May 20, 2019
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The Fresno State Book Trade and Advice Facebook group provides a platform for Fresno State students to discuss classes, offer advice and trade and sell books in a digital environment.

Don’t judge a book trade by its cover – inside Fresno State Book Trade & Advice

When Jasmine Kidd lost her ring, she had given up hope. In the busyness of being a Fresno State student, she had somehow lost her childhood ring and went into a panic.  

In a desperate attempt, she made a post on the Fresno State Book Trade and Advice Facebook group to see if anyone had found it. She described what it looked like – a small tiny ring with “NENA” written across it. She knew what it meant to her and wondered where she might have lost it.

It was a long shot, but she hoped among the 14,000-plus members of the Fresno State Book Trade and Advice, someone might have picked it up.

After two days – among all of the job postings, book exchange requests, memes and questions posted on the Facebook group – a post turned up saying they had found the ring and had returned it to the library.

Kidd was reunited with her ring.

Before the group became a beacon of hope for students’ pressing needs, it was a book trade group with the simple purpose of, well, trading textbooks.

Bee Yang, a former Fresno State student, started the group in May 2012. The original purpose was for it to be a central hub for Fresno State students to buy, sell and trade textbooks.

These types of groups are common within universities and colleges. CSU Long Beach’s book trade group is the closest in size to Fresno’s.

Andrew Gong, the current head administrator, was a member of the group during its early days.

The group grew organically through word of mouth, each student telling other students about the group. Come for the utility, stay for the community, the trend went.

As the group grew, people naturally started asking for more than just books. People started asking questions of all sorts and then it branched out to even more discussion of issues in and around campus.

“I noticed a lot of people asking for advice in the group,” Gong said. “One of the admins at the time decided to change the name to ‘Fresno State Book Trade and Advice’ after seeing this trend.”

From then on, the group was now officially more than just a book exchange group and more of an open forum for Fresno State students.

A real sense of community was forming. And Gong took note as he took on a more proactive approach in fostering connection in that community.

“[People asking for advice] was exactly what I hoped for the group to turn into when I transitioned from being a regular member to admin of the group,” Gong said.

The group naturally lend itself to becoming a central hub of all the occurrences on campus. If there is any concerns or questions about events on incidents on campus, chances are there will be a post made about it. Most notably, in 2015, when a now-former Fresno State football player Michael Pryor made threatened to bring a weapon to campus, the group was first to spread and warn students even before the campus police department sent out an email.

“Word spread quickly from Yik Yak to the members of FSBTAA,” Gong said. “[members knew about it] two hours before the campus police sent out the warning email.”

Gong credited this incident into a rapid spike in membership through the quick spread of information.

“I got flooded with membership requests the day of,” Gong said.

In July of 2017, Yang stepped down as head administrator and Gong took his place, moving ahead and pushing the community aspect of the group.

On Aug. 28, 2018, the group reached 14,000 members. There are no accurate statistics on how many of those are actually Fresno State students, but people come and go as they graduate from Fresno State.

With Gong helming the group, he has had the vision to emphasize more of the community aspect of the group.

Gong spearheaded many community events from within the group. In May 2018, he set up the first meetup of members at Pieology at Campus Pointe.

The moderators themselves are volunteers – previously, active members that took on the responsibility of moderating the ever-growing online community.  

“[Gong] posted that he was looking for volunteers. I had been an active member for a while and appreciated it as a resource, so I offered to help,” Hannah Scott said, one of the moderators.

There are nine moderators in all. The current moderators are Breanna Rodriguez, Adrian Solis, Pericles Spanos, Tony Munoz, Elena Gomez, Maria Cruz, Maria Vargas and Hannah Scott.

“For a good two years, it was just me trying to figure it out all on my own,” Elene Gomez, a moderator on the Book Trade, said. “[Finding the group] has made me feel less alone and more connected to my school.”

As far as trolling or controversial posts, the moderators noted they are very lucky they don’t find much of those. Most of the time their duties are to vet new member requests, see if they filled out the required questionnaire and inform group members of policy changes from within the group, explained Scott.

Gong is very proud of what the Book Trade and Advice has become and how it has helped students like Kidd, with a simple return of a beloved ring. He invites other students to also join, if they already haven’t.

“I encourage anyone who’s not part of the group to join and see for themselves how helpful the group can be in terms of advancing their career,” Gong said. “That one bit of advice, that one job posting, that one book, or that one piece of encouragement can change the trajectory of your life.”

Kidd is especially happy to be in the group and having a kindhearted community that got her to be reunited with her lost ring. She said she tried repaying the person who found her ring but they declined her offer and they stated they only wanted to do the right thing, she said.

“It just shows to show that you can’t lose faith in humanity yet,” Kidd said.

That, in many ways, is the essence of the Fresno State Book Trade and Advice Facebook page – a group showing humans’ great capacity to be kind and help each other.

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