In 2008, Yves Guillaume A. Messy, now a fourth-year student in international relations, arrived at the St. Michael’s College annual used book sale after it had closed. Outside the college, he found two large industrial bins full of books – presumably leftovers that no one had wanted to buy.
This seemed a shame to Messy, who grew up in Cameroon and as a youth often didn’t have access to current educational resources. “Here we have a surplus of books that we end up throwing [out]; there they have a deficit of educational materials,” he says. “I’ve met university students in Ghana and the Congo who are studying with materials from the 1980s,” he says.
So last year Messy helped establish Books Outbound, a campus group that is working with University and Victoria colleges to redistribute leftover titles from their autumn book sales to English-speaking academic institutions around the globe. Sarah Jane Vassallo, a third-year student in international relations, and Zayne Dattu, a third-year political science student, lead the Books Outbound executive.
Last year, Books Outbound received its first large donation − an estimated 3,000 books – from the Victoria College book sale. “When you see what U of T has and other schools don’t, it’s eye-opening,” says Vassallo.
To ship all the books overseas was going to cost at least $20,000. So Books Outbound teamed up with the Aga Khan Development Network, which footed the bill to get the books to Central and Southern Asia. Currently, the group is in contact with the University of Ghana and the Consulate General of Grenada in Toronto, as well as several secondary schools in Nunavut. The group hopes to have a shipment ready for Northern Canada by December, provided they can cover the cost of transportation.
Books Outbound is seeking to involve both students and U of T alumni. “We think alumni could have a great, positive impact,” says Dattu. “Their input and involvement would be greatly appreciated.”
The members of Books Outbound also want to increase awareness about global inequalities. “Books Outbound is about U of T taking a greater initiative in international development, and students taking on a greater role as leaders,” says Messy.