Some plan! Bookstore sticks it to students

By Kaia Arthur

Last semester, MCSG proposed a book plan that calls for the cost of books to be included in tuition, so the moment students set foot on campus they would have already bought their books. This would make book-buying more convenient by effectively forcing students to use the bookstore instead of going to outside sources for better deals. It looks best when viewed from a managerial standpoint, where pre-payment prevents the financial losses the bookstore suffers when it returns unbought books. The plan portrays the bookstore as students’ best, most convenient option, and as an institution that we should want to support. This is a terribly unrealistic way to look at the bookstore and its function. It’s no more a part of the school than the Grille or the Highlander. It’s just a store, and as such its administrators have to acknowledge that they’re basically competing for us as customers even though it is a part of our school. If I buy my books from Amazon instead of the bookstore, that’s not an act that should be portrayed as harmful to other students or our school.

If the college actually wants us to buy our books there, it’s their responsibility to improve the store. Really, though, I think it’s pretty pathetic that my argument is boiling down to the idea that if the bookstore wants me as a customer, it’s going to have to fight for it. Shouldn’t we feel that the bookstore is part of the community? Shouldn’t we actually want to go there, maybe just to look at books? A plan that reduces it to a pickup spot for prepaid books isn’t the way to make it valuable, especially when our bookstore has the potential to be a multi-use student space, functioning like an independent, local bookseller. It could have more than just the required textbooks, and the college could move it to a more accessible space.

Let’s not forget that between 1972 and 2004, Macalester students bought their books from The Hungry Mind, which was located in Patagonia’s current location. The Hungry Mind, known as Ruminator Books after 2000, was a socially conscious neighborhood bookstore that attracted guest readers like Garrison Keillor and Hillary Clinton. The bookstore finally closed owing Macalester $650,000 after a series of poor financial decisions.

Now, four years later, our bookstore is still the office space turned storage closet result of a hasty solution to a pressing problem. So what’s the excuse? How much would it really cost to make the bookstore more student-friendly?

Realistically, a lot of money that it’ll never get. With Macalester’s construction of the MARC and the next priority being the Fine Arts building, I doubt Macalester will ever invest in the bookstore. Instead they’ll ask us to.

Full disclosure: Kaia Arthur, now an opinion section editor, reported on the book plan as a contributing news writer on Nov. 2.

Contact Kaia Arthur ’10 at [email protected]