By Alexander Osornio, Oct. 26, 2021

The Bronco Bookstore is continuing to serve the Cal Poly Pomona community this fall semester despite staff shortages and supply challenges following the return of in-person instruction.

Like other sectors of the campus community, the Bronco Bookstore faced a staff shortage following the campus closure last year. Suzanne Donnelly, senior associate director for the Bronco Bookstore, described a “skeleton staff” that kept the bookstore running last fall with surges in online orders.

Assistant Director of General Merchandise Brian Alexander-Feterman said employees from across the Cal Poly Pomona Foundation were being reallocated to fill in gaps in staffing.

“We had people from accounting and food service working in here, and we were even working over in their buildings,” Alexander-Feterman said. “Everybody helped everybody out.”

Regarding items sold, he observed that demand for common school supplies such as testing forms and notebooks “bit the dust” while online orders for apparel and merchandise remained steady.

He added that most of what is being sold right now includes products from last year or even older. Many of these items are being relegated to the newly added clearance section on the second floor of the bookstore.

Despite these supply challenges, Alexander-Feterman assured students new items are being added every day, and students have the option to look on the Bronco Bookstore website to see new products as they are made available.

Business student Drew DéCoud browses the bookstore’s clearance section. (Alexander Osornio | The Poly Post)

With more courses being conducted in hybrid formats or fully in-person, Alexander-Feterman also noted that school supplies outside of textbooks did have a small burst in terms of sales, but not as high as pre-pandemic levels.

Shelby Rubalcava, a visual communication design student and Bronco Bookstore employee, shared these sentiments. Having joined the Bronco Bookstore staff in August, she noted that while online orders are more common, students still come in for assistance in buying more specialized supplies such as lab coats and goggles.

As the popularity of online orders continues, the Bronco Bookstore has worked to streamline online access to textbooks for students through the Launch Complete program arriving in the spring 2022 semester.

The Launch Complete program builds off the current Instant Access program which allows students in participating courses to automatically receive digital copies of course textbooks through Canvas. Costs of any books received are billed automatically to students’ accounts.

Donnelly noted two advantages to the program are that students are given quick access to course materials and that having a set number of students enrolled in courses gives the bookstore leverage to negotiate with textbook publishers for lower prices.

With Launch Complete, the textbook price comparison page from the bookstore website will be integrated into Canvas alongside any Instant Access books that are available. Donnelly says this will help students get the “complete picture” on what are the most affordable options for students shopping for course materials.

Instant Access was first piloted in 2017 with the mechanical engineering program in the College of Engineering, but it saw growth in use after the pause of in-person instruction due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Donnelly said Instant Access accounts for more than half of course materials provided by the bookstore this academic year.

Business student Drew DéCoud previously used the Instant Access program and recognized Launch Complete as a useful tool for students looking for affordable textbook options.

“I think by keeping everything in one online platform, it would make things a lot more organized,” DéCoud said.

As for the rest of the academic year, both Donnelly and Alexander-Feterman anticipate the need for more staff during the spring 2022 semester. While they share this concern, both are confident in their staff’s ability to properly adapt to safety measures.

“The fact that we have been open in some form or other throughout the entire pandemic means that…we know how to operate safely and around restrictions,” said Donnelly.

Students interested in working for the Bronco Bookstore are encouraged to apply through the CPP Foundation website.

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