A new student-run textbook exchange will start in September, according to Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senator Philip Miller, who has worked to implement the program. The exchange, which aims to reduce the financial burden of buying textbooks, will be housed in the Mayer Campus Center, and students can bring in textbooks between May 1 and 8, Miller said.
According to Miller, a first-year, this initiative seeks to create a physical location for the existing textbook exchange schemes online.
“There is already an Excel document floating around online and a Facebook group, but we’re trying to create a place on campus that students can go to drop off and pick up new books,” Miller said.
He explained that the exchange system will act as a third-party seller, with the primary goal of facilitating textbook exchanges in a streamlined manner.
“Students will bring their textbooks in to us and list them with a price that they want. We’ll take them and then we’ll put them on sale, keeping an updated Excel document on Facebook,” he said. “Students can come in to browse and compare quality and prices from either the Excel document or in the Campus Center.”
Miller explained that he has felt frustrated by the financial burden that textbooks often place on students and the lack of a convenient way to exchange books between students. He said that he was motivated to run for TCU Senate to attempt to fix the situation.
“My textbooks this year, had I bought them from the bookstore, would probably have cost like $500, and I know it’s worse for STEM-heavy fields,” he said. “It made no sense to me that there’s 200 kids that just took the class and want to get rid of the textbook and I want a textbook while the middle man, the bookstore, is just making a ton of money off of us.”
According to Laura Wood, director of Tisch Library, there have already been attempts to address inefficiencies in the textbook resale market.
“At the time that [Miller] approached us, the library was also trying to do something about textbooks,” Wood said. “We have a pilot called the Lending Library where we’re purchasing copies of textbooks for a number of classes and put them on reserve so that students can borrow them.”
According to Wood, the Lending Library is still an imperfect solution.
“In an ideal world, every student has their own text that they can use at any time, but we can’t divert that much funding to textbooks, so we’re looking for compromise ways that we can use the funding to have a significant impact on students,” she said.
According to Martha Kelehan, head of scholarly communications and collections at Tisch Library, the library will collaborate with TCU Senate by providing book boxes and carts to facilitate textbook transportation. Kelehan added that the library is working to assist with the textbook availability issue.
“We’re coming up with different solutions — we’re working the situation from different angles, but I think that since this is such a complex problem, the more crazy ways to try it out, the better,” Kelehan said. “It’s going to take a lot of experiments to see how we can make an impact on students.”
TCU Senate is also collaborating with the Office of Campus Life (OCL) to help improve textbook accessibility. According to Margot Cardamone, a graduate intern in OCL, the office has partnered with Tufts University Social Collective (TUSC) in the past for a similar textbook exchange initiative.
“Last December, we tried Book It Forward: The idea was to collect as many books as possible to put in the Academic Resource Center to be able to be checked out by students who need to service, and then [they would] return them at the end of the year. The project was operated by TUSC First Years,” Cardamone said. “I learned that [TCU] Senate was trying to do a similar initiative, so I sat down with [Miller] and [TCU Senator Adam Rapfogel], and we decided working together would be the best way to go about it.”
Cardamone described how the Book It Forward initiative works, adding that it is a useful option for seniors who have been accumulating textbooks since their first year.
“TUSC and [TCU] Senate will be manning the table where people can bring books, either at the bookstore or in the Campus Center. If you were to donate three books, your name would be entered into a raffle to win a $50 gift card three times,” she said.
According to Miller, the two textbook initiatives will be running simultaneously and helping each other. Miller’s textbook exchange will collect donations for the Book It Forward program and get support from OCL in the form of workers to take shifts at the table.
Cardamone said that working with students from TCU Senate has been a positive experience and that she hopes this initiative will be successful.
“I think it’s a cool partnership, and it’s really exciting that so many different parts of campus want to work together to do this,” she said.