October 11, 2018

THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM | An Alternative to Paying for Textbooks at Cornell

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Daniel Lu '12, a civil engineering (CEE) major with a minor in architecture (ARCH).

Here is a secret I have never shared with anyone: I haven’t paid for textbooks since sophomore year. I’m a senior this year. If you are taking four or five classes a semester, it’s more than likely that each of those classes has at least three required books. With the cost of textbooks ranging from $20 to $200, the bill for books alone piles up. After getting fed up with paying up to $500 a semester for books I never used again after the semester was over, I devised a plan on how I could spend as little as possible on books. This plan has helped me save tremendously.

  1. Use the Cornell Lending Library

The Cornell Lending Library located in the Durland Alternatives Library in Anabel Taylor Hall is an initiative that provides free loans of textbooks to students challenged by high textbooks prices. The books are available to Cornell students for an entire semester, so you don’t have to worry about your textbooks getting recalled. If you don’t find the book you are looking for in their catalogue, instead of reselling your books to the Cornell store at the end of the semester, consider donating them to the lending library so other people can access these books in coming semesters. This ensures that the lending library gets more and more books, thereby increasing accessibility for the people who need them.

  1. Cornell Library Stacks

The stacks are not only the place you go to suffer before finals: they’re also the place where you can save on books. Before going to the Cornell store or Amazon, search the library catalogue to see if the book is available at the library. If going to search for a book in the cold and dark stacks seems daunting, you could alternatively request the book to be delivered to the circulation desk of another library on campus. This means you can just easily pick up the books at the circulation desk. It’s as easy as that!

  1. Borrow Direct or Interlibrary Loan

If the book you are looking for is not available at Cornell, no worries: as a Cornell student you have access to the collections at Brown, Columbia, Dartmouth, Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, University of Chicago, John Hopkins, MIT, Duke, Princeton and Yale. Combined, these libraries hold over 60 million volumes. Surely one of these libraries is likely to have the book you are looking for! You can use your Cornell library account to request a book at one of these libraries by logging into Borrow Direct or Interlibrary Loan Request. Books usually take around a week to be shipped to Cornell and you can then easily pick them up at a circulation desk of your choosing.

  1. Textbook Reserves

Most professors put the required books for their courses on reserve in a campus library. Books on reserve can be temporarily checked out for two to four hours. These textbooks are available at the circulation desk. Recently, even students can request to put books on reserve by filling out a textbook request form. This means you don’t have to wait for your professor to put books on reserve but can take the initiative to make books more accessible. The drawback of course reserves, however, is that you can’t take the books home meaning you have to section out time in your schedule to go to the library to read. However, this could also be seen as a benefit. It forces you to go to the library, the most productive place a college student can go!

If the high cost of textbooks is a burden, using a combination of these resources could cut down your textbook bill drastically. If you play your library cards right, you might pay nothing for the rest of your college career like me!