TCC has solicited proposals from professional bookstore operators to take over management of its campus bookstores, and the College will consider proposals later this year or early next year, said Mark McMullen, chief financial officer.
“We hope to have an idea of which way we are going in the next few months as to whether we are going to stay in-house or switch to an outside vendor,” McMullen said.
The decision to look at options for either an in-house operation or professional bookstore management company came after the textbook order and arrival issues that occurred at the beginning of the Fall 2017 semester.
A key software system that was changed over the summer wasn’t thoroughly tested, which meant that book requisitions entered into the system weren’t processed properly.
“Orders didn’t go all the way through,” McMullen said. “The requisitions never made it to the respective publishers, and this wasn’t caught until about 10 days before the start of the semester. So, we had a huge shortage of books for classes.”
When the issue was discovered, the College started buying books as quickly as possible, McMullen said.
Meanwhile, in some cases students were given access to electronic versions of textbooks, while in others, publishers allowed the bookstore to make copies of up to 10 percent of a book if it had not arrived in time.
“There were still quite a few books outstanding that first Monday of the semester,” McMullen said. “It probably took two to three weeks to get the majority of those books for our students.”
To prevent this for the Spring 2018 semester, TCC has taken several steps to ensure a lapse in textbook orders does not reoccur. The ordering process was decentralized to a campus-based ordering system, where each campus bookstore manager was responsible for ordering books on that campus. A standardized requisition template was created for faculty and deans, while ordering deadlines were moved up to Oct. 23 to allow for more time.
“This Spring semester, we are going to share almost immediately if there are any book issues,” McMullen said. “If we know there is going to be an issue with a publisher, we are going to share that with the respective dean and professor as soon as we know as opposed to waiting a couple of weeks to see if it clears up. We are going to be completely transparent in our operations.”
The decision to seek proposals from professional bookstore operators was not financially motivated, said McMullen, who took oversight over bookstore operations on July 1.
“If an outsourcing environment offers a better customer service model and a better customer service delivery method for our students and staff, then that’s why we are looking at this type of decision,” he said. “Finances are important, but service is the biggest driver of this decision.”
McMullen will chair a task force to review the proposals and make recommendations. The task force is comprised of Assistant Professor Molly McFadden-May, Assistant Professor Neil Enis, Assistant Professor T. Don Crall, Assistant Professor Katie Brockett and Assistant Professor Brandy Cooper, Dean of Library Arts and Communication Dr. Tracy Skopek, Chief Technology Officer Michael Siftar, Metro Provost Dr. Greg Stone and a Student Government Association representative.
Campus Stores employees have been involved in conversations about this potential change and the RFP states full-time campus store employees will remain employed if a new vendor were to be selected.