Every student has visited the University bookstore at least once in their college career. Most students have probably visited the book store of many other college and universities during the college search process.
The University bookstore is the place where students and visitors get all of their university apparel, books, bags and, now, even jewelry.
While physically it looks like an average bookstore, it is not common knowledge that the University bookstore is internally owned and run by the University.
Most university bookstores throughout the country are outsourced to a third-party vendor. However, the University bookstore has been a self-operating bookstore for the past 25 years. Recently, there has been talk to change that.
According to Rick Sieber, associate vice president for Auxiliary Services, it may be time for a switch.
With the growing popularity of online websites such as Amazon, Ebay and Chegg, which offer discounted prices for college textbooks, it has become increasingly harder for the bookstore to compete in the growing market.
“Students don’t necessarily see the bookstore as a place to shop,” Sieber said. “These online vendors that sell books change the college and university atmosphere.”
“There is a committee that we put together of about 11 people,” Sieber said. “It is comprised of administration, faculty, a representative from the Law School and students.”
“I have been asked to sit on an advisory committee, which includes students, facility and administrators, with the goal of determining the best course of action for the University Community,” Student Government Association President,Chris Marroletti, said.
This committee will ultimately weigh the pros and cons of outsourcing the bookstore to a third party vendor. Most of the similar colleges and universities in the nearby area such as the University of Pennsylvania and Bucknell University have bookstores that are run by a third party company.
“We have put in a request for proposal to three of the most well known contract management companies in the United States,” Sieber said.
Now that the proposals are in, the committee needs to meet, come up with an ultimate plan and wait. The major factors that the committee is considering are the advantages that these companies can offer to the students.
It is important to note not only which company will do what is best for the students but whether it is even the best decision to outsource the bookstore in the first place.
“We want to do what serves the University best going forward,” Sieber said. “We will be looking at how these companies work with the trends in the digital industry and how that progresses as well as whether or not they have [specific] advantages with college and university textbooks.”
The initial request was sent in a little over a week ago.
“By March first, we should get the formal proposals back from these three organizations,” Sieber said. “After we get the first proposals back, it will take 30 to 45 days to make a decision. It will take time to go over the proposals.”
“The University is looking at all options and no decision has yet been made. I look forward to hearing all of the information and advocating for the best interest of current and future Villanova students,” Marroletti said.
Whether the University decides to outsource the bookstore or not, Sieber does not forsee any drastic changes to the physical characterisitics of the bookstore.
“In the short term, it would be the same thing because they would be buying our entire inventory,” Sieber said. “I do not think it will significantly change over time.”
Questions are still circulating as to whether or not this decision will go through. Like any large decision that will ultimately affect the university as a whole, it takes time.
“No decision has been made as to whether to outsource [the bookstore] or remain self-operated,” said Sieber.
The University’s decision on whether or not to outsource the bookstore remains to be seen. The next month will be filled with planning and decision making. Either way, the bookstore will still be the source of random odds and ends, the trendiest University apparel and, most importantly, books.