By Maggie Vancampen —
Many students went through much of the semester waiting for books they had ordered from the University of Louisville Campus Store this semester. Bookstore staff were forced to accommodate for a large backorder of books and access codes.
Andrea Herrera, Store Manager of the U of L Campus Store, said one of the reasons for this semester’s backorder was the closing of Gray’s Bookstore.
“There really was no true way to know what type of business that they were doing, what volume they were doing,” Herrera said.
“When you think about another store going out of business in your area, you don’t necessarily think that your business is going to double completely.”
They also weren’t expecting such a sharp increase in their book sales.
“We predicted that courses would have higher sales, we increased what we thought was going to be substantial, and it wasn’t enough,” Herrera said.
Junior marketing major Hayley Davis said she had to get a book for class from a third-party vendor.
“It’s annoying because you would think the university would provide enough books from book sellers for people in said classes,” Davis said.
“I was lucky it was a book sold at Barnes and Noble.”
The other reason for backorders is that physical textbooks are slowly being phased out and instead are going digital. Because of this, many of the physical books ordered by the store weren’t readily available.
One such situation meant that the Campus Store only received 12 books out of an order of over 300. The rest were scheduled to arrive by mid-October, leaving nearly half of the semester already passed-by.
The phasing out of physical copies of books is also a contributing factor to Gray’s Bookstore closing over the summer.
Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences professor Edna Ross said she sent a poll to her Intro to Psychology classes asking about their experience with the Campus Store.
Out of the 493 students that responded, 79 percent said they couldn’t purchase materials by the first day of class, 42 percent said they purchased from other sources because the store couldn’t get their books to them in time and 71 percent were either somewhat dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the store this semester.
“The current Follet bookstore runs for 15 years and establishes Follett as the sole provider of course materials for UofL students,” Ross said.
“This monopoly has resulted in 1. Follett having control over all instructional technologies faculty may post to Blackboard 2. Insufficient course materials provided to students by the first day of classes, and 3. Follett imposing unreasonable and unfair business practices on UofL students,” Ross said in an email to The Cardinal.
Herrera said when students expressed concern about not getting their books in on time, the Campus Store helped them find free trials, digital links and .pdf versions of the textbooks until they arrived.
The U of L Campus Store has already started to order books for the spring to try to avoid a repeat of this semester.
“We are going to follow up with a lot more custom items and our high quantity items,” Herrera said.
“So in the cases where we are ordering 300 to 400 textbooks, we are following up on them a lot more diligently to make sure that they do get here on time.”
From printers to shelves
Herrera said the ordering process begins when they receive an adoption form from the professors. The adoption form tells the Campus Store what books are needed and for which class.
The store then looks at previous and current enrollment of the class and then bases their order off that information. They then adjust that order accordingly as time progresses.
Herrera said if a vendor or publisher doesn’t have enough books or access codes, then the Campus Store continues to accept the books and codes from other vendors or publishers.
If an order requires both a book and a code and the vendor doesn’t have enough, they will look for publishers that sell just the books and publishers that just sell the access codes. They will then combine the separate orders for the students.
Herrera said having early adoption orders from staff members helped greatly. She said by this time last year, only 19 percent of faculty had placed their adoption orders.
This year, adoption forms for the spring semester went up to 50 percent.
“We have already made a huge improvement. But when we look back at fall, when we went into August, we had only received 80 percent of our textbook adoptions,” Herrera said.
“So going into the first week of school, there was a still large portion of professors who had not let us know what textbooks they were going to use.”
Herrara acknowledged the campus store’s shortcomings during the fall, 2018 semester.
“We know that the fall semester was rough for faculty members and students,” she said.
“It was rough for us as well, so in a way of knowing that we made mistakes we are working really hard to improve them for the spring semester so that those same mistakes don’t happen again.”
Graphic by Shayla Kerr / The Louisville Cardinal