SMCCCD exploring bookstore privatizations

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Imagine registering for classes on Web Smart and purchasing your textbooks at the same time, with the option of home delivery or bookstore pickup, potentially saving you a fruitless trip if your books were out of stock. This system would be similar to the online ordering option now available through the Skyline bookstores website, except that purchasing your books would automatically combined with registration on Web Smart.

This scenario may sound far-fetched, but according to book store manager Andra Morgan, could be in place as early as next week if all goes as planned. Canada college was the first in the district to link the bookstore with Web Smart and after Skyline, CSM will also have this option.

This the first of several improvements lined up for the district’s bookstores; more changes are to follow in the future once the fate of the district’s bookstores management is decided.

In response to the need for revamped bookstore operations, the SMCCCD have formed an ad hoc bookstore exploratory committee which is deliberating on whether the district’s bookstores should remain under district control or under the management of an outsourced company which would effectively lease the stores from the district. So far, proposals have come in from Barnes & Noble and Follett, however there is no definite timeline as to when any management change would come into place.

The district’s expectations as described in their request for proposal to outside vendors also include construction of new bookstores at Skyline and CSM as part of a one- stop student center, and renovation of the existing book store at Canada.

Completion of construction is projected to take between 2-4 years.

At this stage, the ad hoc committee is focusing on student/faculty concerns and holding open forums for discussion. According to committee member Vice Chancellor, James Keller, the number one concern of students is how a management change would affect the already exorbitant cost of textbooks.

“Whether the price of books will remain the same we don’t know, we put in the contract that a vendor can’t charge more than 25 percent than the publisher price for new books, though you don’t know all the things that get involved such as buying cooperatives, etc,” said Keller.

Currently, bookstore guidelines dictate that new books not be marked up more than 25 percent from the publisher’s list price and that used books not be sold at more than 75 percent of their “as new” value.

As with any major change to the district, this issue has drawn a mixture of support and vehement opposition from students and faculty.

“There’s benefits on both sides,” Andra Morgan said, discussing the alternatives of remaining institutional or leasing to an outside vendor.

In response to their concerns, students are also encouraged to participate in the book exploratory committee’s online discussion forum at http://smcweb.smccd.net/portal/bookexpcom/default.aspx.