Recently, as in previous semesters, students have expressed concerns about the campus bookstore. These issues include a lack of selection, availability and communication from the bookstore. Students receive emails that their books are ready to be picked up, but when they arrive the books are not there. As many courses depend on knowledge of textbooks for quizzes, tests, lectures and other materials, this is a setback for teachers and students.
The bookstore is managed by Follett, and in speaking with students and staff members, they noticed that there was little to no communication from Follett regarding these confusions and lack of necessary materials. These concerns are obviously not new, but have been increasingly intense this semester.
“I found (the bookstore) unresponsive to questions or concerns. They continually seem not to store my course texts, and I often only learn of this problem from students when, at week 2 or 3, they don’t ‘still don’t have the textbooks they need,” said SU professor Jordan Windholz. “As professors, we often place our requests for textbooks for the upcoming semester about halfway through the current one. This takes time and planning, especially if we are teaching a new course or new editions or options for textbooks have become available.”
Planning lessons and studying for lessons takes time, as does reading required information from textbooks. This group academic effort revolves around the campus bookstore. Students have been left without lab textbooks, unable to study quiz material, and generally wonder if the money they’ve spent on textbooks they don’t have access to is worth it.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t other options. Many students rent textbooks from companies like Chegg or Amazon, borrow from friends, or buy cheap used copies online. The library also has textbooks that students can borrow. While these are all valid solutions and often cheaper than the bookstore, Shippensburg University’s on-campus resource for textbooks should be at the very least reliable for its students.
Maybe those other ideas work better for some, but deciding that those other options are good enough rather than striving to improve the library isn’t the fairest solution. Windholz pointed out that not all students are able to easily order books online, and that must be more than just a consideration for the university. “Students should get the services their taxes and tuition pay for.”
But it’s important to note that the current availability issue is likely not the fault of anyone at the bookstore or Follett. COVID-19 has caused major issues with the supply chain, preventing large companies from obtaining basic supplies and inventory. There may also be additional outside issues that the student body is unaware of.
Our concern for the bookstore is that there is little to no response from Follett and that students are not really informed of the status of the materials they have paid for. Not only that, but book availability isn’t always accurate. These inconsistencies in communication leave students suspicious of the bookstore because of the academic and financial damage it causes.
“The faculty places book orders through the bookstore, and we rely on them to ensure that students can have the books they need for class. But the professors don’t have any real influence on how it’s run, nor did we have much say about its subcontracting to Follett,” Windholz said. It seems to the student body and staff that the problems they are having obtaining materials through the campus bookstore are not a priority for the administration, which is frustrating as students depend on these resources for their courses.