Garry Drake
Garry Drake

Book it

Garry Drake has brought a fresh set of eyes to the operation of the University Bookstore, and what he sees are more opportunities to improve the student experience.

Drake took on the job of operations manager in the Bookstore last November "and I saw a unique opportunity to bring some outside retail ideas into the university environment. I know this store provides students with things they need, and that we're the only game in town, but that doesn't mean we can't be a place they want to come."

Job one for Drake is ensuring that what students need is on the shelves when they need it. "Research has shown that students who have the right materials are more successful," he said. Th is was the impetus for rolling out a new online textbook request form for faculty. Previously, instructors made their textbook requests in a variety of ways—email or printed form—but a standardized process "makes it really easy to order what they need and to get the orders in earlier."

Drake, who holds both a BA and an MA in English from the U of S and has extensive retail experience, said earlier ordering of texts gives Bookstore staff a better chance of sourcing "lower-cost options for students." These include used copies of texts, e-books and book rentals through a thirdparty provider.

Increasing the number of buying options for students is a high priority for Drake who all too often hears the word "gouge" in relation to the Bookstore. "It's a word I hear all the time but I don't think it's a fair way to categorize what we're trying to do. We are bound by publisher pricing on textbooks but if we can get used copies of that book, that gets us around that issue."

Drake is also looking to expand the Bookstore offering of materials that students previously had to go off campus to find. "One example is supplies for our fine arts students. We're working with the department to promote our service and even bundle the materials students need. We want to facilitate that experience for students even though it might not involve a textbook.

"The questions I ask are, ‘What can a university bookstore offer that other stores can't, and what should we off er because we are a university bookstore?' The goal is to limit the number of times students have to come back and stand in line."

The operations manager has also overseen a physical reorganization of the space, concentrating non-book products near the entrance and creating additional space in the book section by reducing and refocusing the store's general book selection. Drake said general selections relate to student learning, student living and health—"the 15-minute meal cookbooks and the like"—and on university authors and volumes of local interest "that reflect the campus community."

The test of the changes and off erings will come in the fall, he said, "but I'm confident that with better access to our products here and online, and with a more welcoming environment we'll see an improvement in the student experience."

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