Years ago, Grand View University Bookstore started a bookstore committee to discuss all things course materials. The committee of students, faculty and the bookstore staff meet twice a year for an hour to talk about course materials, current trends and to open a dialogue between all the parties with a vested interest in campus course materials.
Recently, we spoke with Tim Reger, Bookstore Director, Grand View University Bookstore, to find out more about the bookstore committee and how it helps guide the store.
“Our bookstore committee meets twice a year, once in the fall and once in the spring. It started before I was in this position. I think the biggest concern going in is that it would devolve into a lot of complaining about the bookstore. We do get that a little, but really it has helped us open a dialogue between the various groups on campus who are concerned with course materials, which has been invaluable,” Reger said. “Faculty can hear the feedback that we get from students directly and maybe speak to some of their concerns. They can give students some context regarding course materials. For example, a common frustration for students is why do they have to spend a certain amount for a specific course material or why did we pick a certain type of material. Faculty know what goes into choosing certain types of course materials and can help explain that to students.
“From the bookstore perspective, we want to be the collaborator that brings these two parties together,” Reger said. “This helps reinforce that the bookstore is the hub of course materials on campus, and we can also listen to the students’ concerns and speak to our role in the course material ecosystem.”
Forming the bookstore committee
To form the committee, Reger sends out an email to faculty and students to recruit no more than six of each group to the committee.
“I send out the initial email and take the lead in organizing the committee. However, students expect it to happen each semester. Each year, someone on our student council contacts me and says, ‘Hey. When are we going to meet this semester?’ Then we work together to get student participation. I ask them to put together a list of students who are interested in participating from a variety of disciplines,” Reger said. “After that, I send an open email to faculty, letting them know we are looking for people to be involved in the bookstore committee meeting. I tell them that we only need five or six faculty. It’s a limited commitment. We meet twice a year for an hour. We usually have a different set of students and faculty each time, giving us a nice spectrum of viewpoints and disciplines.
“Once the meeting is over, I try to send our notes to each person that participated. I will also keep in contact with participants if any concerns come up that need a little extra attention,” Reger said. “Last semester, we did the meeting via Zoom, so I was actually able to send the recording to everyone. There are usually three to four people who can’t make the specific time of the meeting, so it helps them to be able to hear what we talked about and what went on.”
Strengthening the bookstore's campus relationships
The committee has been a successful endeavor for the campus store, strengthening its relationship with students and faculty.
“It's been a positive experience. Each time we hear fairly similar comments from students. The most frequent comment we hear is when students feel like they bought a course material for a class that wasn’t used. That’s the one that I really want the faculty to hear and usually they are kind of surprised. They will tell the students that if they adopt course materials, they always use them. So, then it becomes is this a perception issue. My hope is that the participating faculty will disseminate that information to their peers. We hope it permeates and spreads, creating some positive changes,” Reger said. “In the same way, we encourage our students who participate to talk to their other friends as these things come up. Now they have more information and better understand why things are done a certain way. They can leave the meeting and confidently say this is what our institution, faculty and the bookstore are doing to help with course materials. I really do think it's been a positive experience. We're going to continue to do it.”
For stores that are interested in starting a similar committee, Reger has a couple suggestions.
“Keep it simple. Make sure the focus stays on creating a back-and-forth dialogue where each party is contributing feedback. It's important to have the three parties (students, faculty and the bookstore) contributing to each topic of discussion. Also, it helps a lot that this committee isn’t a huge time commitment. That makes it easier to recruit participation. Finally, I suggest keeping the group small. It gives everyone a chance to participate, and it prevents having too many voices — that can derail the focus of the meeting,” Reger said. “It’s a pretty simple thing for us to do. We typically hold the meetings toward the beginning of the term. We did the last one in late September and the next will be in February or March. We haven’t included anyone from administration yet, like the provost. Maybe we will look toward that for the future.”