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Bookstore reaches out to Kosovo

August 13, 2007

At the end of each semester, students flock to the ASU Bookstore to sell their used textbooks back for a little cash back. Some of them are out-of-print editions, however, and the bookstore cannot buy them back.

“We offer to recycle them, and the students usually leave them,” says Val Ross, the bookstore’s director.

What happens to these unusable, unwanted books?

Some end up in Kosovo, which makes Ross very happy. Otherwise, many of the books would end up in the trash, useful to no one.

“The books that go to Kosovo are old-edition books,” Ross says. “They are good books, but they are not being used anymore. We try to market them, and we sell some to dealers for $15 per box.”

The books’ journey to Areopag, an academic resource center geared toward students at the University of Pristina, began with a contact made through a church.

John Askew, a retired doctor who belongs to Bethany Community Church in Tempe, works with a group called Paraclete, which offers leadership support for business, civic and education institutions and has an outreach in Kosovo.

Askew became involved with Kosovo when he started a birthing center to help lower the country’s high infant mortality rate. After the birthing center, sponsored by the U.S. and Kosovo governments, was up and running, Askew founded Aeropag.

The Rev. John Wood, outreach pastor at Bethany Community Church, heard about Paraclete’s work in Kosovo and the need for books, he and Askew contacted Ross.

Wood, Ross and Jim Selby, the assistant director of the ASU Bookstore, met last December to talk about how to get books to Kosovo and what kind they would need, and the first 360 or so books were on their way in February. More books – about 190 – went in April, and the ASU

Bookstore has set aside another 700 books for Wood to look through.

The books are shipped to Kosovo through a church-related organization in Indiana on a space-available basis. The students in Kosovo are delighted with the books, which include English literature, medicine, science, history, English language and business texts.

Even though the books are out of print, they are still current in their fields and a boon to Areopag, – which, Ross says, “is designed to assist university students in their studies by providing them with resources, books, study space and Internet access for a cost they can afford.”

Adds Artan Geca, manager of the Areopag Center: “Without these resources and the textbooks from the ASU Bookstore, students at the University of Pristina would lack the resources necessary to carry on their academic work.

The books also help cement an existing relationship. Many administrators at the University of Pristina – and even the president of Kosovo, Fatmir Sejdiu – have ties to ASU, having taken classes here.

The ASU Bookstore takes in about 10,000 outdated textbooks each year, so there are plenty of books to be recycled, Ross says.