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Upon returning to campus, you may have noticed many changes. While the obvious changes appear in the landscape, with the University in the midst of its final phase of construction, one of the most major changes occurred within the bookstore.

Last year, the University decided to search for an outside company to operate the University Shop.

This option called for the creation of a University Shop Advisory Committee.

The team consisted of 11 members: two students, four faculty or academic administrators, and five administrators who represented the Finance,  Auxiliary Services and Human Resources branches of the University.

The committee “was established to receive proposals from bookstore management companies as well as the University Shop’s current staff,” Rick Sieber, associate vice president for Auxiliary Services, wrote in an email to The Villanovan.

The decision to look into University Shop changes came about with the best intentions of students, faculty and visitors in mind, he said.

“The goal of the administration in creating the University Shop Advisory Committee was to insure that Villanova students and faculty would have access to the widest possible selection of course material options both now and in the future as the teaching and learning environments continue to evolve,” Sieber wrote.

While you might think that the decision to change University Shop management would stem from problems with previous management, this is not the case.

This decision was made, Sieber wrote, because of the advantages a large specialized bookstore operator might bring to the University.

Operation and management of the University Shop by an outside vendor offers many advantages, he wrote, including their knowledge about an “industry in transition”—-digital technology is changing, and textbooks are being purchased and read through that medium.

“Given the changes in the college textbook industry over the last five years and the movement toward a more digital textbook environment, it seemed timely that Villanova explore its options for operation of the University Shop,” Sieber wrote.

Among other benefits are a larger volume of books (new and used) for purchase, the ability to purchase books and apparel at a lower cost due to volume purchases, and extensive training programs for employees, he wrote.

After an in-depth selection process, Follett Higher Education Group was selected to manage the bookstore. The University Shop Advisory committee received proposals from the three leading contract management companies as well as a proposal for continued self-operations of the U-Shop. After a thorough review process, the Committee recommended Follett Higher Education Group to manage its bookstore operations, effective July 10, 2013.

“With a central focus on access and affordability, Follett is recognized for its ability to bring innovative programs and solutions to college and university campuses,” Sieber wrote. “The selection committee concluded that Follett had the ideal combination of experience, technology and resources to serve the University, and is best positioned to address the accelerating changes related to providing textbooks and course materials.”

While there are many logistical benefits to Follett’s management of the University Shop, Sieber wrote the company also recognized the strong sense of community within the University and had a strong desire to be a part of it.

July 10 marked Follett’s University Shop transition. The store was immediately emptied for renovations. Some changes include a new entrance, new counters, carpets and display equipment. Soon to come are new customized graphics to cover the store walls.

“Follett made a $750,000 commitment to Villanova for the renovations of the store,” Sieber wrote.  “In addition, one important change is that all of the bookshelves and other fixtures are on wheels.  This will allow the University Shop to reconfigure and remerchandise itself after the initial book-rush.   Special set-ups will be possible for special events such as Parents Weekend and Homecoming.”

While the store underwent renovation, a temporary store was set up in the Connelly Center Art Gallery.

The renovated store was completed and filled with merchandise in time for Freshman Orientation.

Although the University Shop looks like a whole new store, there are not many changes that will alter the shopping experience for students.

“Prices will not be significantly different for new and used textbooks or for the kinds of apparel and gifts that have been offered in the past,” Sieber wrote. “Students will continue to receive a five percent discount when using NovaBucks on the Wildcard.

What will increase is the range of choices and price points.  In-store textbook rentals will provide a lower cost option with enhanced convenience.  Special apparel purchases will mean that some Villanova gear will be available at lower price points.”

While the décor and professional merchandising may seem attractive, the biggest change may be more used texts and the ability to rent many of the textbooks found on the shelves of the store, saving students time waiting for shipping on rental books to ship.

With the fall semester in full swing, the new management of the University Shop has not faced any major problems thus far except for wait times.

“Waiting times have been a little longer than planned,” Sieber wrote. “This is caused by the amount on information required of students when their initial rental account is established.  In future book-rushes, returning students will only need to provide one piece of information to access their rental account.”

To begin to solving this problem, Follett has indicated that additional check out stations will be provided to the University Shop.

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