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Students opinions considered in McGill bookstore’s future

In Fall 2014, the McGill Bookstore announced its plan to move to a new, undetermined location on campus to allow the Faculty of Management to expand into the location by Winter 2016. In an effort to gain student perspective on potential changes, bookstore management installed white boards in various buildings around campus for students to share their input. According to Jason Kack, the manager of the Bookstore, the white boards project also served as a reminder of the upcoming changes.

“I’d say [the objective] was twofold,” Kack explained. “It was also to keep it active in the mind of the community that [the bookstore move] was happening.”

Each board featured a different question, such as “What would you like to see in your bookstore?” or “What is your favorite clothing item at the bookstore?” and the questions were changed regularly to collect a variety of student opinions.

“We’d actually rotate the questions, so depending on which one you saw [at which time], it might have been a different question,” Kack said.

The results were collected frequently in order to keep track of the responses and  to erase the boards for new ideas.

“We did record them all and kept track on an Excel sheet,” said Kack. “Two students […] would go around with their cell phones, they’d snap [photos] on a fairly regular basis, and they’d pull out the pictures and decipher all the [responses].”  

Some examples of ideas that were written on the board include reading rooms, a greater variety of apparel, a free book exchange section, and a space to hold events, such as a cafe; however, despite student consultation, nothing pertaining to the bookstore move is certain yet.

“We will move out of this location somewhere between the end of spring, beginning of the summer,” Kack said. “Whether that [new area] will be our permanent new location or a temporary one while our location is being prepared is still up for grabs.”

According to Kack, efforts to reach out to students for feedback are often impeded by the issue of textbook prices.

“I will say we’ve been pretty bad at having a dialogue with the campus and specifically student groups, seeing their needs, often because the conversation will [quickly turn] to price and that’s a very hard conversation to have given that we don’t set the price of the vast majority of course material, it’s the vendor,” said Kack.

The boards have been well received by students according to Kack. Marie Plamondon, U2 Arts, agrees that the boards reflect a good effort from the bookstore to engage with students, but worries that they might not be the best venue of communication.

“I think white boards are a great way to let the student community express itself,” said Plamondon. “However, I thought the bookstore could find a more efficient way to seek the students’ opinion.”

Until the move is finalized, students can expect to continue to see the white boards around campus. Idea brainstorming and recording may increase through more direct engagement with the community, in order to collect as much suggestions as possible.

“The white boards [are] less of a dialogue, [and]  more of a kind of heads-up,” said Kack. “We’re going to look into getting a focus groups going.”

Meanwhile, students can use the white boards, the bookstore’s Facebook page, and its website to speak out and give their comments.

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