The semester is just getting underway, but already the North Dakota State University Bookstore is making headlines with newly implemented changes that have saved students money and decreased bookstore expenses. NDSU Bookstore Interim Director Kim Anvinson took the time to discuss with us how the bookstore does its part to increase student affordability and to welcome new and returning students to campus.
Coming into the new semester, the store made big changes to the NDSU Bookstore: organized textbooks by author last name, added digital shelf tags and enlisted 35 courses into the store’s inclusive access program. The goal was to save students money and to increase the store’s efficiency — a challenge they met.
There has been a lot of talk recently about the best way to organize textbook shelving in a college. Some prefer to traditional method of organizing by course, while others are trying something different. The store chose to organize the shelves by author last name this year, hoping the change would make it easier for students to find the materials they need.
“It went amazingly well. Reshelving has been fantastic. The elimination of cross-listing titles has been phenomenal. You look up the author of the book, just like at a library — very simple. So, it’s been a great change for us,” she said. “Older students have a little bit of a learning curve, but once we show them on our inSite website, or in their Blackboard portal, how easy it is to link to our website to find the author, they get it. As soon as the students feel more comfortable with it, I think they will like it as well.”
Anvinson felt the switch to author order went hand-in-hand with introducing digital shelf tags to the store. The new methods not only helped to increase work efficiency, but they also decreased student wait times which improved the overall student experience.
“Our customer service desk used to be inundated with people asking when books would come in. Now that we don’t have to do the labor-intensive changing of tags, we save the labor of one full time employee who used to be in charge of changing physical shelf tags every term — which helps our bottom line. This semester that employee had more time to do more outreach with faculty,” Anvinson said. “The digital tags are fantastic. If the price is wrong, we can get that updated right away. They especially help when we have a book out of stock. We can assist the students right there. Or, if we aren’t with the student, they can see if the books are on order.”
Better shelf organization wasn’t the only change made in the NDSU store. Looking for effective ways to save students money, the store introduced an inclusive access program with 35 participating classes.
“We saved our students about $500,000 just this semester alone for all the books,” Anvinson said. “It’s also the first time in a long time that we have had an increase in unit sales. Inclusive access came because our campus is really pushing affordability as our main focus. Our goal is to make books more affordable to students.”
Streamlining behind-the-scenes processes can play a part in increasing student satisfaction and affordability. One thing the store has done for years is utilize MBS’ technology to help keep their store current.
“We have been with MBS for more than ten years. We truly value MBS as a partner. I want to put a big shout out for the MBS handhelds. We use them to process our inSite orders,” she said. “The accuracy of our fulfillment has doubled what it was before we started using them. I really encourage people to look at the technology advantages MBS has given us in the last three years. The handhelds for remote sales and for processing online orders have really, really helped us improve our operations.”
The NDSU Bookstore also recognizes that buying course materials can be stressful for students. They help lighten the mood with their annual student After Hours event, an evening filled with games, ice cream and prizes. The event is geared toward freshman, but it brings in plenty of upperclassmen excited to participate as well.
“We’ve had the event for 10 years, and it’s always been phenomenal. We do minute-to-win-it games. Ted [Connolly] and Lori [Van Gerpen] come from MBS to scoop ice cream for people,” Anvinson said. “The night is filled with prizes. Students stay for two hours of fun. It’s a great, great event. We typically do it at the beginning of the semester to help lighten the mood about the bookstore.”