Thirteen Connecticut College seniors have been named Winthrop Scholars, the highest academic honor bestowed by the college.
When students move out of their residence halls at the end of the year, hundreds of items get left behind, including clothing, appliances and textbooks. The College’s Spring Give ’n’ Go drive collects and donates the items students no longer need — more than 5 tons worth in 2013—to local charities and shelters. But those organizations don’t usually have need of textbooks.
Frida Rodriguez came up with a solution: save the textbooks from being thrown out and lend them to students for use in future semesters. Thus was born the Connecticut College Lending Library, which opened in January and has loaned out more than 45 textbooks to students this semester.
“It saves you a lot of money,” junior Tess Mikolajczak, a human development major from Chicago, Ill., said of the new lending library. She estimates she saved more than $100 by checking out books she needed for a history course.
Rodriguez, an area coordinator, or student-living adviser, with the College’s Office of Residential Education and Living, said the library was surprisingly easy to organize. She pitched her idea to Josh Stoffel, the College’s manager of sustainability, and, with his help, the library gained a green light, a grant and a cozy home in a cupboard-sized room in the lobby of Katharine Blunt (KB) House.
The plan is for the library, operated by students, to be open for the two weeks at the beginning and end of each semester. During those periods, books can be borrowed, returned or donated. Each borrower certifies that the book will be well taken care of. If a book is damaged or never brought back, the student is charged either $25 or the cost of replacement, whichever is higher. Other books that are not likely to be checked out or are out of date (a total of more than 600 were left behind last spring) are sold online to raise funds to buy in-demand alternatives.
Rodriguez says the library has filled an important niche on campus. Shain Library only allows reserved textbooks to be checked out for a few hours at a time. Renting from the campus bookstore is often more expensive than buying used online. This explains why, despite opening suddenly and without fanfare, the Lending Library managed to attract more than 30 students in its first 16 hours of operation.
For the spring, Rodriguez hopes the increase in student awareness will allow her to collect just as many, if not more, books than last year, and she’s considering adding merchandise like calculators as well. If all goes according to plan, the already crammed KB cupboard will no longer be sufficient, so she has begun to search for a new location.
Mikolajczak, a happy customer, is spreading the word. She is encouraging classmates to make use of the lending library, and to donate. “I have a big stack of books ready to go,” she said.
-- By Alex Woods ’16
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