Barnes & Noble College will run WU bookstore

by Catherine Porter

The Whitworth University Bookstore will have a new operator this fall. With students now purchasing books via the internet or using e-books, the university decided it was time to obtain help in adapting to the constantly changing market.

“A lot of schools over the years have been grappling with doing their own auxiliary enterprise,” said Brian Benzel, vice president of finance and administration.

An auxiliary enterprise is an outside business that offers services for academic environments. Whitworth currently has three: Sodexo, the resident halls and now the bookstore.

The university is under pressure to utilize the money that students pay to attend Whitworth. When students buy books from the bookstore, it brings down tuition because the money is utilized in an area that is making a profit. However, when students buy books from an outside source, it increases tuition because the money put into buying books for the store is not being reimbursed and no profit is being made, Benzel said. By making the bookstore an auxiliary enterprise, this problem should decrease, although Benzel said it is a problem that can never be fully fixed.

“The university feels like we can stay a player by partnering with a bigger operation to get help,” bookstore manager Nancy Loomis said.

Loomis said that the topic of a new store operator has been mentioned throughout the past few years but was discussed more thoroughly this past year. A committee was created which included Benzel, Loomis, two students and other faculty members. The committee came together in the fall of 2012 and met numerous times to discuss the topic and the steps necessary to address and fix the problem.

Four companies were invited by the university to propose their ideas to the committee. It was narrowed down to two companies, both of which presented in front of the committee and representatives from both continuing studies and public relations. From this selection, Barnes & Noble College was chosen to be the new operator of the bookstore.

Barnes & Noble College is a separate branch of the Barnes & Noble franchise, according to their website. B&N College comes alongside universities in order to enhance their bookstores and to make it an experience that amplifies students’ academic and social lives. B&N College operates 14 stores in Washington, according to their website.

One of the main features of the B&N College operator is the management program that is offered at its college stores. A student could go through this program while working at the bookstore, and receive their certificate from Barnes & Noble. From there, they will automatically receive a job offer to manage one of Barnes & Noble’s stores. This will be available to any bookstore employee and can be completed while in school. Two employees from the B&N College store at Washington State University have gone through this program and are now full time employees at Barnes & Noble, Loomis said.

Barnes & Noble will also provide funding for the renovation of the bookstore, Benzel said. It will be closed the week of May 27-31 and will reopen on June 3 operated by B&N College. Only some of the remodeling will take place during the summer. The more extensive work will be done during fall of 2013.

Not only will the appearance of the store change, but the bookstore website will undergo changes as well. There will be an announcement on the Whitworth website when the changes have taken effect.

Even though the bookstore will be operated by a new company, the current bookstore staff will remain next year and the years following. This new operation will not require new management. Also, the bookstore will not change names.

“It is not a cookie cutter store” the bookstore assistant Jody Valentine, said. “It will not be a Barnes & Noble store; it will still be the Whitworth store.”

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