Follett replaces Sundance as college textbook vendor

Last Tuesday, a CAS committee decided that ownership of the campus store will change hands from Sundance Books to Follett.

Mark Scott, executive director of Campus Auxiliary Services, explained that as Sundance's contract was up this spring, a committee was organized to consider bids from other companies. Ultimately, their goal is a renovation of the store to include an on-campus textbook outlet.

The outreach was prompted by "concerns around service to date with regard to textbooks," said Scott. These concerns include long lines and the availability of a wider selection of used textbooks. "We made this decision with the students in mind," Scott added.

Due to the terms of the request for proposal drawn up by the CAS Board of Directors earlier this spring, Sundance chose not to place a bid for the space.

Scott noted that Sundance has always been "friendly and approachable," but did not have the sufficient infrastructure to meet student demands. "It was a tough decision that needed to be made," he said.

The committee, chosen by the CAS Board of Directors and Scott, included senior SA President Danielle Forrest, Vice President for Administration & Finance Kenneth Levison, Vice President for Administration and Finance, CAS Purchasing Manager Tom D'Angelo, and Director of College Union and Activities Chip Matthews, among others.

The objective, said Forrest, was to "provide the best possible service and prices to the students." There were several competitors that placed bids, including Barnes and Noble, Follett and eCampus. Scott noted that only Follett showed real interest.

According to the company Web site, Follett is the nation's largest operator of college bookstores, with more than 760 locations. Established 130 years ago, it provides resources not only to higher educational institutions across the country but to K-12 libraries in terms of books and software materials.

"Follett has a very comprehensive online ordering tool that will allow students to see the prices of the books they are purchasing, compare the new and used book prices, pay by credit card online and select from a number of delivery options," said Forrest.

Similar to a normal bookstore, students can "shop the stacks," said Scott. There will also be an option to have books shipped to students' rooms.

In addition, Scott emphasized that Follett will communicate directly with students through feedback and surveys. "We hope that students engage in dialogue with Follett," he said. "They are an expert corporation and this is a true partnership." Follett will also be working with the financial aid office to provide students with scholarships each semester.

The space in the Union will be upgraded this summer, including an eventual expansion into an adjacent room previously used by CAS for catering. In addition to textbook sales, the company is looking to provide computer accessories among other merchandise, which will be largely determined by student demand.

Overall student feedback seems to be positive. Many said they feel Sundance's prices are higher than alternative sources. "I've used it because it's easy, not because it's cheap," said sophomore Rebecca Schreiner.

Freshman Carolyn Wolfram said once the online book list came out for the spring semester, she sought out other sources for her books.

"It has been an honor to represent the University and we did as good a job as we possibly could," said Karl, a Sundance manager who wished to be known only be first name. "I enjoyed those ten years." He said what he will miss most is the students who work at the Union store. Most of the merchandise currently located in the Union, especially science and art supplies, will be relocated to Sundance's main store on School Street.

It is expected that Follett will start to take over the space on June 1 and will be fully operational by the beginning of the fall semester.