At of the start of the spring 2011 semester, the College Bookshop will be managed by the Follett Higher Education Group, which manages more than 850 campus bookstores nationwide including Mt. Holyoke, Smith, and Williams Colleges. The change in management won’t mean any immediate changes for student customers or in the way faculty order textbooks.
The college will also close its Copy Center and move to an online system for ordering copy jobs with a high-volume copying company.
These changes, as well as the reduction of the college’s catering staff by three individuals, were announced in an e-mail to the community earlier this week by Chief Administrative Officer Jerry Berenson and Chief Financial Officer John Griffith.
“These decisions have been made after careful consideration and are projected to result in approximately $450,000 in savings annually for the College. These budgetary savings can be used to better support our institutional priorities of keeping our core academic program strong; supporting and retaining the highest-quality students, faculty, and staff; and promoting innovation,” said the email.
Changes in technology and improved logistics that favor large-scale printing operations, plus an overall move away from printed material in favor of electronic courseware, have made it evident for several years that the operation of the copy center was not sustainable for the long term, Berenson told the Administrative Office Heads at a meeting on Wednesday, where he went into more detail regarding the changes.
“Demand for Copy Center services has declined for several years,” said Berenson after the meeting. “The volume of copying in the Copy Center was down 40 percent last year, and it ran a deficit of $90,000. Couple that with the fact that by going with an outside company we can get copies for less than half our current cost, and it’s pretty hard to argue against the decision that was made.”
While the difficulties facing the Copy Center may have been evident for some time, the need to outsource the management of the bookstore became apparent just within the last year or so, Berenson said.
“The change to online textbook retailers by students has been sudden and dramatic,” said Berenson, noting that between the 2008 and 2010 fiscal years total Bookshop income has gone down by $180,000 and that the store lost money for the first time last year. “Follett has the resources to compete with the Amazons of the world in a way that our Bookshop can’t on its own.”
Berenson also pointed out how the process of making these decisions differed from 2009′s budget process.
“In that process we had everything in play as we tried to balance the budget. There were a lot of ‘either or’ decisions to be made, many of which affected our core mission. But even in that case personnel decisions weren’t open to public debate. The only decision here was, ‘Do we continue to subsidize these auxiliary operations that were once sources of revenue or not?’”
The one operation the college did decide to continue to subsidize was catering.
“Catering operations at the College have been subsidized by the College for many years,” said Berenson. “However, given the costs the college would incur for outside catering, we decided that it would be advantageous to continue the service with reduced staffing.”
The changes in the auxiliary operations will result in the loss of six staff positions. The Human Resources Office has developed a plan to assist these individuals with this difficult transition. Employees whose positions will be eliminated will receive a generous severance package which includes pay and benefits.
The Copy Center will remain open from 9 a.m. to noon each day during the transition to a new system, and additional information will be sent out about the new system within the next week. Anyone with questions about immediate copying needs should contact Valencia Powell, Manager of Office Services (email@example.com).