Students, staff plan to institute textbook reserve pilot program

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The Academic Commons will pilot a textbook reserve program during the next academic year to help reduce costs for students by providing textbooks on loan for introductory and core requirement courses.

“Essentially the goal of the project is to ease the financial burden on students when it comes to purchasing textbooks, especially those that they need for general requirements,” Vice President for Academic Affairs and Diplomacy and World Affairs (DWA) major Enoch Sowah (senior) said. Sowah led efforts to implement the program.

The Associated Students of Occidental College (ASOC) senate passed the proposal and passed a resolution to pay for the project with $2,726 from this year’s budget on Monday. Having the funds for the program come from this year’s budget will hopefully ensure that the textbooks will be in the library by the start of the next academic year, according to Sowah.

The President and Dean of the College’s offices support the project, according to Sowah, and have agreed to match the funds that ASOC has allocated toward the program for next year.

According to the program proposal, students will be able to go to the Academic Commons to check out a textbook for two hours at a time and will not be allowed to take the textbooks out of the library while using them.

The trial run will provide three to five textbooks each for courses in economics, psychology and biology. According to Sowah, students in those courses will be able to access required textbooks without having to purchase them. After the pilot year has been completed, the program will be reviewed to see how often certain textbooks were checked out and to assess whether the program should be continued. Sowah hopes that after next year the program can be expanded to provide textbooks for courses in other departments.

Upon his election to ASOC last semester, Sowah looked into textbook reserve programs at other colleges to guide his creation of a similar program at Occidental. Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota has a successful textbook program that Sowah used as a model.

Sowah worked with College Librarian Bob Kieft throughout the year to ensure that the library staff would be ready for the pilot program to be enacted next year. Kieft supports the program but wants to ensure that ASOC has plans in place to assess and sustain it long-term.

“The library will cooperate in offering the service, and we are interested to see whether it works as planned,” Kieft said.

Managers at the bookstore, however, were concerned that this program would affect sales of textbooks in subsequent years, according to Sowah. Bookstore manager Donna Huebner supports the program but sees ways in which it can be problematic for students.

“I hope that the textbook reserve program being created helps those students it is intended to help,” Huebner said. “We at the bookstore understand that textbooks can be expensive and that students are always on the lookout for the best price. Our concern is that more students will attempt to do without purchasing their own copies only to find that they have to fight for time with the reserved books in order to do homework and study for tests.”

Politics and philosophy double major Adam Rose (sophomore) worked at the bookstore last year and thinks the textbook reserve program is a sustainable and economical way to provide students with textbooks for their courses.

“I know for books for econ, when I took my first econ class, it was $350 for the book,” Rose said. “I used it for one semester, maybe five times, because my professor did not use the book. If I would have been able to check it out for two hours it would have saved me $350, and then I would not have had to waste all the paper for that book which is now sitting in my room.”