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Textbook Wisdom: What Can You Learn from a Textbook Manager?

Posted by Lori Reese on Apr 11, 2018 5:30:00 AM
Topics: faculty relations, textbook wisdom

Administrators and academics differ on a host of topics, but, politics aside, you know there are a lot of non-faculty on campus you appreciate. Without the department office manager, you would be stuck laboring over a copy machine more hours than you’d like. Without a well-staffed counseling center, you would have nowhere to send students in need of emotional support. Without advisors, your students would be even more confused about their path to graduation, especially at a large university where the bureaucracy is complex. An official school bookstore textbook manager is an oft-overlooked member of the administration who deserves your appreciation.

Textbook Wisdom: What Can You Learn from a Textbook Manager?

Appreciation involves more than acknowledgement of someone’s hard work, though that’s a start. Like advisors, counselors and office administrators, textbook managers make your job easier. They are responsible for tracking down the books you order, ensuring that students have access to those materials before classes start and ensuring that the school doesn’t lose too much money in the process. If that seems easy, imagine trying to herd your colleagues into making a specific pedagogic decision before a particular date each term. Imagine trying to make sure they always got exactly what they ordered. Imagine successfully doing that much of the time while your colleagues ignored your existence or minimized your role at the university.

Appreciation involves giving someone basic respect. It involves recognizing that others, too, have expertise. You can learn from them.

With that in mind, here are three things textbook managers know that you don’t:

  1. They see another side of faculty — When I worked as a waitress, I learned a lot about people that I wouldn’t have known if I’d always experienced life on the side of those seated at the tab. I used to say that, rather than mandatory military service, every member of our service-driven economy should spend a year in a service job. Maybe we’d all be a little less likely to forget the collective labor involved in making our lives more comfortable. It’s not that a textbook manager will only see the negative side of faculty. But they do see a side of faculty you don’t. They see how faculty often fail to see themselves as part of a larger team. They see how some faculty act as though textbook managers have no role in the shared work of ensuring students receive an education. What does that say about teachers? It might be good to have a discussion with a textbook manager and find out.
  2. They see another side of students — Textbook managers often work with students in school bookstores. They serve students by finding ways for them to save money on course materials and they know what students are like as customers. In this way, textbook managers come to know students in a context outside the classroom. In fact, it’s a context that’s much more like the ones in which students will live and work when they graduate. Wouldn’t you like to learn something about students from that perspective?
  3. They know how to save students money — Your students are far less likely to be prepared for class if they can’t afford the books you’ve selected. If they can’t afford the books, they can’t really afford to take your class, even if they’ve paid tuition. If you’d like to see the cost of education reduced, then you should talk to your official school bookstore textbook manager. They know the course material industry. They’re content-neutral. That is, they don’t favor one publisher over another — or one dominant theory over another. They favor choices that reduce the cost of education. Isn’t that valuable?

It’s time to learn more about what your textbook manager already does for you — and what you can learn from them that will help you do your job better.

Winning Faculty Allies in the Struggle for Affordable Course Material Solutions

About Lori Reese

Lori Reese has more than 15 years’ experience teaching in college and K-12 classrooms. She studied philosophy as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago, earned an MA in English and Creative Writing from Hollins University and an MFA from University of North Carolina - Greensboro. At UNCG she won the Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award and received a Fulbright to conduct research for a novel in Sri Lanka. She has taught undergraduate creative writing, composition and literature as well as seminars for the Lloyd International International Honors Program. She worked in private K-12 education for two years as an English teacher and Academic Dean.

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