Students may be getting their textbooks from a different vendor come next semester. Keene State College is looking at alternatives to its current school-owned and operated bookstore.
According to KSC Bookstore Manager Francis Brush, the bookstore, located inside the Young Student Center, has been in the process of re-evaluation for a few years now, and the decision has been made by administration to search for other ways to improve costs for the school and its students. Two proposals from vendors were sent to KSC, one from Barnes & Noble and the other from Follett.
Chief Information Officer for KSC’s Information Technology Group Laura Seraichick chairs a committee in charge of figuring out the best course of action for the bookstore. She said that the proposals arrived on Oct. 7, and the committee will have an undecided amount of time to make a decision on the matter.
Brush attributed the bookstore’s troubles over the years to decreased student enrollments, increased costs of overhead materials such as textbooks, and competition from other sources such as Amazon.
“I think it’s a combination of changes going on in the bookstore industry. I think students are financially challenged and they seek out the best alternative for their financial situation.” Brush later added, “There’s just a huge array of choices for students now,” Brush said.
Serachick also said that the school is exploring these options, partially because it does not have the resources to compete with the competitors in the bookstore market.
Other schools’ bookstores in the University of New Hampshire system are run by these companies. Barnes & Noble for UNH and Follett for PSU. KSC students said that for the most part they use online sources such as Chegg and Amazon for books, and that they prefer to do so for financial reasons.
“I use online sources because I don’t have large sums of money to dish out for textbooks,” Junior Alexandra Sholtes said. She added that she would shop at the bookstore if the textbooks that were sold there were cheaper, and that she still shops there for apparel.
Seraichick said that the bookstore, if leased, will still offer KSC apparel and other items. The space where the bookstore now stands would be leased out to a company selected by the committee. However, according to Brush, employees who currently work for the bookstore would be required to reapply for their jobs, leaving employees uncertain about their future job security.
“We don’t really know what that means for us. We would like to think that it means we have a choice,” Babonis said.
Furthermore, the bookstore has been short-staffed as of late, due to student hourly workers who had been let go.
However, according to Brush and employee Helen Babonis, those who will be applying for the positions may be given greater consideration than outside applicants.
It is a possibility, according to Seraichick, that neither of the two proposals are feasible for the college, and if that becomes the reality, the college will either revert back to the drawing board or explore other possible avenues to restructure the bookstore
“We’re not forced to say ‘we have to go with one of those’,” Seraichick said.
There is no official time table for when a decision will be made on the matter, but Seraichick said she hopes to begin further discussion by the middle of November.
“It’s been going on for awhile. I think it’s in the college’s best interest to always go out and say ‘what kind of service can we give our students and how can it be financially sustainable because that’s another piece of it, both for the students and for the college,” Seraichick said.
Interim Vice President for Finance and Planning Dr. Daniel Petree, who charged the committee with the task of exploring these alternatives, did not respond to multiple requests to comment on this topic.
Further information will be reported as it becomes available.
Jacob Barrett can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org