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Students Helping Students: Increasing Textbook Access

Student Government (UCSG) has launched a plan to make many course books accessible to all students on campus with the Textbook Resource Pilot Program within Myrin Library.

As textbook costs spiral upward, the Ursinus College Student Government (UCSG) has launched a plan to make course books accessible to all students on campus. The Textbook Resource Pilot Program places books in Myrin Library for the classes with the highest number of enrolled students so students can use them within the building.

“We know that not all students buy books,” said Chief Information Officer Gene Spencer. “This program provides greater access to critical information the students need.”

UCSG president Abi Wood and UCSG secretary Karla Pisarcik, both Class of 2017, brought the idea to the library administration, but Spencer says that it was the students who “made it happen.”

Wood said the idea stemmed from a family dinner discussion during which her mother recalled a homeless immigrant student who carried his belongings in a backpack. Remarking that the backpack must have been impossibly heavy because of books, Wood learned that the student went to the college library to access textbooks. And, not having to purchase textbooks helped the young man afford tuition.

That anecdote made an impact on Wood, who brought the idea to her UCSG colleagues. The idea to place textbooks in Myrin was developing when $5,000 became available after a concert fell through last year.

At the same time, the library staff was considering adding textbooks to its collection, which is done at some selective schools. In the past, said Diane Skorina, director of information literacy and instructional technology, “individuals have asked to have textbooks on reserve. But this is the first time that a student organization came to us with a plan.”

With help from the Registrar’s office, Pisarcik created a list of the highest-enrolled courses.  The initial collection of 34 textbooks includes Principles of Macroeconomics by Gregory Mankiw for  Econ102-A, andHuman Anatomy & Physiology (10th Edition), by Elaine N. Marieb and Katja Hoehn, for PSYC-220-A. Both of these titles are listed online at over $300 for new volumes.

“After talking with a lot of professors,” said Wood, “we were careful to not use this as a textbook replacement program. In order to have good discussions, a lot of professors want their students to be able to access their textbook in the classroom. This program will really serve as a new way for students to use the library - and to lighten their backpacks when coming to the library to study.”

A campus-wide email noted that the “program will be particularly beneficial for students who may not be able to afford textbooks.”

Pisarcik and Wood are optimistic that all students will find the program useful. It shows how the UCSG can work for students. “I think this program is great for the UCSG because it exemplifies our goals of making campus a better place by making changes that benefit both students and faculty and staff,” Pisarcik said. “This program shows Ursinus that UCSG is active and cares about making change happen quickly.” 

Added Wood, “This program really shows the Ursinus community what the student government can do – and that we’re ready to work for them. We’re so excited for all of the ideas we have for this year and we can’t wait to hear more ideas from the community to find all the ways we can help make this community better.”