Judging Follett By Its Cover

Last spring, Andover ended its two-century-long relationship with the Andover Bookstore, instead choosing Follett, an online distributor of textbooks and other educational materials, as its main source of books for students. When this decision became public, students erupted in conversation: proposals that students buy a book for personal enjoyment at the start of each term, purchase all school materials from the store, give books to friends as birthday presents and employ other such methods to support the Bookstore filled social media sites. As school began last week, countless students chose to complete the annual trip to the Andover Bookstore despite the change and purchase some type of merchandise in support of the longstanding connection between Andover and the store.

Even more troublesome than the loss of such a historic relationship is the inefficiency of Follett itself. The turnover has been anything but easy: many students began classes last Tuesday with only some, or even none, of their books. During my first free period of the year, I found myself in George Washington Hall, demanding help from the group of Follett employees located in the mailroom. No one there possessed enough knowledge of the company’s website and ordering process to help me. I was given the phone number of a helpful woman who, an hour later, was finally able to use my BlueCard information and email address to order my absent books over the phone. Following the phone call, I attempted to verify the order, only to find myself locked out of the account entirely. The new ordering process, supposedly faster and easier, proved to be a long and stressful ordeal early on.

The transfer to Follett also poses a second, less obvious, problem for Andover students. Several students whose textbooks are covered by financial aid struggled to sort through the process. Previously, it was easy: one acquired a vibrant orange slip that informed the Andover Bookstore that the textbooks were to be paid for by the school. Follett’s webpage did not allow such exceptions, which resulted in unnecessary stress and confusion among many students on campus. The Follett system, albeit unintentionally, also forced many students to disclose to teachers information regarding the amount of financial aid they receive; this was particularly uncomfortable and problematic for new students.

While Follett worked well for some, the number of Andover students negatively affected by the change in distributors seems to be far greater. In spite of many students’ disapproval of Follett, it is doubtful that Andover will switch back to its original vendor. I hope that Andover’s administration will look into methods of alleviating the absurd number of books backordered. Perhaps they could divide the student body into different groups that purchase at specific times to space out their orders and reduce the amount of backorders. Or Andover could give Follett a rough estimate of the number of books needed for the student body, based on the number of students enrolled in each class. In any case, the prevalence of backordered biology textbooks and students missing their English novels is absurd. I hope that the school will give more thought to their decision and ways to facilitate orders before the start of the next term in December.

_Chaya Holch is a two-year Lower from Brattleboro, VT._