LSUS bookstore will be relocating and ran by a private vendor. Other major changes are in the works.
The LSUS bookstore will be privatizing and changing its location to the University Center (UC), where the pool tables are currently located. According to Bill Wolfe, Human Resource Manager and Director of Purchases, the bookstore is going private because, “it’s a matter of efficiency and the store will be run more efficiently.” Wolfe adds, “It’s a common phenomenon across the country. Thousands of institutions are run by private vendors. Within the LSU system, I believe we are the only institution whose bookstore is not private.”
The decision was made about a year ago to privatize. Wolfe insisted the decision to move had nothing to do with money, however, he admitted the bookstore was not a moneymaker for the school. “The bookstore director is retiring and we just felt like it is a good time to go ahead and make the move and privatize,” said Wolfe, “which meant we had to send out a request for proposals through LSU procurement in Baton Rouge.” LSUS has received four responses from the request sent out. They have an evaluation team currently evaluating all four proposals and the vendor that is the best fit for LSUS will be selected.
The bookstore employees will remain employed with LSUS. They will have similar jobs elsewhere on campus. According to Wolfe, “all vendors, as part of their proposal, have indicated a willingness and desire to hire student workers in the same manner that LSUS did,” said Wolfe. “The only difference is they won’t be paid through LSUS, they’ll be paid [by the selected] vendor.”
Kaitlyn Brooks, a student worker at the book store shared her opinion about the bookstore relocating, “I’m kind of indifferent,” said Brooks, speaking about the current location of the bookstore, “I like the space that this has, but I think it would be better to downsize just ‘cause a lot of stuff in here we really don’t need, we just need the books, and maybe scantrons and a few shirts.” She spoke about the status of her job, “we can reapply for the new privatized place,” Brooks stated, “or they said (LSUS) we’ll be moved to another department but we will have a job.”
Chancellor Larry Clark thought a decision was close as far as whom the selected vendor would be, but the process is taking longer than expected. “We’re dependent on the LSU purchasing office in Baton Rouge and we’re not controlling it,” said Clark. “We don’t have a clear resolution yet. We submitted a year ago in April and I’m disappointed that we don’t yet have a resolution but I’m also optimistic that one will soon be here.”
Part of the proposals the vendors are making is renovating the area where the bookstore is relocating in exchange for a long-term lease. The bookstore will continue to operate in its current location until the new store is up and running. “The outsource bookstore will come in and retrofit the area,” said Clark. “They will get a long-term commitment from LSUS. They’ll amortize the cost of doing that over time. They’ll invest money up front and make their money back over a period of years.” Once a vendor is selected, the poolroom/game room will close down and be vacated to allow the vendor to convert it as they see appropriate. When that’s completed they will physically move the bookstore.
There are other ideas being considered for the UC. An architect has been hired to evaluate the food court. “Right now the area associated with the food services is not as well utilized as we would like to see,” said Clark,” we’re looking to see how we can make that space better utilized. We’re in the concept design plan right now.” Students will have the opportunity to give input about what goes on in the UC.
The computer lab will move to where the bookstore is right now. Clark said, “it will be a collaboratory.” (Collaboratory: A learning lab – an environment where participants make use of computing and communication technologies to access shared instruments and data, as well as to communicate with others). The school has received a $300,000 grant to stock the collaboratory with high tech equipment. Clark will make an announcement about the origin of the grant soon.
According to Angel Martin, Director of Student Activities & Recreational Sports, a lot of things are in the works. All of which started out as small projects and morphed into reorganization and/or rehabilitation of space. “What I have gotten involved with is specifically the game room,” said Martin. “As we discussed changing where the bookstore is located currently to where it’s going to be [relocated], as I understand it’s the game room. We’re basically doing this kind of three-way move of relocating everything. The game room right now is conceptualized where the current computer lab is. My vision that I put forward, and we talk to the architect, they have these concepts as well, is to make it more like a pub-like atmosphere.”
The billiard tables and ping pong tables will be moved to where the computer lab is after it moves to where the bookstore is now. “We proposed and like the idea of having some gaming systems, TVs, sports paraphernalia,” said Martin, “promoting our own school spirit student life pictures, but like I said it’s not necessarily just for gaming. It’s kind of extending where you can sit and where you can eat. I would like to see more student space on this campus, and I think taking the area in there (the computer lab) makes more lounge space and frees up some areas that gets over taken when we have different programs and events, and it gives the students more of a living room atmosphere.”
Martin plans to have student focus groups to see what they want in the space as far chairs and other things. “Something else that might be interesting for students is we’re also trying to renovate the student work lounge,” said Martin, “that would be additional space for student organizations, because right now if they try to rent a room their having to look at when it’s available. There’s not a whole lot of space when it comes down to multiple people trying to use it. This would be a multipurpose space that student organizations can set up meetings, or live stream things, give presentations, or have socials.”
Students have a positive outlook on the changes being made and are looking forward to the transitions. LSUS student Alan Brown stated, “Moving the computer lab to the technology center seems like a better fit,” said Brown. “ It seems like a much better idea for a collaboratory, so I can’t say it’s all bad, I actually think it’s pretty great.” LSUS Alumni John Brown shared is views about the changes coming to the UC, “I think that it’s a good idea,” said Brown. “I think that it will be a beneficial route for them to take. On one end for publicity, on the other hand I think that it could be a coin toss when it comes to it being privatized, it depends on how that is going to bring money into the school.”
Some students are happy with the status quo, and say that privatizing it will make the lounge area less active and turn it into just another study zone. On the other hand there are those students that think it’s a good thing to move the bookstore to a new area because it’s not noticeable where it is now, and by it transitioning to a new area students will utilize it more.
LSUS is constantly working on improving student life on campus, and these up coming changes is a step toward that goal.