CAS weighs options for bookstore management as contract expires

Few aspects of a college campus are as universal as a campus Bookstore. Geneseo’s own Bookstore, located in the College Union, may be undergoing some significant changes in the coming school year. At a Student Association open forum on Sept. 17, students, faculty and staff discussed what the fate of the Geneseo Bookstore should be. Opinions were split, but the possibility of closing the Bookstore was voiced more than once.

According to Executive Director of Campus Auxiliary Services Mark Scott, the Bookstore is not in any danger of disappearing.

“We are currently exploring all of our options with the Bookstore, but we would not let it close,” Scott said.

CAS is currently in the middle of a lengthy decision-making process. For the past five years, a privately owned external company—the Follett Higher Education Group—managed the campus Bookstore. Follett’s base contract with Geneseo expired at the end of the 2013-14 school year, but it has been given a one-year extension while CAS decides what the next step for the Bookstore should be.

“We want to take our time and explore what’s right for the campus, whether that’s continuing with Follett, pursuing a contract with a hybrid of outside companies, or even making the Bookstore totally self-operated,” Scott said.

An advisory committee comprising of faculty, staff and students has been formed in order to explore all of these options, observing the bookstore operations in other schools such as the Rochester Institute of Technology and University of Buffalo, The State University of New York.

Before Geneseo partnered with Follett in 2009, the school Bookstore did not offer rental textbooks, and was not looking for ways to lower costs for students. In addition to offering textbooks, Follett helped improve the store’s look and reduced customer service issues.

According to Scott, “Follett has been a great partner for the past five years.” Follett will still be on the table while the final decision for the Bookstore is being made during a slow and careful decision-making process.

“At the pace of today’s market, you may think you have all of the information, but there’s likely to be more,” he said.

According to Scott’s timeline, the advisory committee should be finished researching the market and the operations of other campuses by the end of this semester, with a final decision coming as early as the beginning of spring semester next year.

Another option open to CAS is to allow Follett another one-year extension to its contract, keeping the current Bookstore setup through the 2015-16 school year for the sake of elongating CAS’s time to research and decide.

“This decision can’t be hasty,” Scott said. “We need to really understand and explore all of our options going forward. I want to be able to give Bookstore customers a truly comfortable retail experience, whether that comes through self-operation, Follett or any other external management.”