Buley free-read shelf: unknown by some, fueled by passion

Joe Freer  Reporter 

Students walk by it, on their way to the Owl Perch, to the printers, the computers or the bathrooms in Buley. For over 10 years, librarians have put out a display of hand picked leisure books for students to check out to encourage free reading.  

Jamie Aschenbach, head of access services said she is encouraged by its growing popularity.  

“Originally the book collection started as one bookshelf, but now it’s two,” Aschenbach said. “We’ve started putting funding towards the bookshelf so we can get more bestsellers and new releases.”  

She explained how students are more drawn to big names such as Stephen King, J.K. Rowling and other major authors. Their goal to increase student reading, Aschenbach said, is achieved by making sure their selection features recognizable names.   

Rebekah Heiland, a sophomore, nursing major, said she is an outspoken reader, but has never heard of the leisure bookshelf. Heiland said it might be more popular if it was advertised more.  

“I think [free reading] is important and a lot of students would take advantage of it,” said Heiland, “even though they’re often busy and stressed during the semester.” 

Judaen Brown, a senior, Spanish and English double-major, also said she had never heard of the collection. She said that now that she knows the bookshelf is there, she is interested in checking it out.  

Brown said she thinks more students would check books out if the shelf were in a higher-traffic area. 

The books are selected by fellow librarians, said Aschenbach, and the more popular a book is, the longer it stays on the shelf. Every so often, she said the staff looks through the shelf and replaces books that are in worse condition with newer ones. The ones taken off are still available to check out, according to Aschenbach, just not in the handpicked shelf.  

“What we have been doing is going to public libraries and see what they have multiple copies of,” Aschenbach said.  

Students are also encouraged to fill out a recommendation form at the front desk, she said, or to contact Aschenbach directly if they have a book they want to be featured on the shelf. 

“We have an order coming in within the next month,” she said, “with some bestsellers and graphic novels.” 

Aschenbach said she encourages students to donate books, as well. 

“Donations are welcomed and can go to one of two places,” Aschenbach said, “the free library in the north dorms or here.” 

The free library in north campus operates with a “leave a book, take a book” policy, Aschenbach said. The collection started last year, she said with only five books and now has an entire cart. Aschenbach said the Buley staff plans to expand the free library collection to other dorms, starting with Farnham Hall.  

Once students learn about the bookshelf, Achenbach said they generally become interested, and are more likely to check books out. She said she is thrilled when students come to her about free reading and encourages readers to contact her about new book ideas to feature and any other pieces of advice that might help the bookshelf and free library. 

Photo Credit: Joe Freer

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