Ordering textbooks presents professors with challenges and mix-ups


Students in the course “Misbehaving in the Middle Ages” received an unexpected surprise when they read online that “Don Quixote” along with a Spanish dictionary were required texts.

“The students were in a panic,” Professor Tamara Stasik said, “‘We have to learn Spanish for an English Lit class?’”

The class was not learning Spanish or even reading Don Quixote in the course.“I don’t know how [the bookstore] got that information. I didn’t enter that information for the class,” Stasik said.

Danny Schultz, a student in this course, purchased the book before he knew that it was misordered. “[The book] came with a Spanish dictionary,” Schultz said, “which I thought was weird. And I kept trying to reason with it, like, ‘oh, we actually do need this,’ and, as time went on, I realized this had nothing to do with the Middle Ages.”
Stasik found out about the misordered textbook when a student brought it to her attention during class. She then went to Eli’s Bookstore in person and saw it for herself: copies of Don Quixote were on the shelves for her class.
As the semester started, Stasik tried to figure out how to correct the misorder. “They had to then take [the books] back and get reimbursed,” Stasik said, “You know, it’s another extra kind of level of things the beginning week of class that you don’t want really to do.”

Stasik found the manager of Eli’s, Whitney Ozenbaugh, and alerted her of the mistake. “She was not aware of the problem, so I drew her attention to that,” Stasik said, “and so she said ‘I’ll take that off immediately.’”

The book was removed from the book list for Stasik’s course, but she said she was not given an explanation for the misorder.

“I don’t know what has caused this. It’s probably the biggest mix-up I’ve ever had,” Stasik said.

According to Ozenbaugh, “It just comes down to human error. Since we are people just transcribing the information to a computer program, sometimes we mess up.”
Ozenbaugh added that while they double check their orders, the bookstore was “really crunched for time, a little bit more than we have been in previous years. It kind of snuck up on me, the beginning of the semester.”

Professor David Alvarez had his own difficulties in getting the books for his literature course on Jane Austen. “I wanted my students to have the option to buy a discounted bulk package,” Alvarez said.

Although Alvarez informed the bookstore that he wanted to order this anthology, he found out that the book had not appeared on his students’ required text list for the course. It turned out that Alvarez had to enter the new book on e-Services himself.

“I had called the store and said ‘hey, this is what I want to order, do I need to do anything else for the students to know that this is the book that they should be getting?’ I was told ‘nope, you’ve done it all’ but then, actually, I still needed to go do this other thing,” Alvarez said.

He also had difficulties getting books in previous years. He said that since a number of students will buy their books online, the bookstore does not order enough for each student. However, this has resulted in there not being enough books for all of the students that do try to buy from the bookstore.

“I realize that they’re under cost pressures because of the Internet competition,” Alvarez said, “but it seems like we’re still trying to figure out how best to navigate that marketplace. And sometimes the students in our classes don’t always benefit.”

Stasik said that she has had similar problems in the past over the quantity of books available. Additionally, she uses grammar books of a specific edition in her introductory classes and Stasik often finds out that the wrong edition was ordered.

“It’s not the one I use, it’s not the one I assign pages from, so then they have to send it back,” Stasik said. She added, however, that she had no difficulty getting the right edition this year.

According to Alvarez, the process of buying books has improved over time. “Everyone [at the bookstore] has always been friendly and they’ve explained the situation,” Alvarez said. “I will say, I think in general, things have gotten better.”