Financial aid grants replace 1914 Library

Based on the recommendations of the 1914 Library Committee, the College has completely revamped the system by which students on financial aid acquire their textbooks. Starting spring semester 2010, students will be able to pay for all required books for their courses by swiping their student ID cards at Water Street Books. The cost of the purchase will go on students’ term bills. For students receiving financial aid, the cost will then be paid by the Financial Aid Office as a grant. The 1914 Library will be dissolved.
The new system will enable students on aid to acquire all their books with no out-of-pocket expenses in a system thought to be unique among American colleges, according to Thursday’s all-campus e-mail sent by Provost Bill Lenhart in which he announced the changes.
Under the current system, financial aid students have two options when it comes to acquiring books. They can buy books using a $400 book allowance included in their grant every semester, or they can borrow them from the 1914 Library for free. This system has increasingly been seen to be causing difficulties for financial aid students, prompting the College to set up an ad-hoc committee of faculty, students and staff last year to evaluate it and suggest improvements.
Nancy Roseman, professor of biology and chair of the 1914 Library Committee, sees the changes as a reflection of the College’s “institutional commitment to equitable access to our academic programs,” she said. According to Roseman, using the 1914 Library can have adverse effects on students’ educational experiences. “They don’t own their books, so they can’t annotate them and don’t get to keep them as reference books for upper level courses or exams like the GREs or MCATs,” she said. In addition, students are sometimes inconvenienced by having the wrong edition of a book or a book in poor condition. Diego Ontaneda ’11, who was one of the student representatives on the Committee, also described waiting in the infamous 1914 Library line at the start of each semester as a “humiliating, unfair and unnecessarily cumbersome experience.”
Additional problems have arisen when the 1914 Library was unable to provide the books that students needed for a particular course, causing some financial aid students to consider whether or not the course is worth the cost. According to Roseman, the Committee learned of “instances where students signed up for courses based on what the Library had available to lend them,” she said.
The changes are designed to eliminate these problems. The books students buy will be theirs to keep or sell as they wish. Students will be able to buy their books all at once, eliminating the time and energy currently involved in financial aid students’ search for books. And there will no longer be any reason for book prices to affect course choices.
Roseman said the new system will have no budgetary impact. She explained that the money that formerly went into running the 1914 Library and giving student $400 book allowances would be redistributed to fund the book purchases under the new system. The College’s annual budget for providing books will remain stable at approximately $880,000.
According to Roseman, creating a system that will bring gains in equity and efficiency without financial loss took notable effort. “Creating an interface between the College and the bookstore has required some significant work on the part of many offices,” she said. However, she foresees no immediate difficulties with the system once it is in place.
The changes to the book acquisition system will affect operations on Water Street. In response to concerns that Water Street Books could take advantage of the new system by raising its prices, Associate Provost Keith Finan said that the College’s contract with the store is renewed on a regular basis, and that the College has “the ability to monitor textbook prices and compare Water Street Books’ prices with other suppliers,” he said.
The future of the 1914 Library facilities, located in the back of the Water Street Books building, remains undetermined. According to Paul Boyer, director of Financial Aid, the College hopes that Follett Books, the corporation that owns Water Street Books, will purchase some of the 1914 Library holdings. No further decisions have been made regarding what to do with the collection. Felicia Pharr, the Library director, will remain an employee at the College, said Boyer, though her specific role has yet to be determined.

  • Will

    I think this is a really dumb decision on the part of the administration. In the attempt at creating equality, they have gone too far in the other direction, and now financial aid students have such a huge advantage in the textbook arena. What about the kids who just miss the fin-aid cutoff? There should be a 1914 Library equivalent for them. And indeed, for anyone who sees that the textbook industry is ripping them off.

  • Willie McGill

    You do not have to purchase your textbooks. You can retrieve your textbooks throught your college Library Loan Services. Visit your college library and ask the Librarian how you can receive your books through their Library Loan Program.