March 22, 2018

A Textbook Case: Q&A with Frida Rodriguez, Connecticut College Lending Library

Frida Rodriguez Connecticut CollegeAt universities across the country, rising textbook costs remain an issue for many students, who are already struggling to pay ballooning bills for tuition. While libraries sometimes step in to that fray by holding books on reserve, those kinds of stop gap measures don’t address the heart of the issue. At Connecticut College, though, the Office of Residence Education and Living (REAL) and Office of Sustainability are working together to create the Connecticut College Lending Library, which repurposes books that are donated—or simply left behind after classes end—and loans them out to a new crop of students, ensuring they can do assigned readings for their courses. REAL Coordinator Frida Rodriguez spoke with Library Journal about the new program and where the school hopes to see it go from its miniscule beginnings in the closet of a dorm lobby.

Library Journal: How did the Lending Library get its start?

Frida Rodriguez: During the cleaning of dorm rooms over the summer, we noticed how many textbooks were being left behind by students. Those were sometimes being sent to other organizations, but we wanted to see if there was a way to use them to help our students. We started thinking about the possibility of putting together a lending library here, and at the end of the semester, we started collecting books from students who wanted to offer them for loan.

When did things get off the ground?

After spending the summer developing a collection and preparing books for lending, we had a kind of “soft open” this spring. I wish we would have started it years ago, but there were some logistics to work out, and it was also important for us that this be a student-run program. It’s operated by a group of students who also work in the school’s Office of Sustainability.

What does the library look like right now?

It’s pretty modest. Right now, the library is housed in Katharine Blunt Hall, one of our residence halls. There was a closet there that full of board games and equipment for the school’s Quidditch team. We moved all of that out and took over. It’s a pretty tiny space, but it’s a start.

What are the borrowing policies for the textbook lending library?

We have about seven hundred books on hand, some of which are for pretty popular courses, and we loan them out on a first come, first served basis. Students can come within the first two or three weeks of the semester and borrow the books that we have on hand, and then keep them through the end of semester. If they fail to return a book, they’re charged a fee to replace the title, and they’re also not welcome to make use of the lending library in the future. As for books we can’t use, they’re sold over Amazon, and the proceeds are used to buy books that are more in demand.

Is this project having an impact yet?

It’s a small project right now, but we’ve already helped dozens of students save hundreds of dollars and get them access to textbooks that they might not have been able to afford otherwise.

What are the plans for the Lending Library going forward? Any chance you’ll collaborate with the larger school library?

There are no plans to connect this to the larger library as yet. For the time being, it’s a standalone project. Eventually, we’d like to see it move into a bigger space. Our two shelving units are already full, and we have books we haven’t been able to get into the system because we just don’t have the capacity. We’ll be sorting out what’s not being used this summer and making space for new books, since we anticipate another influx of titles this summer. I’m not sure what size it will be in the end, or whether connecting to the library as a whole is the right direction, but we’re really hopeful that it will be received by the student body in a positive light.

Ian Chant About Ian Chant

Ian Chant is a former editor at LJ and a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in Scientific American and Popular Mechanics and on NPR.

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