Change is in the works for the College Union Bookstore. It is anticipated that Campus Auxiliary Services will reach a decision regarding how the bookstore will be managed during the 2015–2016 academic year within the next 30 days. Following the closure of Sundance Books textbook outlet in spring 2014, even with textbooks still available at the Sundance Main Street location, the campus bookstore provides the majority of textbooks available for purchase in Geneseo. According to CAS Executive Director Mark Scott, CAS is not considering other vendors’ proposals because of any problem with Follett Higher Education Group, the company that currently operates the bookstore.
“I think they’ve been a great partner, but times have changed,” Scott said. “We’re always looking for better solutions for our campus.”
Follett’s contract with CAS expired at the end of the 2013–2014 school year after operating the bookstore since 2009. The company granted CAS a one-year extension, which its members have used to research other options for the bookstore.
When Scott put out a bid to other vendors, he received numerous responses. Some offered online-only solutions, but Scott said that the physical bookstore is not going away. Ultimately, CAS narrowed the possible vendors down to three outside options: Barnes & Noble, Nebraska-based company Neebo and the incumbent Follett. A possible fourth option would be for CAS to manage the bookstore independently.
A group of about 20 students and faculty observed presentations by the three companies under consideration. The group included representatives from Inter-Residence Council, Computing & Information Technology and other organizations, as well as several CAS executives and Dean of Curriculum and Academic Services Savi Iyer.
“This group has been sitting through the presentations and asking tough questions of all of the bookstore companies,” Scott said.
Its members concluded evaluating the final presentation on Tuesday April 7.
Now that all the information has been gathered, CAS will solicit feedback from those who observed these presentations; probably in the form of an online survey. Scott explained that he is open to the idea of distributing a campus-wide survey in order to maximize student input in the decision-making process.
The plan is to reassemble the original group in person before making a final decision. This will involve narrowing down the list to the top one or two contenders and comparing these vendors’ packages with CAS’s own self-operated business model.
Scott is confident that no matter which company CAS chooses, the change will be noticeable.
“I expect––and the campus should expect––an improved level of service in the bookstore,” he said. “I expect improved layout and design … and I expect an improved product mix. What you will experience in the store will be significantly improved, whether we stay with Follett or go with someone else.”
He added that while the transition may not be complete by the start of the fall 2015 semester, many of the changes should be underway by then.
“[These companies] have heard us very loudly in terms of what our expectations are,” Scott said. “So I think you’ll see an improved program in the store come the fall.”