A Look into the Development, Reception, and Future of the Associated Students Book Fair Event

Associated Students Book Fair staff oversee secondhand books put on sale by Santa Monica College students at the SMC Cayton Center, February 19, 2019 in Santa Monica, California. Joshua Gonzalez/The Corsair

Associated Students Book Fair staff oversee secondhand books put on sale by Santa Monica College students at the SMC Cayton Center, February 19, 2019 in Santa Monica, California. Joshua Gonzalez/The Corsair

The Santa Monica College (SMC) Cayton Center was an odd sight last Tuesday morning. Stacks of class textbooks on tables, each labeled with the appropriate course in front of them filled a section of the venue. Textbooks surrounded different students shaking hands, before negotiating prices. The student lounge had become a bustling hub for secondhand book sales thanks to the final day of the first Associated Students (AS) Book Fair.

Student, Sieanna Gomez, spoke positively of her experience. “I asked if they had the book I needed for Geography 5, and they did. It was $30, I was very happy about that,” she recounted, before explaining that she saved $100 because of the book fair.

Alumni, Samantha Hodges, also expressed how helpful the book fair was in allowing her to make a profit off of her old textbooks. “I thought it was amazing, I made 50 dollars today selling four books,” she said.

Aside from the opportunity to sell old textbooks, Hodges also enjoyed the social aspect of the event. “You get to meet the seller, and ask them about their classes — I think it’s awesome.”

Both Hodges and Gomez were also enthusiastic about the possibility of the AS Book Fair becoming a staple offering of the AS Board in future semesters.

It may come as a surprise that this is the first time that the AS has succeeded in offering a service like this, but Inter-Club Council Vice-Chair Paniz Karimpour was quick to clarify that this was not for lack of trying.

“This idea has been going to the auxiliary office for a long time,” she revealed, before explaining that due to concerns on cash liability, plans would often be stuck in development.

Associated Students President Isabel Rodriguez, who was the lead planner for the project, explained that AS considered plans for the AS Book Fair as early as last year. “I first thought about it when I was deciding to run,” she said, before recalling that former AS President Jennifer Chen promoted “a book exchange event” at an Alpha Gamma Sigma Honor Society board meeting she attended.

The event was never realized in Chen’s time. Upon taking office, Rodriguez found out that this was because of the aforementioned cash liability concerns that the auxiliary office had. The former AS board “couldn’t come up with a system that would work,” she summed up.

Considering this history, Karimpour, who closely worked with Rodriguez to bring the AS Book Fair project into reality, explained their strategy. “We saw it through an administration perspective . . . we turned the cash liability into paperwork, basically — just paper receipts,” she said.

Through this, Rodriguez and Karimpour were able to address the auxiliary office’s concerns. “We have no liability during and after a transaction,” Karimpour said, before Rodriguez clarified that the AS’ role was to be “an intermediary at free cost.” A role that, to them, allowed the event to provide an opportunity for students to network with each other.

“It’s not just about buying and selling books. It is the core goal, but we’re also bringing the community together, and I think that’s important because students mingle between each other and they get to know the student government as well,” said Rodriguez.

Their careful approach allowed them to gain the support of SMC Bookstore Manager David Dever in getting the AS Book Fair project approved. When it came to concerns that their project may potentially compete with the bookstore, Rodriguez and Karimpour clarified that “the whole idea of the book fair is not to provide a competition to the bookstore,” emphasizing that providing opportunities for student savings and networking were the main goals.

“I realize some students say it’s better to come to the book fair because you can get different opportunities to buy second hand books, but the bookstore has a little bit more of new books,” Rodriguez said, affirming the distinction between the AS Book Fair and the SMC Bookstore.

Due to the fact that the AS essentially had to create the project from scratch, Rodriguez and Karimpour have already considered ideas in ensuring that the AS Book Fair continues even after the upcoming AS Elections. One of these ideas involves tackling an AS issue Rodriguez calls “institutional memory” — a term for the common situation wherein new AS Officers are unable to build upon the works of their predecessors due to a lack in communication.

While Rodriguez said that she was fortunate enough to get a thorough report from former AS President Chen, she also acknowledges that “other directors don’t have that.” In light of this, Rodriguez is now pushing for a “combined retreat” idea.

“A combined retreat means that the newly elected officers meet the current officers and have a morning where we discuss what we did, where they wanna go, and give them everything that we’ve worked for. I think that combined retreat will be the best way to push anything that we’re doing right now forward, including the book fair.” said Rodriguez.

Karimpour agreed with the sentiment, stating that during a combined retreat, they will be able to provide a guideline for the Book Fair project through their initial proposal. Future AS Boards would then be able to use to ensure that students will be able to benefit from the event’s services in the coming years.

Despite the success of the first AS Book Fair, Rodriguez admitted that there are still issues that her successors can find and improve upon in the future. A notion that Karimpour agreed with. “I really hope this happens again, we put a lot of work on it and we really believe in the idea.”

The first Associated Students Book Fair was held last February 12 and 19.