The Textbook Initiative returned to St. Olaf’s campus this spring, after a hiatus of several years.
Donovan Roddy ’25 joined the Student Government Association (SGA) this fall. Within a few months of joining SGA, Roddy with the help of Roxi Wessel ’26 and Sophie Smith ’26 set out to reinstate the Textbook Initiative. “They’re great! They’re very organized,” Roddy said.
From “Introduction to Molecular Thermodynamics” to “A Friendly Introduction to Abstract Algebra,” SGA has purchased 33 new books. Of those, 17 were purchased this year and are currently accessible within the Rolvaag Memorial Library.
“This initiative actually has a really weird origin story,” Roddy said.
The initiative first took root in 2019 and was shortly interrupted by COVID-19. The initiative seeks to work with Rolvaag to purchase textbooks for students to check out rather than have to purchase them each semester. The initiative is a resource for advocating against increasing textbook prices in curriculums and improving access to course materials. All textbooks purchased have to follow the following guidelines, must be used at least twice, and must cost at least 50 dollars or more. Students are left to purchase the less expensive books with their own money. Additionally, the textbooks were bought by taking the price of the books and multiplying it by the total number of students using them. This mechanism is on course for clarification and adaptation, said the textbook initiative committee.
Two different surveys were sent out to discover which textbooks were most in need. The original survey was sent out in 2019 to faculty members to figure out which books they planned on using in class. The second round of surveying happened at the return of the spring semester. SGA textbook flyers could and still can be seen hanging around the campus with a QR code asking students what course materials they would like to see.
“Typically the books that students needed were STEM-related. We saw a lot of biology. We
saw a lot of chemistry, psychology, and a couple of the econ-textbooks,” Roddy said.
Results showed that a majority of students wanted to see more STEM textbooks accessible. A
majority of STEM classes have at least a 50 dollars course material requirement. Intro-level
psychology has a 150 dollar textbook expected to be purchased by all students enrolled in the course.