Over 51,000 textbooks served to thousands of students last semester

Textbook Services' student worker and junior undeclared major Caitlynn Depew of Verdin, Illinois, heads to re-shelve books into the building during some down-time after lunch Friday. To her right, Textbook Services Director Scott Kane asks about today's daily tasks and jobs.

Many students only visit Textbook Service to get their books and go. However, the employees at Textbook Service do more than just help students get their books during rush week; they are always prepping for the semester ahead. 

Textbook Service began issuing spring semester books on campus beginning Jan. 7. By that Friday, 3,956 students made the trip to over.

Inclimate weather closed campus on Sat., Jan. 12, pushing the start of rush week back by a day. Between Jan. 13 and Jan. 18, Textbook Service served 7,439 students on the registers, including students returning Winter Session books as well as checking out new ones for the spring. 

“Overall, in rush week it is extremely hectic,” Assistant Manager of Textbook Service Scott Kane said. “We are trying to keep the lines under control; to get everybody in here to get their books and be on their way is a momentous task.” 

Textbook Service takes several measures to be as efficient as possible during the busy time. 

“We try to have everything in its proper locations and out so it’s easily visible for everybody,” Kane said. “We also staff up with as many students as we can possibly hire that are interested in working.” 

Student worker Jordan Ray, a senior secondary English education major, of Peoria, Illinois, keeps things moving by working on other tasks when he’s not directly assisting students. 

“I label books when I can, when I have some free time,” Ray said. “When there’s a lot of students here I’ll be at the register checking students out or returning books if they’re here for returns and if a student has a question, can’t find something or don’t know if they need a book or not … I’ll come and help them.” 

The work Textbook Service employees do extends well beyond the rush. Employees are always busy as they handle massive amounts of books and digital content. During the fall semester, employees dealt with 1,472 digital components, such as access codes for e-books and homework help, in addition to the 51,585 rented books. 

“We don’t just open up for rush and then disappear. We are here ... all semester, and students, or anybody for that matter, can come in here at any time and we can help them get their books, answer any questions that they might have and so on,” Kane said. “We are here working and are constantly trying to get everything ready for the next semester or for the end of the semester, the return.” 

Part of this preparation includes taking inventory, switching out books as well as ordering new ones. Departments are allowed to switch out books every three years if they choose to do so. 

“The departments are allowed to keep the books longer if they want to,” Kane said. “Some of the books, especially a lot of history and English books, don’t change. So they’ll keep some of the books for much longer than three years.”

Employees run reports to see what books haven’t been recently used, and then they ask the departments in question if they want to keep these books. If the department declines, the books are auctioned off to book sellers. 

According to Kane, there is not a set budget for textbooks being requested. Professors must show their dean and relevant department chair the materials they’re requesting are necessary and agree to keep the book for nine semesters. When it comes time to order new books, the department fills out a form stating the maximum enrollment for the class. Textbook Service then orders about 10 percent more than that figure from book publishers or used book vendors to account for potential teaching assistants that won’t be officially enrolled in the course and books that aren’t returned  or damaged at the end of the semester. 

All of these processes have taught Ray the importance of time management. 

“There’s a lot that we get done as far as inventory and labeling new books; there’s just a lot of stuff like that that goes into it,” Ray said. “We are still getting new books in and getting everything done, [so we need to be] able to manage those tasks well and in a timely fashion.” 

Textbook Service also provides the option for students to get books mailed to their homes if they are off campus or online students. For some, it’s not possible to make it to Textbook Service during operational hours, so this service is helpful. 

In order for a student to get books shipped to their door, they must fill out an off-campus textbook request form where they provide their student ID numbers as well as other information. Textbook Service staff then use their ID number to gather the books and mail them. It costs $10 for the first book and $2 for every additional book. 

Natalie Casey, a graduate assistant who works in Textbook Service and student in the English as a Second Language program, of Springfield, Illinois, deals primarily with this process. 

“Since the rental textbooks are provided through tuition and fees, online students or off campus students are still full students just as if they were here on campus, so they’re paying the same amount of tuition, or more if they’re out of state, they’re paying the same amount of fees, so it should certainly be provided to them just as if they were a student on campus.” 

While the multitude of tasks that go into Textbook Service may seem overwhelming, Ray said Textbook Service works with his schedule. Textbook Service is different from his other work experiences. 

“I can say that this is by far the most relaxed place that I’ve worked at,” Ray said. “I’m not stressed out when I come here. There might be a lot of work to be done, but it’s not anything crazy, so it doesn’t stress me out. Even when it’s rush week, it’s still not anything that stresses me out because it’s not complicated.” 

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