A.Suganthi, a student of Anna University, depends on her senior Kavya Devi for a variety of reasons, from procuring the right books and drafters to drawing boards and even project files. And perhaps, the most significant help Kavya renders is when once every semester, she takes Suganthi to a place she thinks is very important to ensure high scores in exams – her book bank.
“As computer science students, we learn different programming languages that involve mastering different concepts. I am telling her which book to refer for what chapter,” says Kavya, browsing through books at a book bank in Anna Nagar.
As engineering colleges gear up to admit students, various books banks in the city are busy releasing application forms and refilling their stacks.
“We start the process around 9th June, and accept around 3,000 applications,” says Mahendra Bothra, Managing trustee, Rajasthan Youth Association's book bank.
The increasing prices of engineering books, lack of qualified teachers in many private colleges and need for more reference books to understand concepts tested in the recruitment exams of companies are why the dependence on book banks is increasing, say students and book bank owners.
“Concepts such as computation theories, digital electronics and mathematics are often not explained properly in colleges, so we register with book banks to avail books that have many examples of problems,” says Vignesh Rajan, a second year ECE student.
“No operating system book comes for less than Rs.500. Buying second-hand books at three-quarter the price and then looking for buyers among juniors is a hassle. Carrying books to colleges for renewal is a pain too; so we choose a book bank near home to get the necessary books, especially during preparation holidays, says S. Priya, a final-year engineering student.
“Mechanical engineering books on machine design and bio-tech books are the most expensive and difficult to procure because they are all printed in Delhi and Kolkata,” says E. Z. Eapen, Proprietor, Students Book Bank. Hence, coordinating with publishers and distributors is important to bring in the required books, he adds.
Tamil medium students
Book banks are also a boon to students who come from Tamil medium schools. “Choosing a book bank which has translations, books from Indian authors and model question papers helps,” says B. Nithya, who hails from Tiruvallur, and studies at the College of Engineering Guindy.
It is important to select a book bank that updates its collection regularly. “University exams may ask the same questions, and teachers refer to the same books, but there are new editions coming every year. Only when you intern with a software company, do you realise that many database lessons you learned have long been revised,” says R. Lakshmi, a final year student of a private engineering college.
Most paid book banks allow up to six books a semester with two reference books. “Many of us realise we need a book bank after the first year when most book banks are running full. The ones that depend on charity ask for income certificates,” says Biju Nair, member of a paid book bank, adding, “I pay around Rs.500 a semester to the book bank to get books worth almost Rs. 5,000.”
“A single window system helps to make things transparent. And we allow students to take as many reference books as they can because that will help them gain more knowledge. Talking to professors and older students of engineering colleges helps plan a new stock,” says K. S. Kesavan, chief coordinator, Jaigopal Garodia Charitable Book Bank, that has around 33,000 engineering books.
It helps to keep the target very specific, says R. Jaganmohan of Vivekananda Book Bank run by Sri Ram Krishna Math that takes care of the book requirements of 250 engineering students who hail from rural areas. “Keeping a track of their results, helping them build on their communication and incorporating their feedback about the book collection helps us to take them beyond just books.”