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Textbook rentals offered to students to help lower prices

Jerome Library and the University Bookstore have joined together in an attempt to make textbooks more affordable for students.

The textbook rental program, which is currently in a trial phase, allows students to rent textbooks from the Library at the rate of two dollars for every three hours.

During the trial phase, which will last throughout the fall semester, 10 textbooks will be available to rent. Mary Zachary, head of access services at the Library, said the textbooks were chosen from a list of the top 20 most used and most expensive textbooks issued for classes at the University.

One of the most immediate drawbacks the program is experiencing is that it was not publicized very well.

It was put together mainly in the week before classes started, Zachary said, and word about the new service was not spread as well as it could have been. By the time students who might have used the program found out about it, they had already purchased their textbooks, she said.

Many of the professors were unaware of the program as well.

Melissa Spirek, an associate professor of journalism, had no idea that the program existed. The book for her Journalism 100 class was one of the selected trial books.

Spirek was unhappy with the program and very doubtful of its success. She felt it would discourage students from using books outside of class.

Spirek also felt that students who used the rental program would be less likely to engage with the material in the book if they were unable to write in it.

“I will actively tell future classes to not consider the program,” Spirek said.

The textbook for Timothy Fuerst’s economics class was another of the books chosen, and he was also unaware that the program existed.

Fuerst was slightly skeptical of the program as well. He said if a textbook was principle to a course, then ownership of it would be a big part of success.

Textbooks are expensive, but if having a book is the difference between a D in a course and a B, then it is a very good investment, Fuerst said.

Thomas Atwood, the dean of libraries, emphasized the fact that the program was not meant to take over the usual functions of the library, but simply to supplement them and to see what might and might not work in the future.

“The pilot in no way changes the traditional role of a library from one with free and open lending patterns,” Atwood said. “It just gives us an opportunity to measure the demand students would have for a leasing program.”

The rental program is simply a way for the library and the bookstore to work together on the growing problem of textbook prices.

Atwood said the Library had traditionally tried to stay away from textbooks because they are so expensive, and since the editions are constantly changing, the Library would be unable to accommodate the different needs of the many students on campus.

“Textbook acquisitions would swallow up the library materials budget each year, and the library would be filled with duplicate material. We would become a warehouse instead of a library,” Atwood said.

Jeffrey Nelson, director of the University Bookstore, said he saw the most potential in the program’s ability to get different organizations of the University working together. The collaborations of the Library and the University Bookstore could be a big step towards solving problems like the growing expenses of textbooks, he said.

It might not become the new way of buying or using books, Nelson said, but it may lead to something else.

Students had mixed feelings about the new program.

Caitlin McKisson, junior and student desk assistant in the Library, was excited about the program at first.

“It sparked my interest because it could keep students from spending an outrageous amount of money on books each semester,” McKisson said.

But later, McKisson realized that the program might not work so well for her.

“Although it may save you some money in the long run, I personally like to have my own books so I can use them whenever I need to,” she said. “I think it would be a nuisance to have to run to the Library and spend $3 every time I needed to use the book.”

Andy Umbel, freshman, said the usefulness of the program depends on the class.

In classes where the book is used frequently, Umble said it is useful to simply own the book, but in classes where the book is rarely used, it is a waste of money to buy it outright.

“It would be good to not spend the money on the book, but to have it if I need it,” Umbel said.

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