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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Bookstore adapts to student needs

<esponse to feedback from various sources, including students, faculty and the Bookstore Advisory Committee, the Carleton Bookstore made changes this summer in the hopes of better fulfilling customer needs and attracting more business. The closing of River City Books, the Carleton-owned downtown Northfield store, that went out of business earlier this year, also had effects on the College Bookstore’s appearance and merchandise.

The most common request from Carls, according to bookstore director David Schlosser, was to continue the extended hours for the store’s upper level and to increase the selection of convenience store items available for purchase. Accordingly, the bookstore expanded its supply of food, beverages and health products.

The rationale behind the expansion of the grocery section also had to do in part with Carleton’s switch from food service provider Sodexho to Bon Appétit. Schlosser explained that while Sodexho made packaged foods, such as chips, readily available to students, Bon Appétit emphasizes prepared food, and now the bookstore fills that void.

Alumni and faculty who suggested changes to the bookstore were interested in a greater selection of general reading books. The trade book section was thus also expanded using fixtures from River City Books. In addition, all of the clothing merchandise was moved to the store’s lower level, and the convenience store section was consolidated on the upper floor. Schlosser said the layout now makes sense and gives the space more of a bookstore feel.

Fortunately for student workers, the closing of River City Books had no effect on student employment. Only one Carleton student, a senior, worked there at the time. In addition, the changes to the bookstore have not changed students’ jobs or responsibilities.

“The items students purchase or ask questions about have changed slightly,” employee Kelsea Dombrovski ’11 said.

In a time of both rapid technological advancement and financial distress, the bookstore is working to adapt to a clientele that carefully scrutinizes prices and relies less heavily on printed books.

“Textbooks remain about 55% of our sales for the year,” Schlosser said, “but those sales are declining at a steady rate.” Among the competition for this business are online retailers, like, but also less prominent sources like e-reserves and Carleton students selling textbooks to one another.

In order to remain competitive the Bookstore’s primary goal is to purchase as many used copies of books as possible. Schlosser said he does not blame students for going elsewhere for books. “I’m not angry,” he said. “I understand those students who look elsewhere. Carleton students are a different kind,” he continued, citing their meticulous searches for the best deal as a positive quality.

Though the number of students who eschew the Bookstore’s textbook stock continues to grow, there are still many Carls who turn there first. Heather Campbell ’10 said she purchases most of her books from the campus bookstore online value pack. Campbell found that when buying used books it’s easier to find the correct edition as opposed to shopping online. When asked if they had ever contemplated the effect of their purchases on the Bookstore’s life, students generally said no.

“As an employee I don’t feel compelled to purchase items at the Bookstore,” Dombrovski said. Hannah Comstock-Gay ’13 had similar feelings. “I haven’t really considered the impact of my purchases on the store’s life, probably because the Bookstore seems like something that’s a Carleton institution – it just seems like it’s part of the College, who wouldn’t let it go out of business,” she said.

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