SERVER CRASH ERASES STUDENT CASH

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By Vanessa Greco

Students are waiting for cheques after a disastrous hard drive failure wiped out records of all catalogued books at the Used Book Room.

All inventory information was stored on the Used Book Room server —which was supposed to back itself up daily. After the hard drive crashed, it was discovered that the server had not been backing up as it was programmed to do.

The reason for the error is not yet known.

“We immediately sent the hard drive away for data recovery,” said vice president finance and services, Toby Whitfield. “Last week, we were told that there was no data to be restored.”

Instead, the Used Book Room, run by the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU), remains closed as extra part-time staff and employees manually re-enter thousands of textbooks into their database.

This involves scanning each book, typing the textbook number, student number, expiry date and cost into a spreadsheet.

According to Whitfield, they are through about 75 per cent of their stock of over 4,000 textbooks.

Six of those books once belonged to Paulett Palmer. She has been trying for weeks to see if they sold. Each time she visits, a large sign outside the Used Book Room instructs her to check back next week for updates.

“I’m broke and today is my husband’s birthday,” said the fourth-year early childhood education student. “I was hoping I could get some money back to buy him a gift.”

The RSU’s Used Book Room is a consignment store, taking a 25 per cent commission from books that sell. Unsold textbooks are donated to charity after one year on the shelves.

Book room employees are relying on six boxes of printed receipts to help figure out who they owe money to.

Palmer isn’t pleased.

“That process will take a long time,” she said. “I’ve spent so much money on textbooks and just want a little bit back.”

For Umair Saleem, that “little bit” equals about $400. In early September, the finance graduate saw on the Used Book Room website that all but one of his eight textbooks sold.

“I’m going to the States next weekend to watch a Buffalo Bills game,” he said. “I intended to use that cheque as spending money.”

When Saleem arrived for his $400, he was also greeted with the sign asking him to check back for updates.

“That cheque is my property of consignment,” he said.

“They should have someone you can talk to in person rather than a board to stare at.”

Whitfield couldn’t confirm when the book room will be ready to print cheques but urges students to keep checking the RSU’s website (www.rsuonline.ca) for details.

Meanwhile, the Used Book Room is looking into different types of inventory software, said Michael Verticchio, RSU executive director operations and services.

Verticchio isn’t sure when a new type of inventory will be chosen and more research needs to be done.

The Recycled Book Shop, a used book store on McCaul St., has a system in place to avoid headaches when their hard-drive crashes, said Josh Walker who owns the store with his wife Amy.

Since they bought the store three years ago, it’s been their mission to keep all inventory (over 30,000 books) online. “Instead of a backup unit, we put everything on The Art of Books, an inventory management website,” said Walker. “When our computer crashed we only lost track of a couple hundred books—the ones we hadn’t uploaded yet.”

When it comes to hard drive failure, Clair Collins understands that accidents happen. The fourth-year business management student just wishes the Used Book Room would stop pushing back the date on the board.

This is her second attempt to claim her $30 textbook cheque.

“I’m not hard up for $30,” she said. “But with groceries, rent and student loans every little bit helps.”

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