Book ‘Em, Dan-O

By Tom Hewitt
Sun Star Reporter

At long last, the bookstore has books again.

After a year with an online-only bookstore, UAF’s administration responded to widespread student and faculty displeasure with the system by stocking a limited selection of titles for this semester’s courses at the brick-and-mortar bookstore in Constitution Hall.

Word of the textbooks’ return to campus was slow to spread.  Student workers stood idly behind registers Friday as a trickle of students came by the store, in stark contrast to previous years when waits upwards of an hour for books were common.

Those who had heard of the bookstore’s resurrection were generally happy about it.  “I’m excited,” said political science major Jessica Angelette. “Some of the books I need are going to be there.”  Angelette said that she could likely find cheaper books online but that the convenience of being able to pick the book up locally was worth it for her.

Freshman Atticus Wallace confessed that he hadn’t heard the books were back, but said he liked the idea of being able to get his books on campus.  “It would definitely be nice to be able to decide if I actually want to take a class before I have to pay for the book for it.”  Wallace said that instead of using the university’s official textbook site, UAFtext2u.com, he had bought his books last semester at an “eBay-like” site that offered lower prices.

Becky Phillips, the bookstore manager, was quick to point out that the brick-and-mortar bookstore isn’t stocking every textbook.  “We have the core titles, and it’s not 100 percent,” she said.

The decision to carry the books was spurred largely by Chancellor Brian Rogers after student and faculty complaints that freshmen in particular were being hurt by long wait times for books.  “I had been under the impression that [some books would remain available at the bookstore],” Rogers said at a faculty senate meeting last spring, “and I was unhappy to find that that was not the case.”

He wasn’t the only one.  Despite attempts to notify students, faculty, and staff about the switch a year ago, the online transition came as an unwelcome surprise to many.  “People were unhappy,” Phillips said.  The university’s auxiliary and business services department, which oversees bookstore operations, reeled under criticism from UAF affiliates and moved quickly to make changes to assuage the discontent with the online store.  Representatives from Follett, the company that manages UAFtext2u.com, visited campus to hear student and faculty concerns, and implemented changes, such as the First Chapters program that allowed students to take their book code for some classes to the university’s Printing Services department and receive a printed copy of a limited amount of book content.  Still, no previous solution had gone so far as to bring hard copies of books back to campus.

Students and staff alike stated their preference for the hybrid online/brick-and-mortar solution. “I kind of see the blended model sticking around,” Phillips said. “With the geographical challenges we have here in Alaska, it’s not like California or other states where they have online stores. Even overnight shipping isn’t really overnight up here.”

Acting ASUAF President Todd Vorisek said he supported the change to the system, but defended the university’s handling of the bookstore issue. “I’d love to point a finger,” he said. “I’d love to find somebody to get mad at. But really, I feel like people have done the best with what they have.”

While the bookstore may yet see changes, those on the front lines say that they can already see positive effects on campus.  “Yesterday was the first day, so we didn’t have a lot of customers,” Phillips said Friday, “but there were some, and they were happy. I think it’s a good first step.”

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