Illini Union Bookstore tackles book shortage


Patrick Li

Students purchase items for the spring semester at the Illini Union Bookstore at 809 S. Wright St in Champaign on Tuesday. The store hopes to prevent another book shortage this semester as students rush to buy their textbooks.

By George Vassilatos, Staff Writer

At the start of every semester, the Illini Union Bookstore becomes crowded with students looking for textbooks. However, not everyone can always find what they need.

Last spring semester, there was a possible book shortage that inconvenienced students and slowed down day-to-day operations. Tod Petrie, the Director of the Illini Union Bookstore, said he hadn’t heard of a similar problem for the fall 2017 semester.

Petrie said the last major shortage was in the fall of 2016, due to The Illini Shop (formally known as T.I.S. College Bookstore) discontinuing its book sales. When The Illini Shop closed, more students had to come to the bookstore to buy textbooks, resulting in long lines and a shortage of inventory. Since then, the bookstore has taken steps to streamline the process, Petrie said.

“We’ve added five registers and staff to man those registers. Our goal is that nobody should wait more than 15 minutes. We’ve adjusted dramatically and our lines move a lot quicker and every semester will get a little better,” Petrie said.

Farheen Naqvi, sophomore in LAS, said on average, she spends 10 to 15 minutes in the lines.  

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“However, there’s been a lot of times that the bookstore has run out of books that I needed and classes are assigning things,” she added.

Alroy Scott, the bookstore’s textbook manager, explained the Illini Union Bookstore’s process for calculating the number of textbooks to order.

Professors were required to give orders for their spring semester textbooks to the department book coordinator by Oct. 7, 2017. The department coordinator would then pass the orders on to the bookstore.

“When we place orders, we first look at the history of the course. We look at how many we’ve sold in previous semesters and use that as our starting point.” Scott said. He’ll then add an additional 10 to 15 percent to the total order and take into account estimated buyback to approximate how many books to order.

“First, we give ourselves five weeks to get as many used or digital copies as possible. At that point, we start placing orders with the publishers and if they have stock they will ship,” Scott said.

If the bookstore does run out of books for a certain class, a student can file a hold card.

“If we get a hold card, we’ll check the actual enrollment of the class. That doesn’t mean we’ll order 100 percent of the enrollment because students will order from various sources and in some cases, our vendors have limited or no returns,” Scott said.

He added that if they don’t sell everything, the bookstore isn’t always able to return unsold merchandise and has to take the loss.

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