A few small piles of overturned dirt are the only visible sign of Eastern Illinois University's plans to move forward with a new home for its Textbook Rental Service.
But officials know that those small mounds will soon be replaced by a 19,200-square-foot facility equipped to house the approximately 220,000 textbook volumes supporting the university's academic programs. In fact, the new building is expected to be completed by the end of the Fall 2009 semester.
"Over the past century, our students have saved literally tens of thousands of dollars -- if not more -- by having the opportunity to rent, rather than buy, the textbooks required of them for their classes," said Roger Kratochvil, chair of Eastern's Board of Trustees, as he prepared for the building's recent groundbreaking.
"It gives me great pleasure to be here today as we take the next step toward providing this very important service with a permanent building of its own."
The finished structure, to be located on existing university property along Edgar Drive and a few blocks west of Illinois Route 130, will house a loading dock, a receiving area, a workroom and staff offices. It also will be equipped with a stand-alone geothermal heating/cooling system.
Kratochvil was joined by students, staff, administrators and his fellow trustees for the groundbreaking, which took place immediately after a recent meeting in which the board authorized the issuance of revenue bonds for the project. Trustees also approved the hiring of contractors for the $2.85 million project.
Earlier in 2008, the board approved a $1-per-credit-hour increase to students' Textbook Rental Service fee. That fee, approved with EIU student support, will help pay for the new facility.
The history of Eastern's Textbook Rental Service began with the opening of the university in 1899. Students paid $1 for the benefit of being able to rent, rather than purchase, the books they would need for their classes.
The service originally was housed in Old Main. The move to its current location -- Pemberton Hall -- took place in 1969.
"By then," Kratochvil said, "the university had two new gymnasiums; there was no longer a need for the much smaller 'crackerbox' gymnasium located in (Pemberton Hall). Textbooks took over the space once used by school athletes and their fans."
Other than being temporarily housed in Buzzard Hall while some renovation work was taking place (circa 1980), the service has remained in Pemberton Hall ever since.
EIU's Textbook Rental Service currently reports an inventory of 220,000 volumes worth nearly $8 million. Some of those volumes -- time-honored novels, for example, as those used in English classes -- have been around for decades. Many others -- some costing upwards of $200 each -- need to be updated much more frequently.
"On average, our students save $600 to $800 annually by renting, rather than buying, their textbooks," Kratochvil said. "It is easy to figure out why the service is so popular among these young men and women -- and their parents."
(Shown, from left to right in the accompanying photos, are Roger Kratochvil, chair of Eastern's Board of Trustees; Dan Nadler, vice president for student affairs; Carol Miller, director of Eastern's Textbook Rental Service; Julie Nimmons, member, BOT; Eric Wilber, executive vice president, Student Government; Levi Bulgar, student body president; Kyle Collom, student senator; and EIU President Bill Perry.)