In my first week at MBS, I told a colleague something about faculty adoptions that stunned him. He was writing a blog about why it’s essential for bookstores to get all their adoptions in early.
“Impossible,” I said.
“There’s no way they can get all their adoptions in early. They’re dealing with faculty,” I said.
He still seemed confused, so I listed reasons.
- Most faculty haven’t finished reviewing their books for the next term when bookstore requests first go out.
- Most prioritize choosing quality materials over administrative deadlines.
- Some won’t decide whether to change a text until they have feedback from students in a current course.
- Some, like adjuncts, might not know what they’re teaching until the next term is about to start.
- Some, like the prima donnas, would never allow an administrative deadline to incur on their precious course content. If they want a book at the last minute, they will have the book at the last minute — and no one in the administration is going to punish them for that.
That said, there’s no reason why bookstores can’t aim to have more of their adoptions in early. After working here for a while, I realized that many faculty members would respond quickly to adoption requests if they only knew more about the industry.
Here are three ways you can help faculty begin to understand your needs.
1. Be an ally not an administrator
In most places I’ve taught, faculty members have the view that administrative goals are at war with educational goals. The administration wants to make money. The teachers want students to learn.
In an ideal world, educational and financial goals wouldn’t conflict.
All students would appreciate the challenges real learning brings. They would understand that they are paying for the opportunity to earn a degree rather than the degree itself.
That’s not how it works. Some students have a genuine appetite for learning. Some believe writing a check entitles them to an A.
It’s unfair that bookstores and textbook managers get ensnared in that battle of perceptions, but unfortunately this happens.
When crafting communications with faculty, be as human as possible. Avoid dry administrative language. Use frank subject heads. Example: “Hey, we really, really need your book orders by Nov. 1.
Washburn University’s Ichabod Shop did a brilliant job of humanizing communications when it chose to send memes — humorous pics with words — about adoptions. One featured a dog holding a coffee cup. It read, “A cuppa Joe to remind you Fall adoptions are due April 1.”
Send emails from a specific person. Don’t simply use an administrative address.
2. Enlist department chairs and students for help
As I explained in a previous post, faculty are likely to prioritize communications from department chairs or students over those from administrators. Ask your student employees to help you spread the word. It might be possible for them to send a message to all the faculty in their major department. If they’ve taken a number of classes in a particular area, then many of the teachers will recognize the student’s name and feel more connected to the appeal.
Have department chairs or students forward your communication to faculty members.
3. Maximize opportunities to educate
Assume faculty know nothing about the book industry. For this reason, adoption deadlines can seem arbitrary. You’ll get a lot more compliance from those who understand why you need them to make decisions about their books for the next term at a time which, to them, seems very early.
When you send notes about adoptions, include three succinct reasons explaining why you need their orders. In keeping with the above advice, you can be personal — i.e. human — when you list your reasons.
Here’s a sample missive:
We really, really need your book orders for Fall before April 1. Why?
- It helps us find more used books and save students money.
- We want all your students to have books in time for class.
- Last-minute orders create a lot of headaches for us and we could really use some sleep.
Click here to place your order.
Thanks so much,
Have a specific person sign off on the email. That adds a personal touch. It’s much harder to ignore a real human being than a bureaucracy.
Lots of bookstores and administrators have found creative ways to connect with faculty about adoptions. What are yours? I’d love to hear from you!
Stay tuned to Foreword Online for more advice about explaining course materials options to faculty.