Efficiency first: U of S Bookstore goes alphabetical

By in News

Though many students are clinging to the last days of summer, some are preparing for the advent of classes, and the University of Saskatchewan Bookstore is ready for the rush, with a new alphabetical organizational system.

The U of S Bookstore, a self-operated non-profit organization, exists primarily to provide course materials and supplies to students on campus. Over the summer of 2016, the Bookstore piloted a system of alphabetical organization by author last name, a change that both students and faculty have questioned.

Bookstore - Jeremy Britz
With students in mind, the U of S Bookstore switches to alphabetical organization. Print our your textbook list before hitting the store!

The new system replaces the previous system, organized by course name and number, though some subject sections for reference texts remain, such as dentistry and nursing.

Garry Drake, U of S Retail Services operations manager, explains why the old system was problematic.

“When you came into the Bookstore looking for a book, you had to ask what course you’re in, what section you’re in, who the professor was, whether it was term one or term two and then we could find the book for you … whereas now, we’re just looking at the author name,” Drake said.

According to Drake, the goal of the Bookstore is to contribute to student success and, to that end, the new system will boost the efficiency of the store. A number of schools across Canada, including Dalhousie University, the University of Alberta and the University of British Columbia, have switched to such an alphabetical system with great success. With the change, Drake expects that wait-times will decrease significantly and that students will find it easier to locate their textbooks.

As students are now visiting the Bookstore in greater numbers, Drake has already been able to see an improvement, not just in speed but in the efficiency of Bookstore staff.

“The main thing was it used to take several shifts for our new staff to be able to assist our customers because they had to really learn how the store was organized, how the course system works, what books went with what course and what the exceptions were and all those things,” Drake said. “They’re able to step right in and provide direct assistance to our customers right away and I think that’s been a major benefit.”

While the change to alphabetical organization is clearly visible to patrons, the Bookstore has made numerous and more conspicuous changes over the past year to increase efficiency and effectiveness.

“Last September [2015], we reorganized the upper part of the store a little bit differently. We opened it up more, we had more supplies at the top so once you got your books, you could get in line and then peruse things like stationary and lab supplies while you’re in line,” Drake said.

The retail system at the Bookstore was also recently updated and now includes extra tills, added staff and runners who can retrieve books for students who forgot materials or waited in line with the wrong textbook. Furthermore, the line to purchase books now zig-zags at the top of the store to stop patrons from blocking off lower shelves.

Drake would be happy to hear feedback about the new system and he wants to remind students to print out their book lists by author before coming to purchase course materials, as this will further decrease time spent in the Bookstore. The store also offers an ordering service that allows students to order their books online. An employee will then gather the books and the student can pick them up at the desk in the back of the store.

According to Drake, the next step will be to increase the speed of the line outside of the store, as this will further benefit students.

“We are focused on student success and making sure that they’re ready for the year because we know that when you have the book and you use the course materials assigned, you’re going to be more successful … and so we want to facilitate that as much as possible.”

Jessica Klaassen-Wright / News Editor

Photo: Jeremy Britz / Photo Editor