The Seattle University Campus Ministry textbook lending library is a mystery in many ways. Hidden in the recesses of the Seattle U website, the site for the lending library advertises with “195 available texts in different subjects”.
Currently students are not donating their books and the library is not growing. Of the specimens they have, all 195 are the product of a large donation, or rather a transfer from Disability Services.
Annarose Jowenson, the campus secretary of social justice and current director of the Lending Library, has been at Seattle U since August 2022. She is also responsible for the beginning closet (the award of graduation regalia) and diving experiences during spring break.
“[The Lending Library] is something I hope to be able to put more energy into in the years to come as I continue to consolidate and expand the breadth and depth of my position,” said Jowensen. “Currently, students can find the entire list of textbooks that we have online, and if there’s a specific book they’re unsure about whether or not we have, they can just give me a call and we can find out.”
In terms of library selection, they have a variety of subjects and courses covered. However, there is currently no direct line of communication between the lending library and the professors. This means there is no way to communicate which books are actively being taught and used in the classroom.
Christina Roberts, who has taught English at Seattle U since 2007, had never heard of the Lending Library before speaking to The Spectator and was surprised it existed.
“A lot of my awareness of social justice came from my time at Seattle U. I think it would be wonderful if we had the time and ability across campus to strengthen inter-campus relationships. Campus Ministry was a wonderful place during the time I was here, but I know they’ve also gone through personnel changes, so sometimes it’s about keeping the momentum of those relationships,” said Roberts.
For Roberts, it is a conscious decision to choose the texts for her classes, both in terms of content and price.
“When I’m considering what lyrics to use, I always have to consider the cost of the books I’m assigning, and I try to keep the total under $100 as much as possible,” Roberts said.
When it comes to teaching the same course quarterly and year after year, Roberts, like many professors, rotates the books she assigns. There are certain subjects like philosophy that can use the same edition of Descartes year after year, but one of Robert’s literature courses is much more fluid.
“There are very different reasons. I’m looking for shorter works…hoping to change the subject matter of the lesson…or try to give students a chance to interact with texts they don’t typically read,” Roberts said.
Keenan Demarsico, a third-year English studies student who works 32 hours a week, decides to be extra careful when buying textbooks.
“Fortunately, this quarter I only had to buy textbooks for two of my courses. This is something I do in every class: I tidy up when I buy my books so I don’t have to buy them all at once, and that saved me before. Sometimes there are books on the curriculum that we never really get to or that we don’t end up needing,” Demarsico said.
The Lending Library website states that the cost of textbooks is around $1200 per year. Although this varies for students depending on the subject they study and the classes they take, buying textbooks is a major financial drain.
“I think colleges need to move away from profit in a lot of ways, but in terms of textbooks, I think there should be a recycling system, especially for UCOR classes,” Demarsco said.
Echoing a system in many secondary schools where students receive their textbooks from teachers at the beginning of the term, Demarsco believes a similar policy should be implemented at SU.
“In certain classes, the school should just provide the students with the textbooks … and have them returned at the end of the term,” Demarsco said.
While this may be unrealistic for certain courses, a dialogue about the financial burden of textbooks on students is essential. As it is now, the lending library continues to be underused and stagnant in growth, and a potentially valuable resource is wasted. If you have spare textbooks, see where they could be used. The lending library is the perfect place to start.