More than 3,000 people over five counties in Iowa use Iowa Lakes Community College’s physical bookstores for their textbook needs as they pursue their adult and higher education.
But the many more students taking courses with the community college now have a better way to get their books without overburdening the small campus location’s bookstores. They now have access to an Online Bookstore.
Iowa Lakes offers programs in anything from nursing to athletic training to early childhood education, and with a wide range of online classes and credit transfer programs with Iowa State and the University of Iowa, the community college serves as a conduit for students from all walks of life and career directions.
This made a unique challenge for the college, which only has three small bookstores at its Emmetsburg, Estherville and Spencer locations.
“Our online site was a money loser,” said Store Coordinator Doug Sutton. “You weren’t sure from semester to semester how many students would be enrolled, enrollment would fluctuate significantly and books were going out of print — it was ugly. We liked the fact we could team up with MBS Direct and even offer better savings for students, but we still got our profit. It was a basic financial decision for us.”
By making the move to the Online Bookstore to service online students, Iowa Lakes has freed up significant time and resources at its stores. With inventory space cleared up, Sutton said the school would put a bigger emphasis on displaying apparel and merchandise for its programs such as scrubs for nursing.
“We’re not sure what the future of the store will look like, but we’re trying to be prepared to offer more than just textbooks to students.”
Iowa Lakes is a trailblazer as one of seven schools in the Iowa Community College Consortium. Another consortium school, Northwest Iowa Community College, quickly followed suit.
“Other schools are working with us to see if it’s financially beneficial, so we’re effectively a test market, Sutton said. “We’re talking about thousands of students across the state that are taking courses online. We probably had about 10 online students come in a semester to buy books and a significant number were buying online and going other places, so were hoping to grab their attention. I think it’s a big generational thing now where people are more comfortable shopping online, so we’re trying to appeal to that.”