A subtle change this spring in the University Book Store's textbook department is expected to have a noticeable effect on both customer service and staff efficiency. In April, book division manager Heather Dean and her staff reorganized all textbooks by author's last name, discarding the decades-old system of grouping texts by academic discipline and course number.
Hey, was that a yawn?
Alphabetical by author is the new normal among large university bookstores, Dean said. Universities like Arizona and Missouri made the switch several years ago "and now wonder why they didn't do it years earlier," she said.
"It all comes down to customer service," Dean said. The new organization is more intuitive and less confusing for students, she said, and cuts down on bottlenecks in the textbook area, reducing the time needed to locate and purchase books. The rollout for the first summer session went smoothly, she added.
A key strength of the alphabetical system is that a textbook, no matter how many courses or departments use it, is stocked in one location. Previously, bookstore staff spent a lot of time searching for book copies for customers when a title needed to be stocked in three or four -- or more -- department sections. That efficiency has opened up nearly 500 linear feet of shelf space within the textbook area that Dean can use to keep overstock inventory nearby.
"The less time my staff spends on processes or on moving books, the more time they can be out here helping customers," Dean said.
Students' booklists now are arranged by author's last name, but the option of searching by course still remains. Faculty who occasionally liked to peruse their department's textbook area to see what texts their colleagues are using, aren't out of luck. Dean said her staff can create a textbook list by discipline when someone requests it.
Dean said the bookstore communicated the change to students and employees the week of May 11 through emails, social media and store signage. She said the same will occur around Aug. 1 in anticipation of fall semester.
The next improvement to the textbook department will be digital screen shelf tags (think Kohl's department store), which will better accommodate the bookstore's competitive, dynamic pricing system as the market shifts. Look for the new shelf tags for either the fall or spring semester.