Semester 2, Week 10
By John badgers
‘The Co-op at Melbourne University’ is a circus of a bookshop and should either be shut down or rebranded as a Mind Games store. It is a biting indictment of the complacency of University of Melbourne and serves as a neat metaphor for the general shift of Australian tertiary institutions from places of education and scholarship to glorified county fairs kitted with petting zoos, jumping castles, and face-painting (I want to state here that the lovely poodle who comes to MLS sometimes understandably escapes the criticisms I am making).
This morning I needed an exercise book and some letter-writing paper so unremarkably I walked to ‘The Co-op’ where one of the attendants informed me that he “didn’t think they sold letter-writing paper.” He then made it known that they weren’t at the time stocking exercise books. Figuring that there would be another stationery store at a uni I walked to Stop 1 and asked. “Maybe the Foodworks in Union House has some, or the merchandise store by gate 10,” was the response, and off I trotted. The merchandise store stocked none but the Foodworks was able to help me, at least on the exercise book front.
I don’t think it’s too crazy to assert that a university bookshop has 2 core functions it must execute before it takes on any ancillary functions. These core functions are: (1) providing stationery (pens, pencils, exercise books, sticky tape etc), and (2) providing textbooks. If ‘The Co-op’ is exercising either of these functions it does so very unconvincingly. Of the ancillary functions they exercise, the more important ones include providing information about subject materials, and the less important ones include stocking and selling ‘Boganology: the game that brings out your inner bogan.’
To the core functions, it is unacceptable that the university bookshop is not stocking exercise books throughout the entire term. There must be a decision making process that determines what is on the shelf at any given point. Of the six stands on which stationery is usually stocked, only one carried anything close to exercise books (graph pads, loose leaf paper and manila folders). The others were displaying batteries, exam booklets, scissors, tape, staplers, some pens (which would be to ‘The Co-op’s credit if they had been stocked in proportionality), as well as headphones (an entire stand for this), phone accessories and fidget spinners. Currently they have many textbooks on stock, but at the beginning of each semester I have not once yet been able to source every single one of my required textbooks.
If you haven’t already, please go to the store at some point and have a look at the mountains of asinine junk the Co-Op sells: ‘Exploding Kittens: a card game for people who are into kittens and explosions,’ buckets of silly putty, home brewing kits, Rubix cubes, beach cricket sets, HoverSoccer™ , Star Wars Stormtrooper™ Holopane® 25 with Universal Lightbox and a lot more. This is all to say nothing of the ridiculous amount of Uni Melbourne hoodies and tracksuit pants (for which there is a merchandise stand not 100m away) that take up so much space. There is nothing wrong with a university bookshop selling all this stuff but it cannot justify doing so if it isn’t first providing basic stationery. Foodworks shouldn’t be the best stationery store on campus.
A quote from ‘The Co-op’s website about the UniMelb/CoOp partnership: “We’ve created this space to be a hub of information, useful tools and trending topics or products that have been useful or relevant to other current or previous University of Melbourne students.”
Just stock exercise books, ffs.