February 17, 2016

Textbook Rentals to Bridge Economic Barriers

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First-generation and economically challenged college students can now to borrow their textbooks free of charge from the Cornell Lending Library.

Students from First in Class — a campus-wide initiative that supports first-generation college students — began planning the Lending Library last semester, according to Sarah Anderson, a  program coordinator in the Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives.

Nicholas Karavolias ’18 has been leading the program since its beginning, when he noticed students struggling to afford their textbooks, he said.

“I realize that high textbook prices are a barrier to students with socioeconomic problems faced,” Karavolias said. “Some students will pick up extra hours of work, and some will not pick up their textbooks and fall behind academically.”

The idea behind the Lending Library has already been implemented in several other colleges, according to Anderson.

“Many schools already have this service for students who are unable to afford textbooks and working in OADI,” Anderson said. “Nicholas and I both saw that many of our students did not have the required materials for their coursework and saw the need for the Lending Library for students around this campus.”

The program is currently in its nascent stage and is taking textbook and monetary donations to keep it running, Karavolias said.

“I’ve reached out to a lot of campus organizations and students to collect textbook donations from them,” Karavolias said. “We are collaborating with the Interfraternity Council and collecting surplus textbooks from the houses.”

The library currently has about 150 books available,  through the Durland Alternatives Library — a community library that is part of the Finger Lakes library system, located in Anabel Taylor Hall — according to Karavolias.

The Lending Library would be offered within the pre-existing program, said Ryan Clover-Owens, director of the Durland Alternatives Library.

“We’re always taking book donations and buying books for the library collection, so we see the Lending Library as another collection,” Clover-Owens said.

The Durland Alternatives Library has also been working to increase the size of the lending library’s textbook collection, according to Clover-Owens. Karavolis added that the library has already catalogued the current collection of textbooks that are available for students to check out.

“At this stage, we’re really looking to encourage people to donate textbooks for the program so that it can get to the size where it starts to become a really valuable resource for the students,” Clover-Owens said.

While the intended users of the Lending Library are first-generation college students, any students challenged by high textbook prices can use the program, according to Karavolias.

“This resource can be available to anyone who deems that they have trouble with high textbook prices,” he said. “But it is a program developed by first-generation students for first-generation student as it is expected that many first-generation students will use it as a resource.”