Friday, June 10, 2011

CAMEX question answered: campus relations

There are not many “CAMEX questions” left – and those that remain are a bit more complex or challenging to answer in the space of a blog post. This week’s question relates to campus relationships with administration.

Q. How do I convince my administration that they need to partner with the bookstore to develop digital strategies for the future? Is there a ‘how to” from other schools?

Good questions. The answer to the first question likely depends on many factors such as school size, reporting structure, how the store has traditionally been positioned on campus, etc.. On the second question, I am not aware of a “how to” guide, but NACS does have some resources for members on how to engage different groups on campus. There is the communications toolkit, which includes templates and questions for talking with different administrative groups on campus. There are new resources and case studies being built relative to the College Store of 2015 initiative within the Foundation. Additional resources are in development.

If your store currently has little partnership with the campus administration, then now is an excellent time to start. Relationships are built on trust, and building trust takes time. Work on building relationships long before you need them.

One tactic you can use is to find out what initiatives are underway on campus. Likely pockets of activity are in IT (look for instructional designers or folks who work in academic computing), or in the library.

Look at your current textbook adoptions compared to prior years. Which faculty use technology (e.g., MyMathLab or clickers) or an open source textbook? Has a textbook adoption disappeared?

Is the faculty member using nothing, or are they using materials put on e-reserve in the library, placed elsewhere, or being acquired directly from the content provider.

Another tactic is to become a resource expert for your administration on digital course materials. Point them to good articles or resources on the transition to digital: case studies of what other campuses or bookstores have done; trend reports; reports on other technologies or experiments; or industry analysis.

Another approach to building expertise is to sponsor or help coordinate a campus or committee meeting on digital course materials strategy. There are multiple ways to approach this depending on your school size and type, along with other factors. Consider inviting an administrator to a webinar or meeting. We have conducted digital sessions for a fair number of institutions and are likely to do so again in the future as time and other resources permit.

Put some skin in the game – innovation is a contact sport. Experiment with digital or communicate to administration how you are helping reduce the cost of course materials – or what you are learning from digital sales and experiments at your store or others.

Remember to be optimistic yet realistic. Convey that you have a positive sense of urgency about the role of digital course materials and your store’s willingness to be part of the future and solution. Also articulate the strengths your store brings to the table that explain why you ought to be a part of that future. People like solution providers more than obstructionists. If you find yourself arguing that something cannot be done make sure you are not doing so because that is the way you have always done things.

There are many other tactics to consider and I ask readers to share their ideas here, via email, or on NACS listservs. I think the above boil down to some key concepts:

(1) Adopt a winning mindset (and think like a retailer).
(2) Be a resource and point of expertise.
(3) Find out who the influencers are on your campus relative to digital.
(4) Experiment.
(5) Think of your job as store advocates – to students, faculty, and administration.

Good luck, and thanks for a great question.

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