The textbook sharing program at the Grasselli library allows JCU students to borrow a textbook free of charge for two hours. The program is in its third year of existence and is growing in popularity.
The program came about originally through a marketing study conducted in 2012 by student support professional Tia Pearson for one of her Master of Business of Administration classes. The data from the survey, Pearson says, was overwhelming and revealed that there was a significant number of students with financial needs for classroom materials—namely textbooks.
Feedback from faculty members seemed to generally corroborate the survey results. Despite Pearson and library coworker Adam Green’s efforts to obtain a grant for the program, it went unfunded for some months until Michelle Millett, who was newly appointed as library director, decided to allocate it an initial budget.
“It was very challenging at first,” Pearson explained. “The program was supposed to be self-sustainable, and we were totally reliant upon donations from students to build our textbook collection. For various reasons, depending on donations did not turn out to be highly successful. We also had issues with support from the faculty initially, so we had to educate them on the importance of what we were trying to do.
“We wrote to publishers asking for book donations, with partial success,” adds Green. “At first, we partnered with the Student Union, which had a raffle for donated books. Donations can be chancy though, because many students rent books and want to return them later on, or they borrow books, and so on,” Green continued.“We moved on to more buying, more of a library-driven approach; we had a specialized budget within the library just for the program, and we made purchases based on that.”
This purchasing initiative is what Pearson identifies as the program’s “second phase.” She explains that they now “really rely on marketing—‘Inside JCU,’ e-mails, word-of-mouth, posters—to promote more student usage of the program. Tour guides mention it to incoming students.”
Although the program still readily accepts donations from students and professors, its leaders are attempting to focus the emphasis of the ‘book-providing’ more on the library rather than on students.
Although the program has been “hugely successful”—indeed, “the stats raise every year,” according to Green—it is not without its lingering challenges.
“One of the main difficulties is keeping up all the current editions,” says Pearson. “Some of our textbooks are the previous edition. So what we do is go through them to see if the material is still relevant, as sometimes a publisher will only change a chapter or a couple of pages in a newer-edition textbook. We also communicate with faculty members; asking if it is okay if students use the previous edition.”
Pearson, Green and others involved in the program actively seek student feedback and posting on Facebook to poll student textbook wishes. Additionally, once new books have been purchased and stocked in the library, Pearson says that for that first week they still accept any remaining textbook requests.
If a specific textbook is asked for a number of times, Pearson will use the program’s budget money to order the book. She clarified a few of the requirements for the program, saying, “classes have to be offered every semester; we look for the books to be over one hundred dollars, and there needs to be many students taking the course.”
Pearson and Green hope the program and budget will grow in upcoming years. This will mean that the textbook program will able to provide textbooks for everyone, including graduate students.
“Thankfully, more faculty have been involved recently,” Green says, “which is a big help. They need to know how important their support is.” The program is, after all, highly popular; he claims that some of the books they have get checked out 200 times a semester—especially the mathematics and sciences ones, which tend to be very expensive at the bookstore price.
“What we see oftentimes is the same student come into the library everyday and check out the same book to use for a couple of hours, as an alternative to purchasing a personal copy of that textbook for themselves.”
To borrow a book, students come to the library desk, view the textbooks, which are displayed behind it and select one to use for a window of two hours. It is Pearson’s hope that students and faculty alike understand the benefits of the program.
“This can be a really useful resource: it’s open to everybody; and the library is open from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. We are always telling people, the more you share, the more the textbook sharing program grows, and eventually we might be able to offer everybody’s textbooks,” said Pearson.
For more information on the program, contact Tia Pearson at TPearson@jcu.edu, and Adam Green at AGreen@jcu.edu.