Students may pay up to hundreds of dollars a quarter for required textbooks; even renting textbooks from the campus bookstore or online adds up.
The Associated Students (A.S.) Book Bank is a student-run service that addresses this problem, offering thousands of textbooks — in all subjects — to loan for the entire quarter.
The Book Bank, located in the Annex across from Storke Tower, is in its fourth year of operation. The problem it faces, however, is a lack of awareness. Of the 2,495 books in the collection this quarter, only 97 were checked out.
Fourth-year communication majors Catherine Barber and Jonathan Lee are working to solve this problem.
Barber and Lee took Professor Walid Afifi’s Social Marketing (COMM 168) course in Fall Quarter 2018, where students create proposals to resolve problems in the community.
“So my group in particular wanted to help reduce the cost of textbooks for students, just because a lot of students already have a lot of financial burden in their lives,” Barber said.
“Our solution was to come up with some sort of textbook sharing program. But that led to us discovering the A.S. Book Bank.”
Barber and Lee sent surveys to around 80 students while creating their proposal, and only one student mentioned the Book Bank by name. Both Barber and Lee were unaware of the Book Bank before they began this project.
“I literally knew nothing about the Book Bank,” Lee said. “I didn’t even know where the Annex was. That was another thing, we recognized that not a lot of people knew where the Annex was.”
Once Barber and Lee heard about the Book Bank, they knew partnering with the organization would be the best way to solve the problem of high textbook prices.
“It’s really different from other things that already exist on campus,” Barber said.
The A.S. Book Bank is unique because students can check out books for an entire quarter without returning them. Other free options such as course reserves at Davidson Library limit students to two hours in the library with checked out textbooks.
Over the course of Fall Quarter 2018, Barber and Lee created a proposal to make students more aware of the Book Bank, which included updating their website and utilizing social media platforms.
“One of my frustrations with the course was seeing the work that students did, and not getting the chance to implement their work,” Professor Afifi said.
Afifi sought to change that this year by introducing a Winter Quarter independent study course, Group Studies for Advanced Students (COMM 194), where groups could actually implement their work from the fall.
Seven groups continued into winter, including three UCSB projects: the pop-up food bank, a transfer student connectivity program and the Book Bank marketing campaign. The other four projects focused on the broader community, showing the wide range of what students proposed in the class.
“The Book Bank project and the six others being implemented in this quarter provide a concrete example of what’s possible from this class,” Professor Afifi said.
As a result of the independent study course, Barber and Lee started implementing their ideas to improve the Book Bank at the beginning of the quarter.
“At the end of the quarter [Barber and Lee] asked to meet with me to tell us what they worked on,” Katherin Jordan, fourth-year Director of the A.S. Book Bank, said.
The Book Bank’s marketing plan is a collaborative process between Barber, Lee and Jordan. The three meet biweekly and regularly email about their plans.
“Pretty much everything Jonathan and I do, we run by [Jordan]. So we ask her what she needs, and she gives us ideas of what we can do. One of the main things she said she needed help with was marketing, and so that’s kind of the main thing Jonathan and I have done,” Barber said.
Their strategy for the Book Bank was to increase awareness of the program and make it easier for students to check out books.
To do so, Lee said he and Barber had created a new social media plan for the program.
“I post on Facebook and she posts on instagram, and we have 100+ followers on instagram and 300+ likes on our Facebook. Apparently people show up at the Book Bank asking about it all the time at the Annex now,” Lee said. “The front desk person was like talking about how there are so many people that come by, and seeing an increase in that was really cool for us to see.”
Barber and Lee also updated the website so that the entire catalog is online. Students can search by title or ISBN number, and the website will show whether the textbook is available or checked out. Students can then go to the Book Bank to fill out an order form and pick up their textbook for the quarter.
There are plans to expand the website in the future so students can check out books completely through the website.
“One of the things we’re working on, which we haven’t quite figured out yet, is making it so you can check out the book completely online. Right now, we’re kind of working with the website and figuring out how to do that,” Barber said.
Another main project of Barber and Lee’s marketing campaign is to promote further growth of the Book Bank through book donation. The Book Bank will hold a book drive during finals week, where students can donate used textbooks.
The book drive is vital to the Book Bank’s growth because of limits on where the Book Bank can purchase textbooks from. The Book Bank isn’t allowed to purchase books from the Free & For Sale Facebook Page or from the book exchange, because every single purchase made requires a receipt.
“The books acquired have to be through donations or through purchasing books and actually receiving a receipt at legitimate websites or the publishers in general,” Lee said.
There will be donation boxes for the Book Drive at the Multicultural Center, the Student Resource Building, the Pardall Center in Isla Vista and at the Book Bank.
“A lot of textbooks end up just sitting on people’s shelves or they get thrown away or they get sold for like 99 cents. That’s not doing anything to help anyone. So it’s just really helpful to donate your textbooks to a good cause and help future students like you save money,” Barber added.
The Book Bank’s expansion in the future includes plans to depart from the Student Initiated Recruitment and Retention Committee (SIRRC) and become an independent entity.
“SIRRC has been a great supporter and one of the main reasons the Book Bank has stayed alive for this long,” Jordan said. “As I started to work on improvements and future plans for the Book Bank, I realized that the Book Bank was outgrowing SIRRC and was ready to become a fully independent entity.”
“With the Book Bank being its own, there comes a lot quicker turn around on projects… as well as more money being focused purely on the Book Bank projects and improvements to provide the best resources for students.”
As Jordan, Barber and Lee are all seniors, they are looking for others to continue their work in the future. This led to the creation of the marketing intern position, where more than 80 students have already applied.
“We don’t want this project to just be a winter quarter thing. The marketing intern would just kind of take on what Catherine and I are doing right now, in terms of running the Facebook, managing the website and the Instagram,” Lee said.
The marketing intern would help spread awareness of the Book Bank after Barber, Lee and Jordan graduate.
“This is probably unreasonable, but I think our goal would be to have every student at least know about the Book Bank,” Lee said.
“I wish I had known about it sooner, and so even freshmen coming in to discuss it the way people talk about the course reserves, that it would just be common knowledge, and that people would recognize that this is a resource available to them.”