Tucked away in DeWitt Mall lies Buffalo Street Books. The bookstore has created a series of innovative programs, including hosting a literary arts festival and teaching writing workshops. But the program most used by Ithaca College students is First Class, a service that allows students to order textbooks online before the beginning of school and have them delivered to the classroom on the first day.
Teachers from both the college and Cornell University have begun to make a transition away from their campus’ bookstores, suggesting their students preorder from Buffalo Street Books over the summer.
Asha Sanaker is the general manager of Buffalo Street Books and has been in charge of the First Class program for two years. Sanaker said, altogether, about 45 professors from both colleges are using the First Class program this semester.
Chris Holmes, assistant professor of English, uses the First Class program. Holmes said he likes the program because he prefers to support independent bookstores over the school store.
“Everyone who benefits from this bookstore has ties to this community, and a vastly larger percentage of every dollar you spend in a locally owned business stays in the local community,” Holmes said.
The Ithaca College Bookstore is owned and run by the college. All money goes back into the college-operating budget.
Buffalo Street Books is a co-op bookstore. A co-op, or cooperative, is a business owned by people from the local community who use its services in order to reap mutual economic and social benefits. Seven hundred members of Ithaca’s community have partial ownership of the store.
“The co-op system allows owners to focus on community goals in addition to being financially profitable. … It also is a new way for students to interact with The Commons, outside of going to the bars on the weekend,” Sanaker said. “It’s a real way for students to make connections with local businesses.”
By using the First Class program, Holmes said, he hopes to help students engage with the greater Ithaca community.
“The more points of connection we can have with the town of Ithaca and the college, the better,” Holmes said. “It becomes that much more organic the more we have those kinds of relationships.”
Sanaker said buying at Buffalo Street Books also means supporting alternative business models, offering communities a new way to hold their economy to a higher level of transparency and accountability.
“If you are a person who is actually concerned about questions of local economy, who is concerned about corporations in our local economy, supporting a local bookstore gives you options of what you can read and what you can buy,” Sanaker said.
However, there are certain limitations to buying at Buffalo Street Books. For example, certain student financial aid does not apply outside of the college’s Bookstore.
Rod Beers, the college’s campus store manager, said the Bookstore works hard to provide students with numerous options that best suit their specific needs.
“The campus Bookstore offers more formats of a text,” Beers said. “For example, there was a student who needed a Braille copy of a textbook. Buffalo Street doesn’t have those kinds of options available.”
The college Bookstore also has a program similar to First Class, allowing students to purchase books online on the Bookstore’s website before school begins and to pick them up pre-packaged once arriving on campus.
“The on-campus Bookstore also has a large selection of used copies of books, helping students lower their expensive book budgets, as well as rental services, where students can return textbooks that are still in good shape to be resold next semester,” Beers said.
Despite these benefits, Holmes said he still prefers to use Buffalo Street Books.
“Supporting independent bookstores is of the utmost importance for the way we read books,” Holmes said. “It’s more real, more organic.”