyer. “We just got so many more books than we expected that every part of the process took longer. We had to get a fleet vehicle and drive it around to pick up all the books because we couldn’t carry them. They filled the office up, and then we barely got into cataloging because we had to sort them and try to consolidate them… It took a long time.”

 In the spring, the working group requested a list of fall term books from the campus bookstore, but was told that the bookstore did not have such a list, reported Schneyer.

 That was a setback, said Martinez, because to compile a list the group had to look through The Hub’s “Enroll” page and view each course’s textbooks individually. Martinez added that the group is looking into getting textbook lists directly from departmental assistants in the future.

 Sainz noted that CSA’s library might be more utilized in the future if it opens before classes start. “Logistically, we weren’t able to get it out there in time. We were still sifting through what we had, the supplies, the inventory,” she said.

 As for this term, said Schneyer, “We have many problems with the books that we haven’t solved yet.” Many of the donated books, namely calculus and biology textbooks, are of an outdated edition, she noted.
 Sainz said that the group is currently looking into selling those books back to Amazon and using the money to buy new textbooks, especially language books. She noted that many donated language books contain unusable online access codes.

Currently, half of the CSA library working-group members are seniors, Schneyer noted. “We want to keep pulling it into CSA Senate to give it a mechanism for sustainability. We’re interested in putting it into the constitution as part of the responsibilities of someone in Senate,” she explained.

 CSA will continue to solicit donations at the end of every term, Martinez reported.

 The group is working to increase publicity, said Sainz. “We want as many people as possible to get their textbooks for free, especially those TRIO-eligible students. I’m not sure what that number would look like, but I’m sure it’s more than 25,” she said.

 “We have a big vision,” said Schneyer. “We want a really big library. We want a bigger space, a ton of books—we want it to become an institution that Carleton students can really use.”

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