Lending libraries would help students and professors alike

Abhirupa Dasgupta

Picture this: me, unathletic, running as fast as I can — which is not that fast — to the University Co-op 20 minutes before it closes. Then picture this: me, emotionally unstable, almost collapsing on a freshly folded mound of overpriced burnt orange T-shirts when the employee tells me they don’t have any more copies of the book I forgot to buy.

Now I fully acknowledge that I shouldn’t have waited until the last minute to buy a book I knew I had to read, but I’m a College of Natural Sciences student. I’m used to professors imploring students to read a singular textbook and then covering the exact same material in their classes because they know no one actually reads it. 

However, this isn’t the case for liberal arts or communications classes, where professors often require students to read multiple shorter books throughout the course. Depending on how many of these classes students end up taking per semester, they may find themselves making multiple trips to bookstores to buy a small fortune’s worth of books. They may also find themselves unable to get the exact copy of the book they need, preventing them from being able to follow along in class.

To decrease the financial burden on their students and make sure everyone is (literally) on the same page, professors should consider establishing a lending library of the books they cover in class each semester. 

Lending libraries were common at my high school. In fact, my teachers discouraged us from buying the books we would be reading that semester because they already had enough copies for all of their students. Obviously, the students didn’t complain — we didn’t have to spend money or make that mad rush to the bookstore before we had new readings due. The teachers benefited too because they could ensure every student had access to the same version of the text at the same time. 

Elon Lang, a senior lecturer in the Thomas Jefferson Center for Core Texts and Ideas, prefers this aspect of lending programs. 

“I’ve given up over time trying to insist on a particular edition because half the class won’t buy it,” Lang said. 

However, if he had about a dozen copies of the appropriate version of the books on hand, he’d be able to make sure everyone in the class was looking at the same thing. This is especially important when he covers translated texts, Lang said, since it can be confusing when students show up to class with different translations. 

Lang generally covers the same texts from semester to semester, and he speculated that most of his colleagues do the same. As such, departmental lending libraries could have significant longevity, and it wouldn’t be a difficult process to cultivate a robust library through student donations. 

Biochemistry sophomore Emily Samson had to buy eight books in one semester and didn’t use them again. 

“I wasn’t able to sell any of my books, so they’re just sitting in my closet,” Samson said. 

If her professors had asked her to return or donate the books, she would have happily turned them over. To further incentivize donations, professors could offer extra credit on assignments or final grades. 

A lending library may seem like a redundant idea when the Co-op is so close by and campus libraries have copies of most books on any syllabus. However, those copies are limited, expensive and they can leave students in a bind when they run out. A lending library ensures that all students who need a copy have one, making the classroom more accessible for students and easier to manage for professors. 

So in future semesters, when I look down at my syllabus and see a list of six books I have to get, it would be nice to see the words “lending library available” right next to it. 

Dasgupta is a neuroscience and biochemistry sophomore from Frisco.