Barnes & Noble absorbs LC campus bookstore

Illustration by Sarah Bradbury

By Eva Love

Barnes & Noble (B&N) is currently in the process of subsuming the Lewis & Clark bookstore. On Dec. 4, the bookstore will be open and operating under the ownership of B&N. While the change in ownership raises many questions, Dean of Students Anna Gonzalez believes it will benefit the college and the students at large.

“(With B&N) we’re guaranteed not to lose money,” Gonzalez said. “So it won’t cost the school, which is important to me because whenever that happens it’s borne by students because tuition dollars go to that kind of loss.”

Associate Vice President of Finance Andrea Dooley believes that the business prowess B&N will provide benefits the college.

“Barnes & Noble brings expertise in operating a campus store,” Dooley said. “They have the buying-power and infrastructure to provide services that we would never be able to achieve

Examples of such services include an unlimited quantity of textbook rentals, providing teachers with flexibility when it comes to ordering books, a smartphone app that has order tracking and online shopping and a commitment to stocking merchandise from vendors who follow Fair Labor Association standards.

Bookstore Manager Janet Kelley expressed concerns that B&N would ultimately make certain things more expensive and less accessible.

“What I’ve been told by my friends that have worked at college bookstores owned by businesses is that they raise the prices on clothing and merchandise and they lower the service,” Kelley said. “They’re a corporation and they want to make money and we really struggle to make money here, and the only way I see that the bookstore is going to be able to make money is if Barnes & Noble raises prices.”

Gonzalez is hoping that B&N turns the bookstore into a center for student life and community engagement.

“What I’m hoping for is that we have more choices and programs, like events in the space, bookwarmings, readings from authors and engagement from faculty and students,” Gonzalez said. “I’d like it to become a hub on campus — go in, walk around, have something there that students want to engage with.

Marlene Guzman ’19 thinks that the change will have certain positive results.

“I think it’s good that the Dean is thinking of making it more of a community gathering space because I’ve always wanted more places to read and study in,” Guzman said. “The library can feel very constraining and mundane, so it’s cool that they want to invest in and create a space that’s more conducive to that sort of environment.”

Dooley was adamant that current student employees will be first priority hires under the new management system and that LC’s Student Employment Coordinator will help students find new positions on campus. However, Kelley had concerns about how the ownership change would affect the positions of work-study students currently employed at the bookstore, particularly for international students who can’t work elsewhere.

“Barnes & Noble cannot employ work study students because they’re an outside corporation,” Kelley said. “Students are invited to apply for their jobs but it’s not a guarantee. I probably have about 10 student workers who are going to lose their jobs, but I have quite a few international students and I’ve been told that they can only work for work-study because of however their visas work.”

Gonzalez is hopeful that this change will ultimately have a positive impact on the school and is eager for the LC community to collaborate on the bookstore’s development.

“(B&N) wants to create an advisory board of students, faculty and staff to help figure out the programs and changes that will happen,” Gonzalez said.

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