Survey shows Mac students want their school bookstore to serve as a "gathering place

By Colleen Good

Students want a new bookstore to include more social space, a reading area, a study area and a coffee shop, according to a recently conducted administration and finance office survey on student satisfaction with the Highlander and the Lampert building bookstore.The survey was sent to students using a Bulletin Flash email message and was available from Nov. 27 through Dec. 7.

Survey questions asked students to rate services, location and other factors on a sliding favorability scale and also asked broader questions soliciting written responses. The office is considering changes that will likely involve a new location that combines the functions of both the Bookstore and the Highlander.

Kate Walker, assistant vice president for finance, has been involved in the efforts.

The survey had a relatively high return rate, she said, with 15 percent of students responding to the survey. She said she was impressed with the amount of thought students put into their responses.

One aspect students agreed on was the need for an extra “gathering place,” Walker said.

The Bookstore “needs to be more than just a place where we put textbooks in peoples’ hands,” Walker said.

In addition to the survey, Walker-along with a group of MBA students from the University of Minnesota, with whom she is working on the bookstore project as a capstone project her MBA degree-has looked into how other colleges structure their textbook and merchandise stores. The group visited sites at 10 different colleges and conducted formal and informal interviews. At all of these sites, Walker said, the campus store and bookstore were combined into one location.

By combining the two sites, Walker said, the stores will be able to run more efficiently.

Doug Rosenberg, director of business and administration services, who currently oversees the managers of the Bookstore and the Highlander, also said he believes this will be an efficient option, especially with regard to customer service. As both locations deal with retail, Rosenberg said, it makes sense to have one worker in customer service rather than two.

Kate Walker and her University colleagues presented the project to other administrators.

Suggestions for improvement to the two locations included the suggestion that the Bookstore and the Highlander be combined to allow for greater efficiency and the suggestion that the new facility be located at the site of the Macalester Street cottages. The group will also recommend that the new location have 4,000 square feet for retail space, as well as 2,000 square feet for storage.

While this is just a preliminary phase, Walker and Rosenberg hope to become involved in the project when it formally begins. Many people are supportive of this change, Walker said, but there had not been anyone to lead the process.

Walker’s group projected an opening date of Fall 2009, although “that may be aggressive,” Walker said.