by Hayley O’Brien
Beginning this year, the formerly self-operating Whitworth University Bookstore became a part of the Barnes & Noble College franchise.
“For the past few years, the Whitworth bookstore has been running at a loss, spending more than it was making,” said Brian Benzel, vice president for finance and administration. In response to the revenue loss, the bookstore committee reached out to other companies to operate the store. In the end, Barnes & Noble College was the company chosen.
Barnes & Noble College operates nearly 700 campus stores worldwide, according to its website. Now, including Whitworth University, Barnes & Noble College operates 16 stores for higher education in Washington alone.
Changing from a self-operating university bookstore to a for-profit corporation has been a challenging transition, Bookstore Manager Nancy Loomis said.
“We are working in a different cultural environment — a work environment,” Loomis said.
Despite challenges, Loomis said she believes that the switch from a self-run bookstore to a corporate operated bookstore was ultimately a good decision.
“Trying to find the best priced used books, and shopping the Internet marketplace while every semester it was different and changed was hugely time consuming and overwhelming,” Loomis said. “Now the whole [Barnes & Noble] company is working on these problems. It’s not just me sitting here in my little store.”
Whitworth set several conditions that Barnes & Noble College had to meet. One of these conditions include plans for new renovations paid and planned for by Barnes & Noble, which will be constructed in the coming months.
These renovations will include new wall fixtures and carpeting, which will give the bookstore a fresh, new look, Loomis said.
Carla Means, alumna of the Class of 2013 and graduate student, said the merchandise is mostly the same as years before, but the layout of the store is less cluttered and easier to navigate.
“It is weird not having a barricade of backpacks to climb over to get into the store,” Means said.
Another condition required that employees who worked for the bookstore in previous years be able to continue to working there, Benzel said.
“It was really cool having our own personal bookstore, and keeping the same workers helps it feel the same as before,” Means said.
Student workers are now employees of Barnes & Noble instead of the university.
“Whitworth is a nonprofit, mission driven, faith-based community of educators, and Barnes & Noble is a for-profit corporation that is looking for ways to make money for the company,” Loomis said. “That’s what corporate America is. That’s what runs our economy.”
Barnes & Noble is paying for the privilege to manage the store, and the university receives an undisclosed percentage of the profit made.
The Barnes & Noble College employees have been supportive and helpful, as well as highly sensitive to what works specifically for Whitworth, Loomis said.
“The bookstore’s success is Barnes & Noble’s success,” she said.
Contact Hayley O’Brien at email@example.com