Lines-ups long despite lower entry levels

The first week back saw long lines on campus, but an increased population may not be the problem. (Photo by Ryan Hueglin)
The first week back saw long lines on campus, but an increased population may not be the problem. (Photo by Ryan Hueglin)

Students were lined up early last week, waiting for the Wilfrid Laurier University  Bookstore to open in an attempt to beat the rush of students getting their books for the semester. With the line nearly out of the Dr. Alvin Woods Building by the afternoon, concerns about population growth and overcrowding appear to be as big of a concern as ever.

However, appearances may be misleading.

“We actually have few newer students on campus this fall,” said Tom Buckley, assistant vice-president of academic services.

Buckley noted that while there are more international and Aboriginal students on campus this year, there are fewer students overall coming in.

Despite the fact that there are not as many incoming students this year, an increase has been seen over the past five years.

According to Michael Zybala, associate director of retail services and systems at the Bookstore, the first Tuesday of the semester is historically the busiest day of the year for the store. He believes this is because students tend to make their buying decisions after going to some of their classes.

On the first Tuesday back this year, Zybala estimated wait times were about 20 minutes to get into the store, and approximately 25 minutes, on average, to make it through the checkout line. While pre-ordering textbooks online for pickup can help, Zybala explained that the highest volume of orders will come in during the first couple days of the term.

“As much as we are prepared, the volumes are just difficult for us to deal with,” he said.

Fourth-year student, Aleta Wilson, noted that there are ways to go about avoiding the lines.

“If you really want to avoid the lines, you can always order your books online before the first week. Maybe this is something that the university can focus on,” Wilson suggested.

Zybala also recommended that students try to shop early in order to avoid the long lines.

“We have been in the same location for about ten years, we are doing what we can given the space that we have,” he said.

“Certain services at certain times of the year require a larger physical footprint. The Bookstore, for instance, and Service Laurier would be another,” explained Buckley. “We would love to have the ability to increase certain services for the first few weeks of school, and then scale back again.”

But, as Buckley explained, one of the dilemmas is that this is a relatively short-term problem. After the first few weeks, lines at the Bookstore become manageable again.

He wondered if students would favour large investments in capital, in physical space and in people and infrastructure, to solve a problem that is only prevalent for about two weeks each semester.

“The other 48 weeks are really manageable and not that bad, this is one of the dilemmas for us,” Buckley concluded.

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