Wait, There Was a Book Exchange?

Balancing heavy legal textbooks walking into the Writs to sell books at the annual book exchange this past August, several second and third year law students were disappointed to find that they had missed the Book Exchange Fair.

The Student Bar Association (SBA) hosts a book exchange twice a year where students are able to sell their books to other students.  This is one of the most beneficial programs hosted by the SBA.  The book exchange is divided into two key components: the selling and the buying.  Unlike last year where the book exchange process was two weeks, this year the entire process was condensed into one week, prior to the start of the academic year.  Last year the buying dates were during the first week of school, when students were back on campus.  A third-year law student noted that “this year’s book exchange was much less convenient than the previous year.”

The SBA stated that originally the Office of JD Student Affairs had wanted to host the book exchange the week before orientation had even started – two weekends before school started.  The coordinator had not felt that this would be the most convenient period for students so he was able to negotiate with Student Affairs to have the book exchange the week of first-year orientation.  However, there was no conversation between SBA and Student Affairs about having the exchange during the first week of class.  

Several second and third year students noted on Facebook and via e-mails and conversations to Motions writers that they were disappointed that there was no book exchange during the first week of school.  One student even posted on the SBA Facebook page, asking why the book exchange only lasted a few days and before school started, when people still had work or were on vacation.  The coordinator noted that he felt that the book exchange was mainly beneficial for first year students and therefore the schedule revolved around what was most convenient for them.  The coordinator noted that they did not consider having it the first week of class because the exchange would be too chaotic and cause organizational issues with scheduling volunteers.

Many upperclassmen remember last year’s fall book exchange to be fantastic.  Several third year students noted that they purchased the majority of their books at last year’s exchange and they also sold most of their books.  A 3L noted that last year she submitted her books a few days later than the acceptance period, yet last year’s coordinator worked with her, and she was able to submit her books for sale and was able to sell all of her books.  This year, at least one 3L lamented on Facebook, stating that the people who were managing book exchange would not take the books he was trying to sell even though the book exchange was still in progress.  However, a volunteer noted that on the first day of the book-buying period, the coordinator had accepted the books of some students to be sold.  It seems that the inconvenienced third year was simply a day too late.

The book exchange is also a great opportunity for student organizations to raise funds.  Volunteers who assist with the book exchange raise $5 for their student organization of choice.  Several students noted that unlike past years where they were able to volunteer during the first week of class, this year, due to work or vacation schedules they were unable to assist with the book exchange and raise funds for their student organizations.  The SBA noted that they tried to assist as many organizations as possible and allowed a few more volunteers than needed to volunteer during each hour period.

Students believed that there was not as much advertising of the book exchange as last year.  Students noted that they were well aware of the first bar review of the year, but not notified of the book exchange.  There was an e-mail sent a few days prior to the book exchange, informing students about the process and the days and hours that they could come in to buy and sell books.  The SBA noted that they received almost 800 books, mainly first-year books.  Several individuals noted that this e-mail was too little, too late.  The new SBA website did not have any indication of the book exchange; there was nothing on Facebook about a book exchange or e-mails from class reps. There was one e-mail a few days before the book exchange and also a tack-on to an e-mail welcoming students back to campus.  Comparatively, last year, the coordinator sent out e-mails, created a Facebook event page and sent Facebook messages.

Several students also felt that the book exchange was less organized and there was less hard documentation of books entrusted to the SBA to be sold.  A second year student noted that there was no record keeping of the prices she had listed her books for.  A volunteer forgot to input the prices she had listed onto the database and therefore there was no listing of how much her books were listed and sold for.  Comparatively, last year there was a price sheet form that sellers were asked to fill out.  Volunteers had the job of double-checking to ensure that the prices listed on the book correlated with the prices listed on the price sheet.  Relevant information was later inputted onto an excel spreadsheet that was circulated to the volunteers to cross-reference when selling books.  SBA noted the reason behind not having the form was to allow students to have a more user-friendly process where they simply had to drop off their books and the book exchange volunteers would input the important information on the database themselves.  In the case of the 2L, the SBA coordinator paid the student what the student felt was the proper amount she had listed her books for.  The SBA coordinator stated that the new process was more efficient and that SBA had not received any complaints; in fact, they received several positive remarks about how much more user-friendly the process was.

The SBA book exchange coordinator felt that this year’s exchange was very organized and user-friendly and very beneficial to the students.  The coordinator intends on applying the same overall process of this fall’s exchange to the spring book exchange.  The coordinator was rather surprised to hear about complaints because he had mainly heard positive notes and only received a few questions and disappointments that were settled almost immediately.  However, e-mails to Motions writers and Facebook statuses and comments seem to tell a slightly different story.  It seems that those disgruntled students did not contact SBA directly with their concerns and disappointments.

The annual book exchange is one of the best traditions at USD and one of the most important programs hosted by SBA.  Some students thought that this year’s exchange was beneficial and organized while other students believed that it was inconvenient for second and third year students.  The SBA has the difficult responsibility of finding a balance between the thoughts of these two groups.  Open communication is a goal of this year’s SBA Executive Board.  However, if the SBA is not informed of how they can improve, they will not know what to change.  Therefore, the Executive Board requests that any suggestions or concerns about SBA programs be addressed to them as soon as possible.

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