College may farm out student bookstore

Glendale Community College is shopping its student bookstore around to outside companies, a move that could help it keep pace with the digital transition sweeping the publishing industry, officials said.

The college began soliciting proposals to operate the store from private companies last month. College officials said they anticipate hearing from some of the biggest names in the college bookstore arena, including Follett, Barnes & Noble College Booksellers and Nebraska Book Company.

The deadline for proposals is Wednesday, although college officials say they have made no final decision on whether to farm out bookstore operations.

“The goal is to see if there is a better option for the bookstore that could enhance the educational experience for our students,” said college President/Supt. Dawn Lindsay.

The student bookstore — which includes a 5,329-square-foot retail space and a small coffee shop on the main campus as well as a satellite store at the college’s Garfield campus — currently is run by Associated Students, the student government organization. Income generated by the store helps fund Associated Students programming, including activities put on by the college’s roughly 50 clubs and associations.

The store generated $4.7 million in 2009-10, according to the college. Information on expenses was not immediately available.

Paul Schlossman, dean of student affairs, who oversees the operation of the store, said the college bookstore industry is in flux. Students are increasingly turning to the Internet for textbooks and other materials, and some are ditching hard copies altogether, he said.

“It is getting more and more difficult to run an independent college bookstore like ours,” Schlossman said.

College officials are specifically looking for a management-services provider who can supply course materials in alternative forms, including a textbook rental option and e-textbooks. They also want to enhance the store’s online purchasing options.

A large company will be able to offer products and prices that the college would struggle to offer on its own, Schlossman said.

“They would have hundreds of stores that they run nationwide,” Schlossman said. “Just within their own buying group, they can get more favorable prices.”

Under the proposal, the outside firm would pay Glendale Community College Associated Students a commission percentage based on net sales. The initial five-year contract could start sometime in mid-July.

If the college does not receive a satisfactory proposal, it will continue to operate the store independently and will implement its own internal changes, Schlossman said.

Any outside firm would be required to give first hiring priority to current bookstore workers, who include 13 full-time and 20 part-time employees.

“Typically, what happens is they reemploy the existing employees,” Schlossman said. “It is just smart business for them. They know the campus, [the contracting company doesn’t] have to bring in a brand new staff who they have to train from scratch.”

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